Cenotaphs of Rajasthan – An Epitome of Culture and Reverence

Monuments built in the memory of the revered ones are always close to our hearts. These monuments called ‘Cenotaphs’ were very common in the ancient times around Egypt and Greece. Some of the barrows found in Stonehenge in England are also believed to be mere cenotaphs from Neolithic times. Cenotaph derived from Greek basically, means an ’empty tomb’.

The most popular and the incredible cenotaph which is also one of the wonders of the world is the Taj Mahal which consists of the cenotaphs of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan at the heart of the magnificent monument. Cenotaphs are also erected in the memory of the lost soldiers.

On our recent trip to Rajasthan, we came across several legions of cenotaphs in the cities we visited.

Ahar Cenotaphs Udaipur

We walked through the entrance into an overwhelming cluster of milky cenotaphs with sky-piercing spires of the onion domes. The splendor and sheer grandeur of the marble monuments positioned on large platforms dwarfed us.

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

The Ahar Cenotaphs is the cremation ground of the Mewar for over 350 years. The site contains more than 350 cenotaphs of the royal family including the 19 cenotaphs that commemorate the 19 Kings who were cremated here.

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

Cenotaphs Rajasthany

The domes and the pillars are adorned with beautiful elaborate embellishments. In the center of the cenotaphs is a stone slab with an equestrian figure representing the King with his ‘Satis’ (his wives, who immolated in his cremation flames).

The cenotaph of King Sangram Singh was the most impressive with 56 pillared portico and an octagonal dome. We were astounded by the sheer amount of artwork around the cenotaph. But the most heart-wrenching part was that the King Sangram Singh was cremated here with his twenty-one wives.

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

Ahar Archeological Museum

Another interesting fact about the grounds of Ahar is the archaeological artifacts found here which date back to 10th century and are well preserved in the Ahar museum close to the cenotaphs.

Bada Bagh Jaisalmer

The golden glow abounding the domes and the pillars was prominent from a distance. This vista of cenotaphs spread through the barren lands with a backdrop of towering windmills made an awestruck imprint on our minds.

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

Bada Bagh located on the outskirts of the city of Jaisalmer on Ramgarh road houses royal cenotaphs of Bhatti rulers of Jaisalmer. The oldest of cenotaph is of Jai Singh II dating to the 16th-century built by his son Lunkaran to commemorate his contribution in making the desert green around Bada Bagh.

We spotted a newly married couple in ornate attire sought the blessings of their ancestors, a tradition to follow before proceeding to their village for other customs. As we ascended through the rows of cenotaphs there is a hushed silence amidst the throng of tourists exploring the radiating glory in peace.

The slabs in the cenotaphs depicted an equestrian figure of King with his ‘Satis’ as seen in Ahar cenotaphs.

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

It was disheartening to behold the spectacular cenotaphs in deteriorating condition due to poor maintenance.

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

The cenotaphs offer for some of the best photo ops as the sun sets down the horizon.

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

On the way out we walked past an unfinished cenotaph of King Jawahar Singh dating back to the 20th century. The unexpected death of his son was taken as a bad omen and subsequently, the tradition ended. Click for more pictures of Bada Bagh Cenotaphs.

Vyas Chhatri Jaisalmer

The cenotaphs at Vyas Chhatri are quite similar in structure to those at Bada Bagh but fewer in number. Unlike that of Bada Bagh, the Vyas Chhatri is still used as a cremation ground for the brahmin community. We could not make it to inside as the cenotaphs were closed at noon when we visited.

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

Cenotaphs near Gadisagar Lake Jaisalmer

We also spotted some scattered cenotaphs in the wild shrubs outside the Gadisagar Lake in Jaisalmer which looked trivial. The marvelous view of the Jaisalmer fort dominating the city skyline in the background.

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

Jaswant Thada Jodhpur

The marble memorial is popularly known as the ‘Taj Mahal of Mewar’ was built by Maharaja Sardar Singh in memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. As much as the marble monument is soothing to eyes in the scorching sun, the large hall inside the Jaswant Thada is abode to serenity.

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

The Jaswant Thada Complex also houses the royal crematorium and several other cenotaphs of unique design styles.

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

Some of the cenotaphs had a smaller version of cenotaph standing opposite to them which represented their queens.

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

Mandore Gardens Jodhpur

The Cenotaphs of Mandore Gardens are the most breathtaking of all. Instead of the usual chhatri-shaped cenotaphs typical of Rajasthan, the cenotaphs are inspired by the Hindu temples. The astounding cenotaph of King Ajit Singh is four stories high red sandstone structure with fine carvings and sculptures on columns and the ceilings. The most distressing is the memorial which marks 64 queens and concubines who committed Sati on Ajit Singh’s death.

Opposite to it was a cenotaph of King Dhiraj Jaswant Singh I which was equally majestic with a large hall and a dome with pillars all with intricate carvings and sculptures.

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The were many other smaller cenotaphs similar to the ones in Jaisalmer and Udaipur.

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

Cenotaphs Rajasthan

The Mandore Gardens also houses a government museum, a ‘Hall of Heroes’ with enormous carved figures of Rajput heroes and a Hindu temple to 33 crore gods. The garden is not well maintained which was the reason for our guide to be initially reluctant to visit the gardens with us.

Devikund Sagar in Bikaner the cremation ground of royal family also has some of the remarkable cenotaphs of red stone and marble which we are yet to explore.

These cenotaphs with entrancing history and intriguing artwork have etched an indelible mark on our minds. These monuments exemplary of valor and reverence are sure to charm anyone. Do you agree?

Have you been to anyone of these cenotaphs and immersed yourself in the relics of the bygone era?

