Agra: Chini Ka Rauza, the Agra (Red) Fort, Moti Masjid and Musamman Burj and Oh The Dead Pups

Good morning everyone,

So we’re in Agra (well I was a few weeks ago anyway).  In today’s post we’ll visit Chini Ka Rauza and the Agra Fort which includes the Moti Masjid and the Musamman Burj.  We’ll also talk about the dead streets dogs… sigh.

First, Chini Ka Rauza.  It’s another Mughal era tomb, this one found closer to my hotel down a little brick road.  We had to stop in the road to allow a truck to offload all of its milk jugs before we could proceed.  We were at a little bridge when we were stopped and just out my window to the left… a squashed street dog.  Dead.  Poor dead dog.  I couldn’t tell if it had died of starvation then was run over or if it was run over and then just sort of dessicated.  Either way, I was happy when we were able to move and I didn’t have to look at the sad sight any longer.  I wondered at that time whether there were town maintenance crews that took care of road kill or not.  Probably not and I’ll kick myself for even asking the question.

Okay, okay, I promise.  NOW we are on to Chini Ka Rauza.  Rauza means funerary monument (i.e. tomb).  Chini means glazed tiles, which this tomb was once covered with.  It is apparently still considered one of the finest examples of glazed tile work in India.

See the guy in the picture to the left?  Hawker.  Wanted to show me all of Agra.  Sigh.  I was all alone in Chini Ka Rauza, which suited me just fine as I was preparing myself for the crowds at Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal.

The tomb was built during Shah Jahan’s (of Taj Mahal fame) time.  The tomb houses the remains of Allama Afzal Khan Mullah, who was a scholar and a poet and also the Prime Minister during Shah Jahan’s reign.  The dome is in the Afghan style which is a little different than typical Mughal architecture in India.  Inside it is covered with inscriptions from the Holy Quran.
The hawker told me that the architect of the Taj Mahal is also buried here but hawker’s tell you stuff.  That’s what they do.  I couldn’t find any confirmation of that in my reading about the place.  What I did find however was just how unique this place was, being covered in the chini.  Much of it is in ruins now but I kind of like these kinds of places.  You have to really think and imagine how the place once looked when it was just completed.  You have to engage more with the site which makes it that much more interesting.

There was at one time some sort of defensive wall up along the river near this site.  You can see what remains of it in the pictures.  I stepped inside one of the towers to take a picture of the remains of the wall and tower structure and my foot hit pan juice.  Gross.  Then I smelled the smell of stale urine.  Really?  You’re going to use this historical place as an outhouse?  Come on guys.  Seriously find another place to relieve yourself other than all over your own history.

You can also see the red stains from betel chewing everywhere outside of the actual tomb itself.  Betel/pan chewing is big in Agra.  The stains of it are everywhere.

You’ll see a picture of a cow on the left.  That’s where we were stopped for the corrupt police officer from the last post.  I should have taken a picture of the officer but frankly, I wasn’t interested in getting Jagdeep into any more problems than he was already dealing with.

Next after Chini Ka Rauza was the Agra Fort, which is also known as the Red Fort because it was built with red sandstone.  The Fort is huge and was very crowded while we were there.  It also contains the Moti Masjid (which was closed) and the Musamman Burj.  I tell you this because the various websites would lead you to believe that Moti Masjid and Musamman Burj are separate sites.  They are not, they are wholly contained within Agra Fort.

Agra Fort is impressive, set just above the city it is a massive presence.  Though it reminds me of the Red Fort in Delhi, most of the buildings inside the Agra Fort have been preserved.  There has been a fort on this location since at least 1050 A.D. though it’s present incarnation was a rebuild by Emperor Akbar which took 4000 workers 8 years to complete.

Shah Jahan was imprisoned inside the fort by his son, Aurangzeb (also not a good man which you will know if you’ve read the posts containing Sikh history).  It is said that he imprisoned his father inside the fort at Musamman Burj, a marble tower which has a view of the Taj Mahal.  Imagine spending your last days imprisoned by your son, overlooking the monument that you built to your wife.

The fort changed hands many times since it’s reconstruction under Emperor Akbar, ultimately being lost to the British in 1803.  It would also be the site of a battle during the Indian Rebellion in 1857.  This saw the end of the rule of India by the British East India Company.  Instead, for the next century, India would come under the direct rule of Britain.

The walls of the fort are some seventy feet high and are constructed as double ramparts with battlements at regular intervals along the wall.  There are four gates, one of which opens out over the Yamuna River.  The two more famous gates are the Delhi Gate and the Lahore Gate.  The Delhi gate is the biggest and grandest of the entrances.  In Akbar’s time, only the king and special dignitaries were allowed to enter through this gate.  Nowadays, the Indian military is still using the fort and the Delhi gate is closed to the public.

The palaces and public halls inside the fort are worth visiting.  Just beautiful.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.  All in all, I had a more fun and interesting time at the Agra Fort than I did at any other site in Agra, including the famed and beautiful Taj Mahal.

On to the secondary topic – the dead dogs.  I don’t know if it was the heavy, heavy fog that plagued this trip or an inordinate amount of traffic or breeding among the street dogs but there were so many dogs as roadkill in Agra and then along the highway to Jaipur.  So many that at one point it felt that everytime I turned my head, there was another squashed pup to look at.  I’m going to hope it was the fog that caused the pup massacre rather than think that people use their vehicles to control for the stray dog population.

Even Jagdeep, who lives here and has a “it’s the way life is” attitude about everything was a little disturbed by the sheer number of dogs that lay dead along the side of the road.  No camels, cows, donkeys, oxen, macaques, birds, pigs, hyena, snakes, squirrels, goats or sheep.  Not a one.  Only dogs.

Many of them looked emaciated so likely would not have had the reflexes to dart through or dodge traffic but many also looked reasonably healthy before they were squashed beneath the wheels of some passing vehicle.

I’m not the type to think that this is a big disaster and that one stray killed is too many.  This IS in fact life and it is an unfortunate part of the life of stray dogs in India.  I was just surprised by the sheer number of dogs on the side of the road and the lack of any other species of roadkill.

I was also a little surprised that given the number of scavengers that there was any evidence of it whatsoever.  By the end of the day, after having driven past so many dead and mangled dogs, I wasn’t much in the mood for eating.  And maybe because I didn’t eat much and it was still reasonably early, I spent the entire night wondering why dogs and only dogs ended up on the sides of those roads and highways… all freakin’ night.

And on that happy note, I’m going to leave you here.  We’re still in Agra for the next post.  Will it be the Taj Mahal finally or some other site?  Hmmmm…. I’ll keep you guessing.  Until then,

Peace and love,
Himmatpreet

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