Meet the baby Taj Mahal in Agra – The Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb
Agra in India is known all over the world for its famous monument Taj Mahal, an immense mausoleum of white marble, built between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife. The Taj Mahal is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.
But while the Taj Mahal is the most visited attraction in Agra, and likely in all India, there are others less known that are absolutely a must visit during a stay in the city. One of those is the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah.
The baby Taj Mahal
The Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb is one of the most impressive architectural wonders of the city of Agra. This monument is considered to be the inspiration behind the Taj Mahal. For this fact it is known as the “Baby Taj Mahal”. Many tourists that visit Agra for the Taj Mahal also look for the Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb.
Despite the similarities, the tomb of Itimad-Ud-Daulah is considered a more delicate artwork than Taj Mahal, with marble lattice screens and fine carvings. This was the first of many tombs to be erected on the banks of River Yamuna. If you are visiting Agra, you ought to pay a visit to this unique construction, which stands as an initial to every marble monument that glorifies Agra.
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 historical construction is only 25 minutes away from Taj Mahal and 14 minutes away from Agra Fort and is open from dawn to dusk. However, it is recommended to visit during sunset 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.
Very often, an incredible monument has an equally incredible story behind. This is, without a doubt, the case of the Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb. Mirza Ghiyas-ud-din or Ghiyas Beg (later known as Itmad-ud-Daulah) was noble from Persia (modern-day Iran). He visited Mughal court and became a court member. Soon he became the lord treasurer of the emperor Akbar. He had a beautiful daughter known as Mehr-un-Nissa or the sun of womankind, who became famous for her unique beauty.
Besides being beautiful she was also very passionate and had an impressive administrative ability. This helped her take responsibilities in the court and gain the attention of the Akbar’s son, Jehangir. He completely fell in love with her talent and beauty and married her. She soon became a powerful personality in Jahangir’s court and was called Nur Mahal, the light of the palace, and Nur Jahan, light of the world.
In 1622, Itimad-Ud-Daulah died and his daughter planned to build a marble mausoleum, in the memory of him. The main element of the structure is to resemble a jewel box in the middle of a lush garden. Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb is the first tomb in India built entirely in white marble. The tomb is also justly famous for the glorious pietra dura (stone inlay) decoration depicting cypresses, wine glasses, and an amazing variety of geometrical arabesque. The jali screens set in arched recesses are splendid. Four small minarets rise at the four corners of the small tomb structure. The whole structure gives the impression of an enlarged precious object.
Later, Nur Jahan built the tomb of her husband (in a similar style) in Lahore. She had a brother whose daughter was married to Jahangir’s son, Shahjahan. She was known as Mumtaz Mahal in whose memory Shahjahan built the world famous Taj Mahal.
While Taj Mahal is associated with a love story, the Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb is a loving tribute from a daughter, who grow up to be the emperor’s wife and one of the most famous women of her time, to her beloved father.
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Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb is so famous because of their marble jali works, considered more delicate than any other structure of Agra, including Taj Mahal.
The main element of Itimad-Ud-Daulah tomb structure is the dome, which is similar to Persian architecture. This tomb was the first to use pietra dura style decoration with semi-precious stones. Every surface of the structure is decorated with motifs of flora, geometric structure, trees and others. Inlaid stone works are used to enhance the beauty of the interior of the structure.
This tomb was built just outside the wall of Agra, made with marbles. The mausoleum is placed on a large red sandstone platform, which can be accessed via four monumental gateways. The western gateway is a waterfront pavilion and the eastern one is the main entrance. The southern and northern gateway are false gates, made for the sake of maintaining symmetry. Every gate is made with red sandstone and has geometric designs.
The inner space of the tomb is geometrically divided into nine chambers. The central chamber is the largest of all and it holds the sarcophagi of Itimad-Ud-Daulah and Asmat Begum.
The central chamber is accessible only via the southern side. In this chamber, the walls are painted with beautiful floral designs. Cypress tree decorations can also be found, showing the essence of Persian influence on the structure. The lattice work originated from Gujarat. It was used in Mughal reign intensively for its beauty and for the ability to mutate the natural light to enhance the carvings of the building. Carved panels of calligraphy designs are found on both the levels.
The garden of the tomb was intended to represent the paradise. The garden is square shaped and is divided into four parts by water channels. The tomb is symmetrically place in the junction of the four quadrants. Each quadrant represents each sea of the paradise. There are four rectangular pools in the garden with fountains.
Influence of Persian architecture on Islamic architectural style can be relished in this monument.
If you dream about visiting the Taj Mahal, don’t forget to include the Itmad-ud-Daulah’s Tomb in your visit. You’ll be amazed and you’ll learn much more about this architectural period and the history of this amazing city.