Touch of history

Chingas Sarai, near Rajouri, is built at the site where Queen Noor Jahan buried the intestines of her husband, Emperor Jahangir, to save the Mughal kingdom, writes Jupinderjit Singh 

TOMBS of kings, queens, soldiers and even lovers are found all over the world, especially in India, where kingdoms prospered and vanished. But have you heard about a tomb of an Emperor, built at a place where just one part of his body was buried? That too, an internal organ?

Visit Chingas Sarai, 25 km short of Rajouri town and about 130 km from Jammu, to behold such a unique relic of the Mughal era. Situated on the Jammu-Rajouri highway, near the Tawi river, this place is built at the site where Mughal queen Noor Jahan buried the intestines of her dead husband and Mughal Emperor Jahangir to save the Mughal kingdom.

Jahangir died on way to Delhi in 1627, but he had to be shown to be alive. For this, his intestines were buried at Chingas Sarai
Jahangir died on way to Delhi in 1627, but he had to be shown to be alive. For this, his intestines were buried at Chingas Sarai

Jahangir had died on way to Delhi from Kashmir in 1627. The queen could not let this news reach Lahore or Delhi. It could have led to power struggle between the heirs or claimants to the throne. She had to show the king alive but that meant preserving his body for several days. The physicians then found out a way. They removed the intestines as it slowed the decay of the body and prevented pungent smell emanating from it.

The embalmed body of the king, dressed in his usual attire, was made to sit on an elephant in such a way that he appeared hale and hearty. One wonders if the queen had not done this, would the Mughal era have ended early? Would the history of the whole subcontinent have a different story?

Nearly four centuries after this historical act, the site that later came to be known as Chingas, which means intestines in Persian, is finally available to tourists. The otherwise locked and abandoned historical monument that was in ruins has got a fresh lease of life now.

Thanks to the Jammu and Kashmir Archaeology Department, this one of its kind tomb is open to public now and forms the main base of the Rajouri-Poonch tourism circuit, which is being popularised by the opening of Mughal Road. A big board at the entrance of the sarai narrates the tale of the intestines, which has been established by historians over the years.

It is an excellent location where it is situated, beside the present Jammu-Rajouri road and in the valley of the snow- clad Pir Panjal ranges. It offers the first resting point to tourists on way to Shahadar-e-sharief.

Peerzada Muhammad Ashraf, Deputy Director, recalls that the sarai was lying abandoned and was in a dilapidated state for better part of the last two centuries. "It was in ruins. It collapsed before the vagaries of nature. People took away many bricks, and it was largely reduced to a garbage dumping site. But thanks to a project of the Centre, we began the restoration work in 2003, and now it is almost complete. People can visit it."

He revealed that the Mughal sarai was a well-planned building with two apartments — the residential complex and the open yard. Both the apartments have separate gateways and are also connected to each other internally. The residential complex was built within the walled enclosure and contains arched cells with openings towards the courtyard. Its gateway in the western wall comprises a central chamber with domed roof and a small guard's room on either flank. In the construction of the building, random rubbles and large pebbles were used.

He revealed about Rs 1crore was spent on restoring the pristine glory of the building. "The challenge was to give it its previous look. We have succeeded in it."

But there is a lot which needs to be done still. Most important is the creation of wayside amenities for tourists who stop over at this place. Presently, there is a cafeteria opposite the sarai, but its standard needs to be improved. Tourists would love to stay over at the place and trek down to the Tawi river. If some boating or fishing arrangements are made, the site could be a crowd-puller for not just outstation tourists but also for local residents for excursions or weekend trips.

Director, Jammu and Kashmir Tourism, R K Verma, told The Tribune some of the plans they have. "The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, has sanctioned three integrated tourism circuit development sites. This is one of the three and we would be soon developing a picnic spot in the form of a well laid-out garden at Chingas."

He said the work would begin soon. "Earlier, the land near the sarai was not in our possession. We have got it now and the blueprint for the garden with landscaping matching its setting with the Pir Panjal ranges would be developed," he added.

A garden, in fact, would be a tribute to Jahangir, who had special love for Kashmir. Most of the gardens in Srinagar were developed by him.

Tourists visiting Chingas can also visit Bafleaz, where, it is said, Alexander’s horse died. Besides, there are a number of pilgrimage sites like Mangla Devi and Budda Amarnath. Muslim tourists can visit Shahadar-e-sharief also. With the opening of Mughal Road — the ancient route on which Mughals travelled, and which was the main road connecting Srinagar with Delhi via Lahore — more tourist inflow is expected.