|Saturday, February 23, 2002||
HALF a millennium, by any standards, is time enough to mark any structure as ‘historic’, yet little is known about the origin and history of a group of five tombs at Tauru, 40 km from Gurgaon, which are roughly this old. The tombs, which are in a state of decay and neglect, are a sad comment on our interest in preserving ancient monuments.
In 1828, the compiler of the East India Gazetteer, Walter Hamilton, wrote about Tauru, tehsil headquarters in the Mewat region of Haryana: "It is also occasionally named, but it does not appear why, the Lesser Baloochistan." During the decline of the Mughals, it acquired a reputation for lawlessness. It was inhabited by tribes and communities which nibbled at the weakened empire. The region was arid and the climate harsh.
However, the proximity
to the seat of the empire ensured that the cultural and architectural
influence of the capital be reflected in the life and buildings of this
region. The structures that stand in the 4-acre complex in Tauru exhibit
styles ranging from Tughlaq to Mughal. Sadly they look, and are, in a
decrepit state. Whatever covered space is available within is being used
to store cowdung.
A few years ago Nandita Lahiri, convener of the local chapter of INTACHand resident of Palam Vihar, Gurgaon, was asked by SSP Shatrujit Kapur to go and see what he promised would be ‘a memorable sight’. Lahiri saw the tombs at Tauru and took up their restoration as a part of the agenda of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage. Gurgaon’s Sushant School of Architecture was roped in for a study. Recently about 20 members of this chapter made a trip to Tauru to see what could be done to preserve and develop this historic site.
What they saw confirmed both its antiquity and its desperate need for attention. Divaya Gupta of INTACH briefed them about what had been assessed in a preliminary survey. "One of the tombs has a flat dome," he explained, "which probably dates it to the Tughlaq times. Some of the others could belong to the Lodi or early Mughal period. The largest one, according to the locals, belonged to a Baluchi chieftain of the Lodi era. Unfortunately, the inscriptions on the graves have all but disappeared and a more thorough study by experts would be required to learn what they are about."
The entire ‘complex’ was probably never developed in a holistic manner and structures just happened to be built there one by one over time. At some stage an attempt appears to have been made to provide it with a water body. Structurally, most monuments seem to be in a reasonable condition, except for one that has cracks in it and some chattris which have collapsed. Of course, time and some vandalism has taken a toll of the facades and masonry walls.
While no one knows exactly when and by whom these tombs were built, some calculated guesses can be made. Virender Singh Malik, the local Panchayat and Development Officer, is of the opinion that the complex was not any kind of permanent headquarters, but a camp site. Next to the tombs is a walled-in area for rest, prayers and ablutions. A part of this has exchanged hands several times as private property. Unfortunately even the revenue records available locally do not go back too far in time.
whose former principality is not too far from Tauru and who also
visited the site with the INTACH team, feels that this area was a part
of Ferozepur Jhirka, a ‘state’ that became extinct after 1858.
There is also a possibility of some record being available in
To develop the area as a tourist complex, first, a study has to be conducted into its antecedents and then the preservation, reconstruction and landscaping has to be undertaken. INTACH India Vice-Chairman and former Haryana bureaucrat S.K. Mishra estimates that a study to arrive at what needs to be done, and how, will cost about Rs 2.5 lakh. This is the task the Gurgaon chapter of the organisation has now to address itself to.
The study will conduct a research, make detailed drawings of the site and the buildings, prepare a proposal for landscaping, restoration and development as a tourism facility. The repair work will include waterproofing, treatment of the wall surfaces, removing inappropriate interventions, strengthening the structures, repairing the cracks and replacement of decorations and essential features.
The initial cost estimate prepared by INTACH runs to Rs 40 lakh for the entire job. Mishra is of the opinion that it may be difficult to make this into a tourist site by itself. However, some INTACH members feel that combined with Manesar, Pataudi and Sohna, all of which are in the vicinity, it could become a part of a tourism circuit. The walled space next to the tombs could even be developed as a camping site. At any rate, Tauru’s tombs are a part of our history and need to be saved for posterity.
The crucial question, of course, is
how to raise the money. Ultimately the state government will have to
pitch in and/or some corporate sponsors will have to be found who can
underwrite the expense individually or as a consortium. Will the big
guns of industry and finance, who have moved recently to Gurgaon, come
forward to help? Here is an excellent chance for them to demonstrate
their commitment to preservation of the heritage that is a part of
their new home.