What if I tell you, there is one more marble-encased Taj, and that too in the rather understated state of Haryana. But with a difference. Unlike its two other counterparts, the ‘Taj in Haryana’, as it’s often called, is not an expression of a man’s deep devotion to his wife, but instead a tomb for a saint and teacher who passed away in 1660.
Sheikh Chaheli, a name corrupted to Chilli over the years, was a Sufi saint and the spiritual advisor of Shah Jahan’s eldest and favourite son Dara Shikoh. To top this exalted position, Shah Jahan also made him the Faujdar [military commander with judicial and land revenue duties] of Sirhind. With such powerful backing, the tomb’s grandeur is no surprise. It is monumental. Surrounded by towering fortified walls.
Inside the complex, dainty carvings and elegant lines form chambers to contain the saint and his wife’s cenotaphs, a madrasah, and an expansive charbagh Mughal garden. Pather Masjid, an intricately-carved red sandstone mosque, completes the ensemble which stands in the midst of green meadows.
There are no long queues here or crowds. Just you, the Taj of Haryana, and a Sufi saint much revered by his student, and his student’s waalid [father].
P.S. I explored Sheikh Chilli’s tomb in Thanesar, Haryana, as part of a weekend heritage trip to Sirhind [in Punjab] from Delhi with Sair E Hind. They specialize in heritage walks and tours to off-the-beaten-path historical sites in India.