Towering over Alwar railway station in Rajasthan is a magnificent tomb built a couple of hundred years before the railway came to town. Known as Fateh Jung Ka Gumbad or Fateh Jung Ka Maqbara, this 17th century mausoleum of a Mughal Governor tells the story of a little-known chapter in Alwar’s history. It’s the story of the ‘Khanzadas’ or Muslim Rajputs, who ruled the Mewat region in medieval times.
This intriguing chapter begins in a time when Alwar and the surrounding territory were controlled by the Yadhuvanshi Rajputs. One of these rulers, Raja Sonpar Pal (r. 1372 – 1402), converted from Hinduism to Islam during the reign of Firuzshah Tughlaq (r. 1351 – 1388). Such conversions were common as they enhanced one’s position within the new ruling elite and increased one’s chances of being promoted to positions of great responsibility.
In this case, Raja Sonpar Pal was given the title ‘Khan’, or the equivalent of ‘Lordship’. He went on to found the clan known as the ‘Khanzada Rajputs’, one of many communities that comprised the Muslim Rajputs in North and West India. According to another theory, the title ‘Khanazad’, meaning ‘slave’, was given to Sonar Pal when he accepted the allegiance of the Sultan of Delhi.
– At this point, Alwar was the capital of the Mewat region, which now comprises Nuh district in Harayana and Alwar and Bharatpur districts in Rajasthan. Before Alwar, the dynasty ruled from the cities of Indori, Kotla, and Tijara.
Fast forward around 150 years, to the reign of the last Khanzada Rajput ruler of Mewat, Hasan Khan Mewati (r. 1504 – 1527) and to the Battle of Khanwa, where the Rajputs were pitted against Babur, the Turkic Prince who founded the Mughal Empire in India in 1526 CE. The battle was fought in Khanwa, now in Bharatpur district of Rajasthan, on 16th March 1527 CE, almost exactly a year after the Battle of Panipat, where Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi, the Sultan of Delhi, and established the Mughal dynasty.
It was in the Battle of Khanwa that the invading forces of Babur confronted the combined forces of the Afghans and Rajputs in India. Khanzada Hasan Khan Mewati had added his soldiers to the combined Rajput might, and fought under the leadership of Rana Sanga of Mewar. Despite their greater numerical strength, the superior firepower of Babur helped the Turkic invader emerge victorious. It cemented Babur’s position as the ruler of the subcontinent and founder of the Mughal dynasty.
Hasan Khan Mewati lost his life and kingdom in the Battle of Khanwa, and after his death, the Khanzada Mewati territories were amalgamated with those of the Mughal Empire. As for the Khanzada nobility, they began to serve in the Mughal court and had matrimonial alliances with the Mughals. In fact, Babur’s son Humayun and his trusted minister Bairam Khan married into the clan.
Fateh Jung was a descendant of Hasan Khan Mewati, and he rose to become one of the most trusted ministers in the court of Shah Jahan (r. 1628 – 1658), the fifth Mughal Emperor. So when Fateh Jang, Governor of Alwar, died in 1647 CE, a grand tomb was built shortly afterwards.
The Fateh Jung Ka Gumbad is five storeys tall, the first three of equal breadth. Each storey has five full-length arched openings and two smaller ones, one at either end. Fluted, octagonal minarets rise from each of the four corners of the tomb while an enormous dome sits atop a fourth, octagonal storey. Capping the dome is a delicate chhatri.
The mausoleum bears the remnants of a Persian Char Bagh-style garden, a signature element of every mausoleum, big or small, built during the Mughal era. This one is unique as it combines Mughal and Rajput architecture, mirroring the heritage of the individual buried here.
To gain entry to the tomb, large and heavy wooden doors have to be pushed aside but once inside, you will notice traces of floral motifs painted with vegetable dyes. Five hundred years after they were painted, the red and blue flowers interspersed with green leaves are still discernable.
Today, this immense mausoleum can be spotted from every train that passes through Alwar Junction. Located in what is now a grimy part of this small city, barely anyone bothers to visit it. In fact, most local residents have no idea whose mausoleum it is or how old it is.
Time has stood still at the Fateh Jung Ka Gumbad in Alwar, where the memory of the Khanzadas of Mewati is kept alive by a kazi, who still comes to read verses from the Quran next to the grave of the long-deceased noble.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barun Ghosh is an alumnus of the Parsons School of Design, New York. Apart from being an entrepreneur, he’s a landscape, architecture and food photographer. He is also a heritage enthusiast and currently pursuing a degree in history (honours) from IGNOU. He tweets at @barunghosh.
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