Situated on the east bank of the Yamuna river in what was formerly a Mughal riverside garden, Chini Ka Rauza was built sometime between 1620 and 1639 and is the tomb of Afzal Khan. He was a successful courtier and poet under both Shah Jahan and Jahangir, his brother is perhaps a little better known as he was the calligrapher whose work can be seen on the Taj Mahal.
Afzal Khan died in 1639 in Lahore and his body was brought back to Agra to be interred here. It is highly likely construction of this tomb had already started or quite possibly finished by the time of his death. Having just visited the tomb of Sultan Parwiz, Shah Jahan’s brother, my expectations for this monument were a little low, so what I found came as a pleasant surprise.
The tomb is unusual in that it doesn’t respect the course of the river and nor does it respect the plan of the gardens that once lined the river. Instead the tomb is at a distinct angle and faces Mecca.
Additionally, the tomb is unusual due to the tiled decoration that once covered the exterior. Little remains of that tiled decoration today, just a few patches here and there, the best preserved areas are on the west side facing the river.
This colourful tiled decoration is what gives the tomb it’s name today, ‘Chini’ means ‘China’. You can get a good sense of how this monument once looked from a painting by Sita Ram between 1814-15, which is now held at the British Library.
It’s a shame so much of this tiled decoration has been lost. The painting was done approximately 175 years after the tomb was built, and just over 200 years further on to today there’s almost nothing left of it.
The condition of the exterior is in stark contrast to what you will find inside the tomb, I really wasn’t prepared for what was to come…
The interior is lavishly painted, both a surprise and a real feast for the eyes, naturally my camera started working overtime 🙂
It is thought much of this paint work has been restored, although there are no records of when exactly that took place. 19th century descriptions of the interior record that it was very decayed, which clearly is not the case today. That said, it appears to have been sympathetically done and I think the colouring scheme is relatively authentic.
From the banks of the Yamuna river you can see a few other monuments that line the river to the south and north. Immediately to the south is a plain square tomb known as Kala Gumbad (Black Dome), and beyond that are further structures that are part of the next Mughal garden, Bagh Wazir Khan.
Immediately to the north is another Mughal garden, Zahara Bagh, believed to have been built by Mumtaz Mahal and left to Jahanara (her daughter) when she died. Not much remains of this garden today, most notable are the impressive corner chhatris, of which one is very close to Chini Ka Rauza.
Chini Ka Rauza was certainly one of the highlights during my day visiting the monuments east of the Yamuna river in Agra, and whilst the exterior is a shadow of its former self, the interior more than makes up for this.
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