the seat of the Sharqi kingdom, is a great recluse of medieval
history. It is hardly 15 kms from Varanasi, yet too far from the
tourist map. Dotted with early 15th century monuments, these
lofty buildings display an architectural class of its own that
has acquired a nomenclature for itself - the Jaunpur style.
emperor Shah Jehan admired this place as the “Shiraz of
India” and rightly enough Sher Shah was one of its
proud alumnus. Akbar on his visit to Jaunpur enjoyed water
sports on the river Gumpti while others like Babur, Humayun and
Aurangzeb were quite impressed by its splendour and did
their best to restore its glory.
halfway between Delhi and Bengal, it is an important halting
point by the river side. During his second invasion of Bengal in
1359, Firoz Shah Tughlaq camped here for six months
and founded this city, calling it Jaunpur after the original
name Juna Khan of his patron Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
was not until the political confusion of the late 14th century
that Jaunpur became an independent kingdom. It was a period of
decline for the Tughlaqs and the violence of Timur had shattered
the Delhi Sultanate in 1398. The pendulum of fortune favoured
four of the Tughlaq officers who declared their independence and
eked out their provincial sultanates. Malik Raja Farooqi,
once a guardsman of Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq, founded Khandesh
in 1382. Dilawar Khan scooped out Malwa in 1392. Gujarat
declared independence in 1396 under Zafar Khan and the
most prized province of Jaunpur was captured by Malik Sarwar, a
eunuch and custodian of the royal jewellery of Sultan Firoz Shah
Sarwar had been promoted to the governorship of Jaunpur under
the title of Malik- us-Shark (King of the east). When the
imperial authority grew weak, his successor and adopted son,
Malik Mubarak Quranfal (an Abyssinian slave) who served as the water bearer
of Sultan Firoz Shah, declared independence. Sarwar
and his five successors known as Sharqi kings, ruled Jaunpur for
less than a hundred years and it was a period of prosperity that
matched well with its architectural activity.
order to keep their new-found kingdom, extending from the
frontiers of Bengal to the foothills of Himalayas safe from the
neighbours, the Sharqis maintained the largest army of
that period. For the rulers of Delhi, their most formidable
rival was the Jaunpur kingdom as it yielded a very rich revenue.
In spite of their incessant military activity on almost all
frontiers of their kingdom, the Sharqis found time for peaceful
pursuits. They encouraged education and to this day Jaunpur has
retained its academic importance. Kabir was a widely acclaimed
poet of this era and so was Shah Mader, a mystic from
Syria who had settled here and founded the Madariya order.
Sarwar ruled Jaupur as a governor for five years.
His adopted son Qaranfal ruled as an independent king and
his brief rule was followed by that of his younger brother Ibrahim Shah
Sharqi, who is considered to be one of the
greatest rulers of the 15th century Hindustan whose prosperous
reign of forty years produced some of the finest
buildings in Jaunpur. Ibrahim was succeeded by his equally
illustrious son, Mahmud Shah, who further crowned
the city with monuments. During his 17 year rule, is subjects
experienced the joys of life with grandeur. Traces of decline
were visible with the advent of Bhikhan Khan, son and successor
to Mahmud. Bhikhan was a man of tyrannical nature and thus
despised by his subjects. The last of the Sharqis was Hussain
Shah, whose ambition to expand beyond means brought about his
downfall and that of his kingdom.
would have been far more attractive had most of its monuments
not been destroyed by Sultan Sikander Lodi, whose
persistent hostility towards Sultan Hussain Shah
Sharqi (1458-77) made him take a vow not to leave intact any of
the Sharqi memorials. Having demolished the palaces and
other secular buildings, Sikander began to destroy
the mosques, though he himself was a model of Muslim refinement.
Finally, the cry of the clergy prevented him from further
sacrilege of the mosques. What we get to see today in Jaunpur is
only a fraction of the monuments erected by the proud Sharqis.
first thing to catch your fancy in Jaunpur is the picturesque
stone bridge over Gumpti river. For reasons best known to the
Sharqis, they never thought of a concrete bridge but managed
their affairs through a bridge of boats that was destined
to vanish with their decline. Imagine the plight of an old woman
weeping for her child on the other bank which it was not
possible to reach for want of a boat or bridge. This is
precisely what Akbar witnessed and lamented:
erected many buildings instead of which, if they had built a
strong bridge over the river, it would have been a source of
their renown and fame for hundreds of years".
