Persia or Iran and Indian Subcontinent had a long history of sharing ideas. Long before the Muslim rule it was the Magi community who worshipped Sun God had brought the idea of Sun worship into India. Then after, the Parsis made their way to India.
But it was Muslims who brought many refined ideas such as the blue tiles, Sufi mysticism, gardens of paradise, water wheel, miniature art and so on.
While amongst the best of Persian influence in art and architecture I had seen in Deccan Peninsula, especially in Bidar, Bijapur and Hyderabad, in Agra it was altogether different experience.
Chini ka Rouza is one of the finest Mughal buildings set on the opposite bank of Yamuna. Mulla Shukruallah or Afzal Khan, the Prime Minister of Shah Jahan is buried here. The mausoleum was built in 1639 AD with elaborate ornamentation. It is carved with glazed tiles of Persian influence.
The inscription in blue coloured tiles on each side of the central arch of the building is bordered by blue, yellow and green tiles set in beautiful patterns while the spandrels of the arches are decorated with blue and orange tiles set in arabesque and floral patterns. Panels with vermillion, orange, blue and green floral motifs fill the remaining spaces on each façade.
Afzal Khan was also a poet. The tomb is rarely visited and I was the only outsider during my visit. It is hidden away down a shady avenue of trees on the eastern bank of the river. Originally the tomb had two main gates, one in the north and the other in the south. It was a three storied tower in octagonal shape near the ghat. But most of it is now in ruins. Only the main tomb survives.
Chini ka Rouza according to Dr. KK Muhammad is one of the finest examples of tile ornamentation in India and certainly the only one of its kind in Agra.
A little south of Chini ka Rouza lies Agra’s one of the most impressive gems, the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah, which is often described as a jewel box.
Built between 1622 and 1628 AD, it was the first building built entirely of marble. Another draw of this monument is the pietra dura inlay. The building was commissioned by Nur Jahan, the wife of Jahangir for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg, who had been given the tittle Itmad-ud-Daulah (pillar of the state).
The tomb is set in a large char bhag, crisscrossed by water courses and walkways. The walls encrusted with precious stones such as carnelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, onyx and topaz, forming images of cypress trees with wine bottles, cut fruits or vases containing bouquets. Light filters through jail screens of intricately carved white marble. An interesting feature is that of cenotaphs of Noor Jahan’s parents have been side by side, an idea replicated in Taj Mahal.
The Yamuna quietly flows by this monument overlooking brick chimneys that once were the main reason behind Agra’s pollution.
(To be continued)