Mughal-era halting gateway turns into open-air pub
Before I introduce you to yet another historical jewel hidden in the middle of nowhere, there is a small request I would want to make on behalf of heritage-lovers like me. And this goes out specially for the officials of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) as well as the local police. Why can’t a check, if not 24×7, then may be from dawn to dusk, be ensured at ASI-protected monuments, especially the ones in remote areas but of historical importance, to ensure anti-heritage elements are kept away.
During my travel to various parts of the country, I have noticed on numerous occasions that either there is no caretaker assigned for the “protected” monument or if there is one, he is conveniently missing. One only hopes a day will soon come when you venture into a protected monument and not find broken liquor bottles, cigarette butts, burnt ash…
This time I am at Viratnagar in Rajasthan. Founded by King Virat in whose kingdom the Pandava spent the 13th year of their exile in disguise, Viratnagar falls on the Delhi-Jaipur Expressway, just after you cross the Government Hospital at Bhabru on your left, around 200 km from the national capital. Take a left from here and drive on the narrow uneven road, constructed under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, making you once again wonder as to why can’t the sarkar make long-lasting roads like they do for highways and expressways and charge toll for it. It takes me around 35 minutes to cover this 20-km distance before I manage to reach Mughal Gate.
The gate is said to have been built by one of the nine jewels of Mughal emperor Akbar, Raja Mansingh in the 16th century. Strangely, Mughal Gate is considered a replica of the Taj. How can it be possible as Shah Jahan was Akbar’s grandson and commissioned the Taj only in 1632 whereas Mughal Gate was constructed many years before? It was used by Akbar as a halting place on way to his hunting expeditions to Sariska and visits to Ajmer. Today, it is being used as “halting place” by anti-social elements.
In the absence of a caretaker, I had to open the iron gates for the car to enter the seemingly recently constructed pathway that led to the base of the monument. From the entry, I could see a faint image of the Mughal Gate, hidden behind three massive hundreds of years old banyan trees. A flight of stairs (around a dozen) took me to the main building, constructed on a raised platform, around 10 ft high. From the condition of the historical structure – the fresh paint, both on the interiors and exteriors – it seemed Mughal Gate had been restored and renovated sometime back. Which means the ASI is on the job but what about ensuring its upkeep and maintenance?
Two flights of stairs, one wider than the other, lead you to the first floor of this historic structure. Perhaps the wider one was used by menfolk and the other one by women. The highlight of this Mughal-era monument is the artwork on the walls and the ceilings. Each of the four corners at this level has a chhatri or a dome-shaped pavilion, perhaps used to keep a watch in each direction. A larger chhatri, standing on eight pillars at the centre of the structure, perhaps used by the emperor, was constructed on a three feet something high platform.
On one side where I was happy at witnessing the condition of the physical structure of the monument, it was upsetting to find the entire parapet of this floor too strewn with broken liquor bottles and cigarette butts. Perhaps the authorities concerned will wake up from their summer afternoon siestas and get a caretaker at these historical jewels sometime soon. But one can just hope…