Architectural Landmark: Chajju da Chaubara Rediscovered

The north side was totally damaged and reduced to a flat wall . There are three windows each on the north, west and south sides. A total number of nine windows mark this structure. The Mughal forms appear to have been carried on to the Sikh rule. Even so, the Sikh religious architecture represents an interesting development of the indigenous mainstream. Taken singly, almost every element of these buildings is derived from the Mughal style.

The Dome

In Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s era, a dome was usually painted in white or sometimes in gold. The domes of some Gurdwaras (Sikh temples) are covered with gold-plated copper sheets. Some domes have been covered with marble slabs or porcelain pieces—white or colored. Apart from the big central dome, there are often four other cupolas, one at each corner and several small solid domes embellishing the parapet. The dome is invariably topped by an ornate finial, the kalas.

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The dome of Bhagat Chajju’s Chaubara is round and it is placed upon an octagonal base although the structure of the Chaubara is a square. The dome is typically influenced by the Sikh architecture with huge dome-shaped elevated canopies called Chhatris (umbrellas). This dome is made of white sandstone now painted in whitewash.

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Each dome is shaped like a lotus flower with its petals widespread. The lotus is known as the flower that blooms amidst stagnancy, signifying the need to create a unique identity by rising above the temporal issues and affairs of daily life. The dome springs from a floral base and has an inverted lotus symbol top from which rises the kalas or ornate finial.

The interior of the dome consisting of elegant and rare metal work, and recalls of the mirrors in Lahore’s Sheesh Mahal. This portion has also survived damage and you can see the original design pattern. The whole dome is filled with tree-like motif which is a Perso-Mughal element. Between every two motifs there is a convex shining metal piece.

Interior Architecture

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The Sikh architectural interior is beautified by means of stucco work, tukṛi or fixing of mirror pieces, and fresco painting. These techniques are used to produce beautiful designs and friezes based on vine, plant, flower, bird and animal motifs. These techniques, time-consuming and costly, require highly skilled artists. They are, therefore, used in sacred shrines. Examples of such work can be seen in the Golden Temple. The largest number of frescoes has been painted on the first floor walls of Baba Aṭal.

Surface Embellishment

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The interior of Chaubara has a square room with straight curves on the four sides of the floor. Inside the front wall, the upper part of door has about one foot wide boundary of embellished area. This was the area where Chhajju Ram’s customers came to purchase gold when he was worked as goldsmith. The main entrance was lavishly decorated. Many cracks have appeared now in this part.

On entering the Chaubara, the front wall is seen having three windows three feet in width and 5.6 feet in height from the ground level. Its provided air passage. Above these cusped arched windows with beautiful curves also seen in Amritsar’s Golden Temple and in Lahore’s Sheesh Mahal Lahore.

Above the windows there are three cusped arches of same sizes as the windows below. The same plan repeated in both north and south wall. These arches are beautifully painted with eight sided star shape motif. The use of red and sharp red inside these arches make these motifs more elegant. Some portions have clear picture of motif as most of the portion had been rubbed off during re-touching of this chaubara. The dome is placed on octagonal plane and every angled corner have specially embellished with massive use of gold and steel pieces on it. Inside this corner there is a, arched door almost two feet high .

Gilded Wall Arches

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These gold arches were once massively decorated with astonishing gold work and the purpose of these arches appeared to hold oil lamps called the diyas. Every arch had a boundary of jail (filigree or lattice work) on its lower part, most probably with gold upon it, now no more visible.

Above this jali, there were beautiful stucco sunflowers in each arch. Unfortunately some of them have destroyed by the course of time. Some senior members revealed that behind each of these sunflowers there was also snake like stucco form was attached with this flower. Since this chaubara is used as a prayer room for patients, they had objection the presence of those forms during their prayers so all forms were removed from there. still some of aches remained untouched of removing the white wash. And original embellished surface still beneath it waiting to be revealed.

The columns at the corners of the arch have lotus flower base very much resembled with the columns of golden temple at Amritsar. The remaining of gold patterns suggests that these columns were coated purely with gold, .

The Chaubara Myth

There are many myths related to this Chaubara. Some of them I have collected from old employees of Shams Shahabudin and some I found in the book Tehqeeqat-e Chishti . One legend has it that once an official of the Mughal court came to Bhagat Chhajju Ram with a purse of gold coins. He wanted the goldsmith to examine them whether they were real or fake. Chajju took the purse and smiled. He said: “Your intentions are not clean, and visiting me will change your life.” Once the purse had been returned; the courtier blamed that Chhajju had stolen a single gold coin. The courtier’s guards broke in and searched the entire premises but they could find not find the gold coin. The courtier went away threatening Chajju Bhagat of dire consequences if he had not make good the loss within a few days.

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When the courtier reached home, he found his beloved wife in great pain. When she could no longer bear the pain, and was on the verge of dying, confessed to her husband that she had stolen a gold coin. The courtier rushed to Chhajju and begged forgiveness. Chhajju Bhagat forgave her and her pain was promptly relieved.

Hazrat Mian Mir said to have advised a one of his pupils: “Go, meet Chhajju Bhagat if you want to know the ways of Almighty, for you will never make out his religion because he is a man in Almighty’s search.”

Conclusion

Mughal architecture was derived from three main sources: native Indian Islamic, Persian Central Asian and local Hindu architecture. It is difficult to determine the extent to which any feature or building type used by the Mughals derives from any of these particular sources, partly because earlier Indian Islamic architecture contains both Hindu and Islamic elements.

There are particular constructions usually associated with Hindu buildings, including chhatris, chajjas and jarokhas, which became characteristic of Mughal architecture. A cjhatri is a domed kiosk resting on pillars which, in Hindu architecture, is used as a cenotaph but in Islamic architecture is placed as a decoration on top of mosques, palaces and tombs.

The memory of Chhajju and his Chaubara lives on till the present day. Maharaja Ranjeet Singh had rebuilt and expanded the Chaubara and constructed a marble mausoleum above the saint’s relics, and gave it the status of shrine and dharmasala (a resting place for the pilgrims).

During the research it was revealed that since the hospital authorities had converted Chhajju’s Chaubara into a prayer room for the families of patients, they provided for a shelf which contained scripts of the Holy Qur’an. The surface was covered by plain whitewash. It was a big loss of this historical structure.

This Chaubara is also significant because it was made at the time of Emperor Shah Jahan. Hence the Mughal style amalgamates into different styles such as Hindu, Persian and Sikh elements.

It is also revealed during that the new administration had realized the significance of this marvelous Chaubara and tried to remove the whitewash upon its surface but, unfortunately, this was done with unskilled hands and the condition of Chaubara got worse.

Chhajju’s Chaubara has suffered a lot during the centuries. Massive destruction occurred after Indo-Pakistan divide when a big part was demolished.

The efforts should be made to save the single-storeyed room of Chhajju Bhagat, which was not only his place of gold trading but is also significant as a place where he would meditate when he transformed into a Bhagat (devout worshipper). Chhajju’s Chaubara continues to be a pilgrimage site.