Monday, September 21, 2015

Harsh ka Tila and Sheikh Chillli's Tomb, Thanesar (Kurukshetra)

In my earlier post on Kurukshetra, I had mentioned the reference to the place in ancient and medieval records of the times, which you can see here.

Turns out that the area, earlier lying between the Saraswati and Drishadvati rivers, both having dived underground now, was known as the Brahmavarta, the sacred space in Vedic times. 
Come 7th century CE, the land was known as Thanesar, capital city of the Pushyabhuti dynasty whose reign extended across the entire Northern India, including parts of Afghanistan. Harshvardhan, the most famous ruler in this line, was halted in his conquests by the local chieftain in Bengal, Maharaj Shashanka. And then, he turned a Buddhist. 

Today, after you cross Panipat junction on the Delhi - Chandigarh express line, the first station that comes is Baburpur, but the train doesn't halt there.

My junior colleague was kind enough to show me the way to Sheikh Chilli's tomb. Associated with the Sufi scholar Abdul Karim alias Abdul Razzak, the teacher of the prince Dara Shikoh, eldest son of the Mughal emperor Shah Jehan. An octagonal tomb with marble veneering, the complex also had a madrasa or a theological school within a walled enclosure. The madrasa area is now occupied by several museum spaces, offices of the Archaeological Survey and a wonderful library. I could see entire shelves of Sufi treatises and several volumes of the translated works of Niccolo Manucci, an Italian traveller who lived in the Mughal court, among others. Right next door to the tomb are the remains of a serai, or an inn which would point to the fact that the complex was right on the high road in medieval times. And just behind the tomb complex is the mound that is now known as Harsh Ka Tila, where excavations in the nineties of the last century have revealed the existence of Thanesar across several millennia. 

This is the entrance to Sheikh Chilli's tomb and the madrasa complex

On entering through this gate, one comes across the madrasa complex, with the tomb to the right. The rooms of the madrasa are all occupied by the Archaeological survey, with museums, offices and library 

At the first floor level, the tomb appeared to be on a quadrant, with every side having four pavilions. The western side had another small tomb, said to be the tomb of the wife of the good Sheikh. 

Immediately behind the madrasa, is a masjid (mosque) hailing from the 17th century, known as the Patthar Masjid, which is all locked up now

Behind the tomb, there used to be a garden laid in the four quadrant (char bagh) pattern, which has been restored quite well. Restorations have revealed at least two earlier layers of renovations also 

Adjoining the garden are the remains of the inn or caravan serai

A huge tract of land in mounds behind the tomb of the good Sheikh Chilli known as Harsh ka Tila was excavated in the nineties, revealing a continuous civilization from about 1000 BC down to the Mughal period. 

As I mentioned, there are several rooms in the madrasa complex that have been turned into museums, housing the artefacts dug out from several layers, corresponding to several periods of time, including painted grey ware, said to be the mark of later Vedic civilization (1200 to 600 BC) 

It was really an astonishing discovery to me, as this place is not well known at all, off the normal tourist circuit. The library especially, looked very inviting but these books are all rare volumes and cannot be taken out. One of these days, I hope to be able to spend an entire day in the library ...

Sheikh Chilli's Tomb, Thanesar (Kurukshetra)


  1. Inspite of staying in Delhi, I've never had the opportunity to visit Kurukshetra. Looks an interesting place to photograph and soak in history.

  2. Hey, thank you for visiting, but I think you could do with a visit to the place yourself!