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JAJAU KI SERAI: YOU CAN’T REST AT THIS REST HOUSE

Jajau Ki Serai, around 35 km from Agra, is a Mughal-era monument

We have always preferred road journeys as these give one an opportunity to explore and experience the uncharted. On one such trip, on National Highway 44, travelling between Agra and Gwalior, we found remnants of an old serai (rest house), after driving for around 30-32 km from the City of Taj. One needs to drive down a narrow and dusty road for around half-a-kilometre and then walk down 200 metres or so to reach this Mughal era monument in Jajau.

 Jajau is famous for the battle between two Mughal princes and brothers — Bahadur Shah I and Muhammad Azam Shah I on June 20, 1707. The tussle for the throne started between the two soon after their father Aurangzeb died before naming a successor. Instead he left a will stating that his sons divide the kingdom between themselves. As the sons were unable to resolve the issue, it led to a military conflict and the battle of Jajau which witnessed Azam Shah and his three sons getting killed. So, on June 19, 1707, Bahadur Shah was crowned the Mughal emperor.

Encroachment is rampant within the Jajau Ki Serai complex

Serais, during those days, served as the resting place for travellers due to the long distances they traversed. The serai at Jajau is estimated to be approximately 500 years old, constructed by Mughals in the early 1600s. If you happen to be driving down from Gwalior towards Agra, around 30-35 km from here, you can see one of the gateways from the highway. This is one end of the serai while the other is towards the other end, next to the Utangan or more famously known as Gambhir river. Perhaps the reason of constructing a serai near a river was easy accessibility of water for the travellers.

The three-domed mosque

Unfortunately, most of the Jajau Ki Serai complex has been encroached upon with the rooms meant for the overnight stay by travellers back then being converted into homes by settlers. All this despite the complex being declared a protected monument by the Archaeological Survey of India. Arabesque motifs and carvings that reminds one of Mughal era architecture dot most of the walls of Jajau Ki Serai. A three-domed 16th century mosque is still in use by the locals.

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