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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was disheartening to behold the spectacular cenotaphs in deteriorating condition due to poor maintenance.
The cenotaphs offer for some of the best photo ops as the sun sets down the horizon.
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 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.
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.
The Jaswant Thada Complex also houses the royal crematorium and several other cenotaphs of unique design styles.
Some of the cenotaphs had a smaller version of cenotaph standing opposite to them which represented their queens.
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.
The were many other smaller cenotaphs similar to the ones in Jaisalmer and Udaipur.
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?
Would you like to pin this post?