At our guide Saurav’s suggestion we took a break after visiting the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, returning to our hotel (where we hadn’t been able to check in earlier) for a rest – very welcome after our 4.30 AM start to the day in Delhi! So it was late afternoon when we arrived at the Itmad-ud-Daulah, which proved to be a perfect time to see it, although at first I was concerned as the front was largely in shadow. This though was more than compensated for by the beautiful light on the remaining four sides and the relatively low numbers of other tourists, as I hope my photos show.
Often nick-named the "Baby Taj”, the Itmad-ud-Daulah was built between 1622 and 1628, commissioned by Noor Jahan, wife of Jahangir the fourth Mughal emperor, for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg. He was a Persian who had been given the title of Itimad-ud-Daulah (Pillar of the State) in return for his service at court – hence the tomb’s name. Mirza Ghiyas Beg was also the grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal, the wife of Shah Jahan whose death inspired him to build the Taj Mahal.
The tomb marks the transition between the earlier Mughal architecture, which was primarily of red sandstone with marble decorations (for example Humayun's Tomb in Delhi) to its later phase introduced by Shah Jahan, the fifth emperor, which featured white marble with pietra dura inlay, as in the Taj Mahal. Compared with the latter this is an intimate building set in a charbagh style on the east bank of the Yamuna river. It is built from white Rajasthani marble inlayed with semi-precious stones including cornelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, onyx and topaz to create geometrical designs, vases of flowers and more – inside and out. As well as being the first tomb in India to be built entirely from marble it is also one of the first buildings to blend Islamic and local Indian influences; largely Islamic in style, it omits the dome more usual in such buildings in favour of an Indic-looking kiosk with a roof ornamented with lotus flowers
Although built for her father, a number of Noor Jahan's other relatives are also interred in the tomb. Her father and mother lie side by side in the central chamber, where the asymmetrical arrangement of the cenotaphs (mother in the centre, father to one side) also presages the Taj Mahal. The cenotaphs in the side chambers are those of the remaining family members buried here.
There is a lovely story told about Noor Jahan and her father. Mirza Giyas Beg was a poor merchant living in Persia who moved to India with his pregnant wife and three children in search of a better life. On the way they were attacked by robbers who stole all they had. It was around that time that his wife gave birth to a girl. They did not have enough money to feed their new born baby, Mehrunnisa, and took the tough decision that they must abandon her. Before they could do so they found a caravan travelling to India, which they joined. They ended up at the court of the Mughal emperor, Akbar, who made Giyas Beg a diwan – a treasurer. He did well in this role and his status at court grew, serving both Akhbar and his son and successor Jahangir, leading to the award of that title of Itmad-ud-Daula – “Pillar of the State”. The daughter grew up to become the wife of Jahangir and took a new name, Noor Jahan: the Light of the World.
While the Taj Mahal may be your main object in coming to Agra, do make time to visit this tomb too. As well as contributing to your understanding of the Taj’s architecture, it has a quiet beauty of its own and a rather special atmosphere.
Entry costs 110 IR for foreign tourists, with no extra fee for still photography. If not on a tour the easiest way to get here is by taxi or auto-rickshaw as it lies a few miles out of town on the other side of the river.
Next tip: macaques at Itmad-ud-Daula
This small tomb, across the Yamuna river from the town of Agra, and its more famous monuments. It is often called 'the Baby Taj', and likened to a jewel box.
The tomb, was built in the 1620s, for the father of Jahangir's wife (and grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal). and illustrates a progression from earlier Mughal mausoleums, built from red sandstone with marble decorations, (such as as Humayun's Tomb in Delhi and Akbar's tomb in Sikandra) – to its second phase, based on white marble and pietra dura inlay, most fully realized in the Tāj Mahal.
As with all of these tombs, the symmetry of the gardens and outbuildings is of key importance, as are the criss-crossing watercourses, which signify the Persian origins of the designers and their clients.
