A lost world

Revisiting history: Agtah Khan’s tomb in Nizamuddin. Photo: special arrangement  

In this cold winter as everyone was busy soaking in the joy of the New Year, I chose to sit down and reflect on the lost heritage. It’s a rich past but alas, the richness of it is jaded. It is forgotten. No wonder Delhi, the capital city has had different names, different people and different cultures in different times. For, the new has been written on the old without the turn of a page. Nevertheless, overwriting doesn’t erase. It just needs an extra effort to decode. That’s Delhi’s history for you. All scripted yet all so lost. Delhi, once upon a time called the ‘city of tombs’ now puts up a modern swanky face. But, underneath this lie many hidden faces. One such face is of the tomb of Atgah Khan. “Tomb of whom?” asked many of the local people as I struggled to locate the edifice.

I asked for directions from people who reside within 100metres of this 16th Century monument. And, no one really knew anything. I went searching from one street to another. And finally, when I discovered it, the directions seemed so easy. All you need to do is keep walking straight into the Nizamuddin Dargah. But, just when you are about to enter – dodge the people calling out for the purchase of flowers and removal of shoes – turn right and you are into a very narrow passage which seems more like a way into somebody’s house. Indeed, it is for the 12 families residing in and around the monument. Mindlessly I walked right inside. It is a small complex with a huge dome. Inside are three cenotaphs. One in the centre is of course of Atgah Khan himself. Atgah Khan was the husband of Jiji Anga, one of Akbar’s nine wet nurses. But, besides that, he was an important and trusted noble in Akbar’s court. He had helped Akbar’s father, Humayun, escape after suffering defeat at the hands of Sher Shah Suri. For his loyalty, Humayun had appointed his wife Jiji Anga as wet nurse for Akbar and bestowed several titles upon Atgah Khan. Akbar, therefore, not merely relied upon Atgah’s sage counsel but also looked upon him as a father figure. Atgah was murdered as a result of court politics in 1562 by Adham Khan, the son of Maham Anga, another of Akbar’s wet nurses. Atgah Khan’s son Mirza Aziz Kokaltash then built this tomb for his father. Adjacent to the tomb of Atgah Khan lay his wife Jiji Anga’s cenotaph and another of an unidentified person.

The tomb is richly decorated in a medley of materials. The exterior is dressed mainly in white marble and red sandstone, with extensive inlays of everything from black marble to blue tile, marking out floral motifs and Quranic inscriptions.

I strolled around the central domed structure. On the eastern side there was a young man napping in comfort. On the other side, clothes spread out for sun drying. No tourists. No visitors. It’s too homely of a monument. But it does have a place in history, even if we choose to overlook it.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2021 6:25:05 PM |

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