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24 thoughts on “Cenotaphs of Rajasthan – An Epitome of Culture and Reverence

  • December 7, 2016 at 6:02 am
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    You taught me a new words today: ‘cenotaph’. There are so many of them in the area you visited! You certainly took stunning photos!

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  • December 7, 2016 at 10:06 am
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    Never knew they were called cenotaph! That’s one new new thing learnt today 🙂 Rajasthan is such a treasure trove of architecture that one really wishes to go back to it again and again. Was lovely to revisit the places through your photographs 🙂

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  • December 7, 2016 at 2:54 pm
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    Just back from a 10 days trip of Rajasthan, still now i am feeling I haven’t seen anything..need to go back soon 🙂

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    • mm
      December 12, 2016 at 9:08 am
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      Agree 🙂 We feel that way too after visiting twice already.

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  • December 9, 2016 at 4:50 am
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    I’d never heard of cenotaphs before and now that I know what they are I can’t believe I’ve never read about them. Thanks so much for sharing their history and meaning.

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  • December 11, 2016 at 2:40 am
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    The cenotaphs of Rajasthan are mind blowing. It is hard to pick a favorite -each one has its amazing stories and architecture. And each one is so unique – Bada Bagh to Jaswant Thada and then Mandore. Even between Mandore and Jaswant Thada there is so much of a difference. I can spend hours at these cenotaphs and still find so many different things. Loved this post.

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  • December 11, 2016 at 5:37 pm
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    Cenotaphs’ This goes straight to my personal vocab .Truly Rajasthan has so much to offer.For that matter the Indian Architectural beauty is beyond comparison.Thanks for the share. and making us visit Rajasthan through your pictures.

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    • mm
      December 12, 2016 at 9:08 am
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      Agree with you Snigdha. Rajasthan is a treasure chest of rich cultural heritage and architecture.

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  • December 11, 2016 at 8:30 pm
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    What an amazing architecture :-)! Great post, it was a pleasure to read it. I’m an art historian, so my heart melted. Stunning pictures 🙂

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  • December 12, 2016 at 8:20 am
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    Rajathan never ceases to amaze. The more I dig deeper, the more treasure I seem to undearth. I rememeber visiting Mandore way back in 2008, one of my earliiest solo trips. Another such place I’d suggest is the 84 pillared cenotaph in Bundi.

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    • mm
      December 12, 2016 at 9:06 am
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      There definitely must be many more. We knew of Bikaner we haven’t visited yet. Good to know there is one in Bundi too 🙂

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  • December 12, 2016 at 9:03 am
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    You wrote an amazing post with many interesting things, why didn’t you write a Travel Guide to?! I am history passionate and my passion is becoming strong for Art too! I liked so much Bada Bagh Jaisalmer and loved your description! thanks for sharing, like always 😀

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    • mm
      December 12, 2016 at 9:06 am
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      Thanks Davide! What kind of Travel Guide are you looking for? Any particular information? We would be happy to help 🙂

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  • December 12, 2016 at 2:14 pm
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    Wow what a stunning view – you’re right about the beauty of the subsets – and the shrines are so beautiful and intricate, a shame that their inhabitants never get to witness their beauty!!

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  • December 12, 2016 at 9:15 pm
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    Those cenotaphs are beautiful and you really captured them well in your photos. The amount of detail carved into the cenotaphs is extraordinary and I’m sure it’s something you really need to see up close to fully appreciate. What a great show of respect for the past.

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  • December 13, 2016 at 2:15 am
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    Didn’t you find it a bit eerie there? I walked around and took several pics but couldn’t sit on the steps of any of them. Very beautiful structures. There is a peacock’s cenotaph too at Jaswant Thada complex. Did you see that?

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    • mm
      December 13, 2016 at 10:43 am
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      Nope 🙂 They are just empty tombs.. But wandering amongst them arouses a sense of great respect and a delightful feeling for been transported back in time 🙂

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  • December 13, 2016 at 11:59 am
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    Beautifully described! Rajasthan is a treasure trove. Amazing food , heritage, architecture and culture. King Sangram Singh’s centoph is so royal and majestic. Can’t imagine he had 21 wives!

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  • December 13, 2016 at 12:54 pm
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    The photographs here are so amazing!! There is such a beauty in these cenotaph carvings. Thank you for sharing.

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  • December 13, 2016 at 2:16 pm
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    When I was in Jaisalmer I remember admiring the Cenotaphs from near Gadisagar Lake while the sun was setting, with a glass of chai in my hand as it was really cold. I was listening to our guide telling the story about the cenotaphs and what they were and I remember how surprised I was. If I remember well, the ones in this particular place in Jaisalmer were ordered by priests and they would be buried while they were still alive.

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  • December 14, 2016 at 9:08 am
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    Really nice post!! I lovedd the pictures and the explanaitions! I still need to discover these regions of the world like Rajahstan and posts like this one give a lot of ideas and information about them!!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!! Enjoy and travel! Esther

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  • December 14, 2016 at 4:19 pm
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    Cenotaphs..even after having roots from the land of Rajasthan I had never been aware of this term except “Chattriyan” in Hindi to which I’m habitual to look at various places in cities and villages of the state. Thanks for enhancing my vocabulary and refreshing my childhood memories from where I have so many picnic pictures with family.

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  • December 15, 2016 at 7:47 pm
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    Let alone India, Rajasthan surprises me in so many ways! Each discovery beautiful and special. Your pictures are another testimony of the same! Also, thanks for bringing about- Cenotaphs! 🙂

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  • December 16, 2016 at 8:15 am
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    I am a fan of Rajasthani architecture. I didn’t know the Stonehenge is also believed to have a cenotaphs. I have seen cenotaphs in most of the Rajasthani cities.

    Reply

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