From Queens to Jinns, the Mystical Cats of Agra's Sandali Mosque

#1 Sep 12th, 2018, 22:29
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Dec 2008
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Credit: Ishita Mishra

In Agra, overshadowed by the Taj Mahal, sits a monument built in the memory of Kandhari Begum, the first wife of Mughal emperor Shahjahan. Popularly known as Sandali mosque, the Archaeological Survey of India-protected burial place of the queen is also home to scores of cats. History has it that the queen, in whose memory the structure was built, had a massive soft spot for felines.

Mohammad Arif, 12, eats three chapattis for dinner, even if he could happily devour his fourth. That last phulka that goes under his pillow eventually makes its way to the cats outside Sandali mosque, which lies right next to the Taj Mahalís eastern gate, while he heads to school.

This has been Arifís routine since he was eight and he says there hasnít been a single day he hasnít been to mosque, many times along with his friends.

Arif is not alone. Almost everyone who visits this mosque offers love and nourishment to the cats as it is believed that doing so brings good luck. Found in all colours, shapes and sizes, the cats add to the beauty and liveliness of a mosque which otherwise lies in neglect.

ďEven cats wait for these kids and jump on them as soon they open the bag filled with food. All of them are extremely docile and have never attacked anyone,Ē said Ameen Ali, a devotee who has been visiting the mosque for three decades. Ameen also claimed that no one can take these cats home as they always manage to get back to the mosque.

The cats remain inside the premises of the mosque, even though a large number of dogs also lay claim on the land as do several monkeys.

Haniah Bibi, a local of Tajganj area, who brings milk for the cats at the mosque, has a favourite: a light brown feline. According to her, the two white kittens born recently are among the cutest she has ever seen.


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