Khan Khan-i-Khanan understood his master’s call and
ordered for an immediate construction of the bridge which took
four years to complete. The Mughal bridge with a long line of
ten arches and piers was supplemented with further
extension of five arches in order to cover the diverted channel,
which Afzal Ali –the architect from Kabul – was unable to
cover. The bridge was originally provided with a Hammam (public
bath house) on the northern end. It has now fallen into disuse
and is permanently closed. Atop the bridge there are numerous
kiosks built in 1847 by the Collector of Jaunpur.
bridge”, in the words of General Cunningham, " is one of
the most picturesque in India". Its scenic beauty can best
be left to imagination when the bridge often submerged during
the monsoon and boats passed over it.
the southern end of the bridge is am impressive lion
climbing over an elephant representing the decline of
Buddhism. Historians speculate that this zone was
once a stronghold of Buddhists which finally gave way to
Brahmanism as is evident from the sites of the large cities
destroyed by fire on the banks of the river.
to the bridge, on the banks of Gumpti, is Karar Fort, built in
1360 by Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq with materials brought
in from the palace and temples of the Rathore kings of Kannauj.
With the advent of Sharqis, the fortifications were further
strengthened and numerous royal edifices added, but only to be
reduced to rubble by the Lodis a century later.
emperors Humayun and Akbar recreated the fort after extensive
repairs. Much later it was acquired by the British and once
again damaged during the first war of independence in 1857 and a few years later the English blew off its 40
pillared Chil Sitoon.
fort still offers a few interesting monuments together
with the eastern gateway that has been salvaged along with
a portion of the fort wall. Within the fort complex, one can
visit the spacious Turkish Hammam of the Sharqis, locally
referred to as Bhul-bhulian. Close to it is a three domed
mosque built in a typical Bengali style with a four feet high
sandstone minar in front. Arabic inscription on the minar
assigns its construction to Ibrahim Naib Barbak (brother of
Sultan Firoz Shah) in 1377. However, other historians read it as
1395 and credit it to Prince Ibrahim (subsequently Sultan
Ibrahim) during the reign of the first Sharqi king (1395).
Another six feet high pillar with 17 lines of Persian
prose is placed outside the gateway. It dates back to 1769 and
exhorts al Muslim and Hindu kotwals of the fort to
continue the allowance, possibly to the descendants of the
Sharqis. The inscription continues:
"I administer oath to
a Muslim in the name of God and His prophet; and if he is a
Hindu I give him the oath in the name of Ram, Ganges and tribeni.
If he does not act upon this deed he will be cursed by God and
his Prophet and if God wishes his face will be blackened on the
Resurrection day, and he will go to Hell."
earliest building to be erected by the Sharqis was the Atala
Masjid built in 1408 by Ibrahim Shah on the foundation prepared
by Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq, some three decades back. The mosque
is certainly more ornate and beautiful when compared to
the Tughlaq monuments. However, the Jaunpur architects added
their skill and ability in blending the tall screen with
battered sides that concealed the dome on the eastern gateway of
the prayer hall. This arched pylon theme is a unique recurring
feature of the Sharqi that veiled the dome from the front.
Atala Masjid is divided into the central room, capped by a dome
measuring 30 feet in diameter, followed by a single
storeyed room on each side and there are two corner rooms in the
extreme, serving as private entrance for the ladies.
next set of mosques were erected in 1430 – Khis Mukhlis Masjid
and the Jhanijiri Masjid. Khalis and Mukhlis were two
nobles of Sultan Ibrahim, who ordered the erection of this
mosque on the pattern of Atala Masjid, save for the
ornamentation that has been kept low. However, ornamentation at
its best can be admired at the Jhanijiri (latticed) Masjid
that has perished except for its beautiful central façade
that survived the floods.
1450, Lal Darwaza Masjid was built together with a palace for
Bibi Raji, the queen of Sultan Mahmood Sharqi. It was simplified
reproduction of Atala Masjid, built on a smaller scale, to be
used as a private mosque. Its entrance gateway is still painted
red and hence its name Lal Darwaza. Besides, Raji Bibi also
erected a madarsa (religious school) in the vicinity and
the institution was open to all. Even today, a grand madarsa by
the name of Jamia Hussainia functions in the Lal Darwaza
complex. Not far from Lal Darwaza is the Sadar Imambara
renovated with modern day tiles.
Jami-us-Sharq, the largest and the last of mosques in Jaunpur
under the Sharqis was built in 1479 by Hussain Shah, the last of
the Sharqi rulers. Built on a raised terrace, the mosque follows
the Atala Masjid pattern on a grander scale with fairly
big halls without any pillar or support of any kind. Its
erection was ordered for the convenience of a holy saint,
Hazrat Khwaja Isa, who used to suffer much during his walk to
Lal Darwaza Masjid Prayer Room from the centre
Lal Darwaza Masjid:
Darwaza means "mosque with a red entrance gate"
and it is believed that the name came from the fact that it was
painted with vermilion sand.
Author: Shahid A. Makhfi
Chief Editor: Hj Nurzaynab El-Fatah
Hj S. Abidin
Published Date: 22nd
Modification Date: January 11th, 2009/14th Muharram, 1430
Publication ID: 03sharqiJaunpur. Legacy of the Sharqi
Kingdom of Jaunpur
Copyright: © Victory News Magazine, 2009
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