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Paying homage to the Royals at Ahar Cenotaph in Udaipur

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Cenotaph are the monuments built in the memory of a deceased soldier/warrior who might have died in a war elsewhere. A cenotaph might be an empty tomb at times because of this.

I decided to explore the Royal cenotaph at Ahar which is a small town, 2-3 kms from Udaipur. This place serves as the burial ground for the royals of Mewar and these cenotaphs were built approximately 350 years ago. Each cenotaph is carved out of white marble and embellished with sculptural details in the roofs and columns.

cenotaphs - udaipur-royalty-maharana-maharaja-rajasthan-hospitality-toursim - travel- tradiitions

A dome is built on top of each in the typical Rajput style of architecture, known as a Chhatri or Umbrella. Its supported on another set of columns which too are beautified with figurines and other motifs. A series of steps lead up to the elevated platforms of each cenotaph.

According to Rajput tradition, when the husband dies; his wife commits Sati or self-immolation in the flames of his funeral pyre. Most of these kings had more than one queen.

Out of the 19 kings cremated here, the most notable cenotaph is of Maharana Sangram Singh.  Fifty six pillars form the structure of this cenotaph which has an octagonal dome. The pillars are richly ornamented to denote the status of the deceased king. He was buried here along with his 21 wives.

cenotaphs - udaipur-royalty-maharana-maharaja-rajasthan-hospitality-toursim - travel- tradiitions

The last king to be cremated here was Maharana Bhagwat Singh who was the father of the present King Arvind Singhji. The latter undertook the initiative of restoring the beauty and importance of his heritage. He has turned Ahar cenotaph into an important tourist spot. So much so, that several Hindi movies have been shot here for this unique locale.

cenotaphs - udaipur-royalty-maharana-maharaja-rajasthan-hospitality-toursim - travel- tradiitions

There is a small step-well with a Shiva temple next to these memorials which were considered holy by the ruling kings. There is a small museum too nearby which houses relics unearthed here and have great historical significance.

These grand stone memorials have withstood the testament of time to present the grandeur of the Mewar lineage in Udaipur. A walk through these silent tombs left me awe-struck and I must confess to not climbing on them as I felt it would be disrespectful. Nowhere else in Rajasthan have I come across such a unique memorial ground to commemorate the ancestors.

What did you think of this post? Have you ever visited something similar? Do share your thoughts with me here.

Side Notes:

  • Ahar is about 3 kms east of Udaipur city and one can hire an autorickshaw or a cab for a round trip.
  • Entry to the grounds is free and its open everyday from sunrise to sunset.
  • The museum has a small entry fee is located a few steps down the road from the Cenotaph.

Intrigued? Pin it for later!

cenotaphs - udaipur-royalty-maharana-maharaja-rajasthan-hospitality-toursim - travel- tradiitions

If Rajasthan fascinates you, you could peruse my other posts on #RajasthanTravelDiaries here:

Japanese Kalbelia


April Fools

Foodie Haven

Leather that weathers

Gangaur in Udaipur

Rawla Narlai

Kumbhalgarh Fort

Saheliyon Ki baari

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27 thoughts on “Paying homage to the Royals at Ahar Cenotaph in Udaipur

  1. I was a bit confused when I read burial ground because I didn’t know Hindus were buried till I read about the cremations . Honestly I can’t imagine burning alive women ! Thank God it’s been outlawed

    1. Yeah it was confusing for me too Sunita. Burial/memorial is being used interchangeably here.
      I cant imagine burning them alive either – its such an abomination! Thank god its been outlawed – though I am sure if some religious zealot stirs it up, this will be back in practice!

  2. It does look stunning but the reason for its existence is rather sad. I love the fact that our country has so many many small gems of architecture that aren’t much heard of. It’s wonderful that you’re highlighting them.

    1. Thank you so much Tulika 🙂 Appreciation feels so so good! Yes our country is such a treasure trove of gorgeous travel spots; we just need to take out the time and bear with the weather and infrastructure. Rajasthan can be pretty hot to travel, even in the winter months. But I love every bit of it -stay tuned for more posts as I am not done yet 😉

  3. Your Rajasthan diaries are beautiful and are making me rather desperate to explore the state. I love the magnificence with which the royal folks did everything. I am especially fond of exploring ancient architecture. Ah, soon! Thank you Shalini! Lovely photos. So heartbreaking to see empty tombs.

