A walk through centuries in Tauru, Nuh
A small detour from the Rewari-Sohna Road will lead you to ward number 10 in Tauru, Nuh— a seemingly nondescript residential area. Unknown to most outsiders, however, the area is also home to a massive tomb complex hidden behind a mesh of newer constructions and farmlands. The complex has seven tombs that can be traced back to the 14th and 15th centuries AD. However, despite its towering presence, locating the complex can be quite a task for a first-time visitor. The entrance to the complex is through a concrete passageway which leads to what locals call the ‘peer baba ki mazaar (shrine)’. Little is known about the history of the mazaar—which is revered in the locality —since the unmarked graves have been plastered with fresh green tiles. A plaque at the gateway of the shrine, however, mentions that the gateway was constructed in 2007 by a local resident. It is only after crossing this shrine that one gets a glimpse of the tombs and the larger complex.
A narrow concrete pathway runs the length of the complex, which is a unique ensemble of tombs with walled enclosures, burial structures, an eidgah and a dargah on an uneven, undulating land of about three-and-a-half acres. A dried well also exists in the middle of the complex, according to the state department’s listing.
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The complex is significant due to the diversity of the architectural styles on display. The seven tombs have been built from the 14th century onwards in different architectural styles from the Tughlaq, Lodhi, post-Lodhi and early Mughal periods, according to experts—walking through the complex feels like traversing through different eras.
Made of heavy stones, the tombs demonstrate the use of lime plaster and are said to be associated with the Khanzadas, a community of Muslim Rajputs who ruled over Mewat for centuries. In some of the tombs, inscriptions from the Quran adorn circular panels, while the alcoves are fitted with jaali work. These carvings and inscriptions exude the aura of a glorious past, one that is fast receding into oblivion.
“The architectural features of these tombs show that they belonged to the local Khanzada rulers. They indicate strong Tughlaq and Lodhi influence. Two of the tombs seem to belong to the post-Lodhi and early Mughal period,” Banani Bhattacharyya, deputy director of the Department of Archaeology & Museums, says.
She adds that the tombs demonstrated architectural elements found in the tombs of the Lodhi period “The tombs of the Lodhi period mainly belong to two categories— one based on an octagonal plan and the second based on a square plan. Elements of the square architectural plan with no verandah, exaggerated building height, the walled enclosure around each tomb and shallow arches sunk into rectangular panels filling the space between the main arches are all evident in these tombs.”
Shikha Jain, the convener of INTACH, Haryana chapter, says that the fact that the complex showcases architectural styles from various periods is the most interesting part about it. “The Khanzadas in the area must have died at different times, and the style prevailing at that particular time is reflected in these tombs. In Delhi, most tomb complexes show only one architectural influence,” she says.
Formidable centuries ago, the heritage structures punctuating the complex are crumbling and on the brink of collapse now. More than 15 years ago, one of the chhatris of the largest tombs crumbled. Later, another chhatri was damaged. As of now, only two of the four chhatris of the said tomb remain. The enclosures surrounding most of the tombs have also broken in parts. Further, as is the case with most heritage structures in Haryana, the complex is also being used by locals as a storehouse for cow dung cakes. At least four of the tombs are now packed to capacity with stacks of cow dung cakes. Mounds of cow dung can also be seen on the ground and within the alcoves and arches. In addition to the damage caused by man-made activities, the tombs have also fallen victim to nature’s wrath and suffered damage in the form of deep cracks and disintegration of structures. Most tombs in the complex have also become a haven for a range of animals—squirrels, bats, and pigeons. After years of sustaining damage at the hands of humans and nature alike, the tombs are gradually disintegrating, and the crisis is further exacerbated by the absence of any state protection.
Eventual state protection for the tomb complex is also expected to be an arduous affair with the ownership of the land being fairly complicated. Currently, multiple people and organisations have staked claims to different portions of the complex. While the Haryana Wakf Board owns some land, locals also stake claim to the property. “The ownership of the complex rests with different people. The Wakf board, the archaeology department, and several individuals own different portions,” Rajesh Kumar Sehrawat, whose house is located a few steps away from the tomb complex, says. Sehrawat is in favour of government protection for the complex. He fondly recalls how Mansoor Ali Khan, the nawab of Pataudi, and his wife Sharmila Tagore, had visited the place many years ago. “Nawab Sahab came with his wife and even asked a local tehsildar from Pataudi to take care of the property,” he adds.
Ubedullah Khan, estate officer of the Wakf board in Nuh, says that there has been a mention of certain marlas of land within the complex on its record but there is ambiguity over ownership of the tombs. “Apart from the tombs, there is an eidgah, a masjid, and a dargah on the premises. The finer details of the ownership of the tombs will have to be checked through the revenue records,” Khan says.
Most locals in the area refer to the tombs as ‘Gumat’ and seek protection for the complex. They see it as a legacy, which, if restored, could bring fame and development to the region. “The government should transform it and make it a tourist destination like Chandni Chowk. We will be more than happy if that happens. The rates of our property will double if the place becomes famous. With all the cow dung and dirt, it’s simply decaying,” Hukum Singh Sehrawat, 70, a resident who owns farmlands in the area, says.
Over the years, attempts have been made to give a fresh lease of life to some of the tombs in the complex. However, the efforts couldn’t be sustained, with the tombs falling into disrepair once again. Two phases of conservation for two tombs were carried out at the complex by INTACH. The first phase took place from November 2005-April 2006 and the second phase began in 2011 and ended in 2014. “In the first phase, structural cracks in the tomb from the Tughlaq period were repaired. In the second round, Sushant School of Art and Architecture had taken charge as the implementing partner of INTACH to repair the second tomb,” Shikha Jain says.
However, not everyone is happy with the restoration that was undertaken by INTACH. Locals say that the conservation work had defaced and altered the original details of the tombs.
“They covered all the inscriptions under a fresh coat of plaster. All the carvings were concealed,” a resident of the area says. Jain, however, says that the restoration work was carried out by trained conservation artists. “People raise objections because they are not familiar with conservation work. Recognised conservation architects worked on the project.” She also says that due to a lack of state protection, it becomes difficult to sustain conservation efforts. “We kept asking the government to put the tombs under protection. Unless it is state-protected, the momentum cannot be sustained. Even after conservation, one doesn’t know if they’ll be maintained or destroyed. Locals had anyway started putting up cow dung cakes again,” she says.
Officials from the state’s Department of Archaeology and Museums say that plans to take the complex under protection were underway but no timeline for the same could be given. “As of now, the complex is neither under state nor central government protection. We have sent a proposal to the deputy commissioner for a go-ahead, which is pending. Once that is cleared, we can initiate the process of taking the complex under our fold and carry out the delimitation exercise,” Banani Bhattacharyya says.