While the City Palace and Jal Mahal at Udaipur attract thousands of tourists every year, few know about the spectacular cenotaphs at Ahar, on the outskirts of Udaipur. Just 2 kms outside of the ‘old city’ area, lies a collection of 372 exquisite cenotaphs or memorials, dedicated to members of the royal families of Mewar.
Also called Mahasatyaji, this royal cremation ground, houses a vast network of cenotaphs of the royals of Mewar forming a spectacular collection of domes built over 400 years. The cenotaphs commemorate 19 kings, their wives (many of whom committed sati) and other members of the royal family, who were all cremated here!
Rana Amar Singh I (March 16, 1559 – d. January 26, 1620) was the first Rana of Mewar to have died in Udaipur and cremated at Ahar. His striking cenotaph was built by his son, Karan Singh as custom dictates, that the cenotaph of a ruler can only be erected by his immediate successor.
The cenotaph of Rana Amar Singh I, also houses this four-faced statue in the centre and varied carvings at the base, depicting his numerous ranis (queens) who burned themselves on his funeral pyre, as per the controversial custom of sati.
Another spectacular monument is the cenotaph of Rana Sangram Singh who was cremated here in 1734, along with twenty-one wives, who committed sati at his pyre. Rana Sangram Singh is also well-known for having built the quaint Sahelion Ki Bari, a ‘for women only’ garden, which was a gift to one of his queens and the 48 maids of honour who were a part of her dowry.
The Ahar Cenotaphs Complex is one of the largest cenotaph complexes , spread as it is over an area of 3.2 hectares. The complex also houses this holy kund or lake known as the Gangod Bhava Kund where a purifying bathing ceremony was held after the cremations.
Unfortunately, these magnificent marble structures had gone to ruin, due to neglect over decades. However, efforts at restoration by the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF) are now underway for the cenotaphs of Rana Amar Singh I and Rana Sangram Singh.
Even in their current derelict state, these cenotaphs are a splendid sight. While the efforts at restoration are a step in the right direction, one hopes they extend beyond just the two central cenotaphs, to the 370 others! I, for one, will be on the first flight to Udaipur to see these marble mausoleums in their full glory!