Veiled gossiping women with babies on their hips stared at us as we walked by. The air was scented with green guavas and clusters of young litchis swayed in a mild warm breeze. Strings of local children followed us and neon green parrots coloured a slowly setting sun. It was March 2016, and we were in Agra, looking for a forgotten monument called Chini ka Rauza. The monument was not easy to find and our auto driver went through uncountable snaking thin residential lanes to reach its access gate. While, it is undeniable that the bedazzling Taj Mahal overpowers Agra‘s historical map, there are many more Mughal architectural jewels which are scattered across the city. There is way more than what meets the eyes at Agra and the lovely Chini ka Rauza is a rarely visited gem.

A rive side funerary monument dedicated to the poet Afzal Khan, Chini ka Rauza sat quietly on the banks of the dying Yamuna. Hidden away down an avenue through fruit orchards and local housing quarters, this tomb was built in the Persian style. Covered with beautiful glazed tiles of bright vivid colours, Chini ka Rauza was designed by the poet himself. An influential man, who also served the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as his chief minister Afzal Khan composed his verses under the pseudonym of ‘Allami‘. He was impassioned by the idea of building his own mausoleum in 1639 and selected the prettiest designs to decorate it. Beautifully colourful glazed tiles were chosen to cover this unique monument and in its heydays the mausoleum was nothing short of a masterpiece.

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Glazed tiled mausoleum

Because of its name, it is widely believed that the glazed ornamentations were imported from China and they came in dazzling blue, green and orange colours. Every space, brackets, balconies and corners are heavily embellished with them and there are Quranic inscriptions in blue tiles on each side of central arch of the mausoleum. The inscriptions are bordered with blue, yellow and green tiles set in beautiful patterns and orange tiles in arabesque and floral designs cover the rest of the space. Lovely zig zag designs on the sides of the arches gorgeously combine with the crimsons, oranges and white motifs and bands of blue set all of them off brilliantly. Panels of vermillion, orange, blue and green flowers fill up the remaining spaces and the dome is also covered in turquoise and yellow tiles. Though, now most of its beauty has been badly damaged, Chini ka Rauza still seems like an architectural rainbow and it is an absolute delight to visit especially at sunset or late noon.

We visited the Chini ka Rauza at late noon and stayed there until sunset. Not really knowing what to expect, we indulgently walked in, with the plan of having a look at it and leaving, when its exquisite interiors blew our minds away. The octagonal main chamber was a painter‘s fantasy and the domed ceiling was a honeycomb of colours. Sun filtered in semi dimly through the arched exits and lit up the insides with a lovely glow. It was nothing like we could have ever imagined and we sat there checking out the play of sun and hues in silence. The exteriors, too though badly damaged were fabulous tapestries of colours and ruby beaked parrots roosted at its niches. The Yamuna lay dry and wasted beyond the outer wall and for once, we did not mind the acrid March heat of Agra. To us, it was a befitting tribute to the city of architectural jewels, Agra and a reminder to explore beyond the well trodden path.

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Chini ka Rauza is a visual delight.

TRAVEL TIP – Chini ka Rauza is open from morning till evening and there is no entry fee. The site security guard may ask for some money at the end of your visit. Tip, if you wish.

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There is more to Agra

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Than the Taj Mahal

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And the Fort.

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The city is filled with

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Unspoken gems like Chini ka Rauza

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Only if you care to look for them.