Baby Taj Mahal or The Mausoleum of Itimad-ud-Daula in Agra
The city of Agra is full of architectural wonders. Think of Agra and you would immediately picture the world famous heritage site, wonder of the world and the most beautiful looking monument, the Taj Mahal. Although, undoubtedly the Taj Mahal is the most breath-taking and highly visited monument in Agra, and likely in all of India; there are other lesser known monuments that are also a must visit in the city. One of those is the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah, also referred to as the Baby Taj.
When we enter….
Like most of the monuments in Agra, this mausoleum also has four large gates made out of red sandstones with geometric designs made of semi-precious stones.
Only one of its gates is used as entrance.
The second gate faces the riverfront and offers spectacular views of River Yamuna. This gate has a small open chamber, which I imagine must have been used as a pleasure pavilion.
The other two of the four gates were built only for the sake of symmetry.
The mausoleum from outside
The tomb lies in the centre of Char Bagh (four quadrant garden), which is another of Mughal signature way of constructing tombs. There were water channels running on all four sides, which is evident from the passage still present (see above picture). These channels run upto the centre of the platform on which the tomb is built. It has a rectangular pool with fountains in the middle, on each of the four sides of the monument.
Oh what a sight it would be to see the water running in these channels and the fountains in full swing on all four sides of the tomb.
In the Mughal era, the tomb and tomb garden were meant to be earthly representation of Paradise. And no doubt, even after thousand and thousand of years, these places can still leave you spellbound by its beauty.
I am falling short of words to describe this beautiful white marble tomb, that is placed atop sandstone platform. The square shaped tomb has three arches on all four sides. One is the entrance and two others are beautifully carved jalis.
Jalis on the walls
One of the likely reasons that jalis were so popular at that time was because it allowed for the introduction of muted natural light into the interior of the building. Additionally, it also allowed breeze to pass through its tiny holes.
Mausoleum of Itimad-ud-daulah has river Yamuna flowing next to the monument. Therefore the breeze that entered the monument through it’s jalis would be much cooler than otherwise.
The marble flooring and marble walls all around the monument would further help to keep this monument much, much cooler than it’s surroundings. Isn’t this a great architectural design built without any external electric cooling mechanism?
The mausoleum from inside
The exterior and interior walls of the tombs are embellished with geometric carvings of semi-precious coloured stones. It also includes chine khana motifs of wine vessels, vases, cups, dishes and cypress trees(as shown in above picture). There are animal motifs such as fish, birds and deer. These inlaid designs on white marble stones are called as ‘Parchin Kari‘ or Pietra Dura(per European term) . I almost lost the count of the patterns I saw around this structure. They were so beautiful and artistic!
The interior comprises of nine chambers in total, the central chamber being the largest of all. One cannot ignore the vast variety of geometric designs on the floorings, each different from other.
Interesting facts about the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah
It is said to be the first tomb in India built entirely of white marble.
This monument is considered to be the inspiration behind The Taj Mahal. You would agree, both monuments have striking similarities – pietra dura (stone inlay) decoration, white marble tomb, symmetrical design.
Lets talk about its rich history
During Akbar’s reign, a Persian noble named Mirza Ghiyas Beg/Ghiyas Beg Tehrani worked at the Mughal courts. He swiftly worked his way to the top of the government hierarchy. When Jahangir ascended the throne, he awarded Ghiyas Beg the title of ‘Itimad-ud-Daula’, meaning ‘Pillar of the Empire’.
Soon, daughter of Itimad-ud-Daula married Emperor Jahangir. She was later known as Nur Jahan (‘Light of the World’).
Nur Jahan was a wealthy, beautiful and independent lady who commissioned several buildings during her time. She had wealth accumulated from trades and land holdings. She also inherited wealth from her father upon his death and built this jewel of a building without any budgetary constraints.
Also read: Bibi-ka-Maqbara
This mausoleum was thus built by the Mughal Empress Nur Jahan for her parents, Itimad-ud-Daula and Asmat Begum. Their tombs are placed in the central most chamber. The other chambers comprise of tombs belonging to other members of their family.
Another interesting fact – Itimad-ud-Daula’s granddaughter (from his son) married the Mughal Prince Shah Jahan. It was this grand-daughter who was titled Mumtaz Mahal (‘The Crown of the Palace’) and ultimately for whom the Taj Mahal was built.
Location and transportation
Itimad-Ud-Daulah’s Tomb is located on the eastern bank of River Yamuna in the city of Agra of Uttar Pradesh. This beautiful monument is only 25 minutes away from the Taj Mahal and 14 minutes away from the Agra Fort. Like all monuments in Agra, this place is also open from dawn to dusk. Remember, monuments in Agra are not opened as per the clock hours but as per the sun timings. It is recommended to visit the monument during sunset hours to get a grand view of the monument as it basks the evening sun.
It’s possible to find cabs, auto rickshaw and buses from any part of Agra to Itimad-Ud-Daulah tomb.
Tickets for Itimad-ud-Daulah can be booked online along with other monuments in and around Agra. This will save time and you won’t have to stand in queue.
Note: The official website runs a bit slow at times.
If you are visiting Agra to see the Taj Mahal, you ought to pay a visit to this unique construction, which stands as an initial to every marble monument that glorifies Agra. You’ll be amazed and you’ll learn much more about this architectural period and the history of this amazing city. There will be fewer tourists and the place will be much more peaceful than the Taj Mahal.