    1. Oh wow – you made my day with such a generous comment; I am so glad my writings are being liked so much. History and architecture abounds in Rajasthan and I sure you wont be disappointed on those accounts at all.

    1. I was also surprised to see this Rachna- the idea of Sati is so terrible! Cant imagine 21 women being burnt alive because the husband died!

    1. Thanks Sachin. I think this is a tradition of the Rajputs and there are other such memorial grounds elsewhere in Rajasthan too. Yes its a sad tale for sure!

  4. Nice and informative post along with good pictures. Rajputs were cremated or buried? Centotaphs are erected on top of place where the royal was buried or cremated? Just curious. Also, only few queens entered funeral pyre of he husband. Was it a general practice or only in certain cases? I am aware that sati was practiced in as late as 1990s in Rajasthan. Still it was more of an exception than norm.

    1. Thanks Abhijit!

      The grounds where they were cremated is where their remains are buried and a monument over it. The Sati pratha was prevalent for many centuries and wives were burned on the same pyre of the husbands in many many cases. This was part of the tradition; for the wife to be burned along with the husband’s body! So I am guessing they all did this!
      Its horrific to imagine being burnt alive and I cant figure out how the people standing around could bear to witness it.

      1. Sati pratha was prevalent in many parts. Raja Rammohan Roy had fought for abolition of the practice. I think last sati was done in 1990, Roop Kanwar Devi in Jhunjhunu. Yes many women were made to go on funeral pyre, but it appeared more to acqurie her property and land. Not every woman had to sit on her husbands pyre. That is what I think.

        1. Whatever I have read and heard, they were made to burn in the same pyre! Maybe its been filmised too much or something but thats what I recall. Thank you for checking up more on this Abhijit – appreciate it!

          1. When a woman was made to be a sati, she would be forced to sit on the same pyre (Chita) as her husband. Many a time women were made unconscious using opium. Her cry would be drowned by loud noise of gongs, dhols etc.

    1. Thanks Sanch. Yeah some of these traditions were so galling; or thats how they sound to us right now! I cant imagine these women peacefully sitting in burning flames – gives me the shivers!

  5. Interesting information. I find it difficult to see the beauty in a place that speaks of murder, because sati is nothing but murder. And sadly even today patriarchy rules. No matter how educated or advanced we may think we are, women still have no identity apart from their father, husband or son. And as you said, all it would take is one misguided spark to start things all over again.

    1. So true Sunita! Look at the furore created over the release of the movie Padmavat. Did anyone care for the terror they did to the school kids or the damage to public property, law and order? Nope!!! All done to satiate the male ego and to what end! Its not just these archaic traditions but the archaic mindsets of so called “devouts” thats making life a misery for mere mortals in India!

  6. What a great idea to break this trip in parts as posts, Shalini. I have enjoyed the two posts so far.
    Such beautiful monuments. The workmanship of those times never fails to amaze me.
    Did the 21 wives all die together, I wonder! 🙁

    1. Thanks Corinne – I am always truly amazed at India and the gems it keeps revealing!

      I think so – they all were burnt with him. Horrific to think about it no?

  7. 21 wives! That’s a really sad history. Took a long time to abolish Sati. I am glad the monuments are preserved and open for tourists. India has beautiful gems like these. Although the history might not be as pretty. Love these travel posts from you, capturing places that I haven’t heard of before.

    1. Thanks Raj! Yup India has such rare gems all over and its a pleasure to unearth them on one’s travels.

      Sati is one archaic part of history that has us women shuddering in horror, atleast. I dont think it bothers many though – see the furore created over the release of the Padmavati movie. It created so much nuisance and for no rhyme or reason!

  8. It’s always interesting to learn about the history behind all the beautiful architecture that India is known for. Nice to learn a little something about Ahar.

    Thank you, Shalini.

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