Agra

The Mystery of the Stone Horse at Kafur’s Mosque – Agra

Located next to a busy road junction where the Guru Ka Taal Flyover meets the NH19 heading out of Agra, Kafur’s Mosque is quite possibly the smallest set of monuments one could visit in Agra, and yet in many respects it has one of the biggest mysteries attached to it.

The complex is said to have been built in 1672 by Itibar Khan for a sufi saint, Khwaja Kafur. The small three-arched mosque has a set of rooms behind it that have since filled with rubble, as has a nearby well on the site.

Immediately west of the mosque is a tomb with a persian inscription. It records that Itibar Khan who was of noble status during the reign of Jahangir built the mosque for Khwaja Kafur on the road from Agra to Delhi.

Itibar Khan was governor of Agra in 1622, and was in charge of the defence of the Agra fort and treasury in 1623 when the rebel prince Shah Jahan attempted to take the city. He successfully repelled Shah Jahan, and was awarded the new title of “Mumtaz Khan” for his efforts. Itibar’s extreme loyalty was highly praised, and Jahangir’s own memoirs make several references to how admired and trusted he was in court.

The inscription on the tomb has led scholars to assume, probably correctly, that the tomb is that of the sufi saint Khwaja Kafur – although it only refers to the mosque and doesn’t 100% attribute the tomb to Kafur.

The mystery that surrounds this site is the curious and moderately realistic stone statue of a horse with it’s legs missing that stands on a platform between the mosque and the tomb. For this monument, even the ASI contradict themselves over who the horse could be attributed to.

The first and perhaps most obvious theory is that the statue is a monument (or grave) of Kafur’s pet horse. The small information plaque by the locked gate tells us that this is most likely to be the case. I’m not aware of any parallels in India for this to occur, I’m sure it probably does, but it struck me as unusual at the time and that perhaps there may be another explanation.

The second theory comes from the ASI’s own website, and is a little more colourful.

Akbar on horseback
© Trustees of the British Museum

The story goes that one day the Emperor Akbar rode his favourite horse from Delhi towards Agra for a distance of 195 km, and near this spot the horse became exhausted, broke down, and died.

The horse was buried where it fell, and Akbar installed this statue on the grave. A date of between 1580 and 1605 has been attributed to the carving, which would pre-date the mosque construction by at least 65 years.

It’s also interesting to note that the statue was originally found near a railway line not far from the present boundary of the site, and was transferred and erected in its present place in 1922.


Unless we can find some documentary evidence to back up either theory, we will probably never know the true story behind this curious statue which now stands almost completely unnoticed next to a typically busy road junction.


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