Friday, July 18, 2008

CHHATRIS OF BHUJ – AN ARCHITECTURAL SPLENDOUR
















Chhatris are elevated, dome shaped pavilions used as an element in Indian architecture or funerary sites which have such structures built over them. The term chhatri means umbrella or canopy. Chhatris are typical of Mughal and Rajput architecture and largely concentrated in the state of Rajasthan. However, in certain parts of Gujarat where the Rajput influence was prominent, there are evidences of chhatris. One such place is Bhuj.

Bhuj, the capital of the former princely state of Kutch was founded in the year 1549 by Rao Khengarji – I. The city has imposing fort walls built around the capital. The walls were built by Rao Deshalji in 1723.

The royal cenotaphs ‘chhatris’ of Bhuj are found in the centre of Hamirsar Lake. Built in red sandstone some of these are specimens of fine carvings. Of the funerary monuments, Rao Lakhpatji’s chhatri is the largest. With Maharao Lakhpat’s death, fifteen of his consorts too gave in their lives in funeral pyre. This is evident in sati stones.

The exterior walls of chhatris bear sculptures of deities, hunting scenes, animals and couples in local costumes. The chhatris, which were heavily damaged during the earthquake of 2001 are of polygonal shape and some of these especially the one of Lakpatji’s have two galleries with two entrances.
There has been strong Islamic influence over the chhatris of Bhuj as well. An example of this is the use of turquoise blue on the roof of a chhatri, which is still evident. Geometrical pattern such as jalies (screens), and the Mughal arches are the other Islamic influences.