It costs 110 rupees for foreigners to enter (but can be visited with the 520 rupee ticket good for Sikandra, the Red Fort and Fatehpur Sikri)
The Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah follows a typical Mughal period mausoleum design. It is a square structure placed at the centre of a garden in a charbagh layout, i.e. a square garden divided into four landscaped quadrants separated by paved paths with water channels running through their centre. At the end of each path is a red sandstone monumental gate structure with a high central pointed arch flanked by stacked arches. The gates vary only slightly in design, but all four are of the same size and contain similar geometric and floral designs created using white marble inlaid into the red sandstone of the façade. The east gate is the actual entrance into the mausoleum grounds, but the other three simply provide symmetry. The west gate provides panoramic views over the River Yamuna.
This rather small white marble mausoleum is the most exquisitely decorated structure in Agra, thus possibly the whole of India! It was commissioned in 1622 by Nur Jahan, the Persian wife of Emperor Jehangir, for her father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg, whose title was Itimad-ud-Daulah ("Pillar of the State" or Chief Minister of the Mughal Empire). The mausoleum's design follows the eclectic forms of Emperor Akbar's style, combining Hindu and Islamic architecture, but instead of the signature red sandstone that was previously the material of choice, white marble was used for construction. Therefore, it represented the transition from the tastes of the previous period to the magnificent white marble style of the later era that culminated with the Taj Mahal. The similarity in inlay work and jali lattice windows in the two structures gave Itimad-ud-Daulah the nickname "Baby Taj" (see next tip). The mausoleum itself stands on a square platform in the middle of a garden, and is topped by four corner minarets and a square chhatri pavilion. It is located on the east bank of River Yamuna.
The interior of the Mausoleum of Itimad-ud-Daulah contains multiple chambers, with the cenotaphs of Mirza Ghiyas Beg and his wife placed in the central one. The entire walls, floors and ceilings are colourfully decorated in floral and geometric motifs created using a mix of tiles, stucco and inlaid marble, while the windows are covered in intricate jali lattice screens. Unfortunately, parts of the interior are damaged, but ongoing restoration work continues.
The entire exterior of the mausoleum of Itimad-ud-Daulah is covered in intricate floral and geometric motifs created using inlaid polychrome marble and stone over a white marble base. Some of the most skilful artisans seem to have been employed for this pietra dura work, which was encouraged by Mughal emperors and developed by artisans until the completion of the finest creation of the Mughal Empire: the Taj Mahal. Although the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah pales in comparison to the Taj Mahal in terms of immensity and grandeur, its small size did afford it more dense pietra dura work than the Taj Mahal itself. The similarity in inlay work, though, did grant it the nickname "Baby Taj."
For more photos, take a look at the travelogue: "Itimad-ud-Daulah - Inlay Designs."
Driving through the city of Taj our eyes stopped at a monument that appeared like Taj Mahal from a distance, but when we enquired we got to know that it was Itmad-Ud-Daulah’s Tomb which is also known as Baby Taj. This is a mausoleum which is often described as ‘Jewel Box’ and a ‘draft’ of the world renowned Taj Mahal. The structure consists of scenic gardens around it where visitors like to lay back for enjoying the sight of this picturesque edifice.
Primarily built of red sandstone and marble décor this mausoleum is decked with pietra dura inlay. To enter the fort people from abroad has to pay around 200 Rs while for Indians the cost is very much lesser. This palace is one of the less explored sights in Agra and thus wasn’t all that populated when I visited it. This made my visit even more enjoyable and peaceful. On a whole it was fairly enjoyable experience and thus I would recommend it to those looking forward to an extended Agra tour.
Itmad-Ud-Daulah's Tomb is a Mughal mausoleum in the city of Agra in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Often described as 'jewel box', sometimes called the Baby Taj, the tomb of Itmad-Ud-Daulah is often regarded as a "draft" of the Taj Mahal.
Located on the left bank of the Yamuna river, the mausoleum is set in a large cruciform garden criss-crossed by water courses and walkways. The mausoleum itself is set on a base about 50 meters square and about 1 meter high. The mausoleum is about 23 meters square. On each corner are hexagonal towers, about 13 meters tall.
The walls are white marble from Rajasthan encrusted with semi-precious stone decorations - cornelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, onyx, and topaz in images of cypress trees and wine bottles, or more elaborate decorations like cut fruit or vases containing bouquets. Light to the interior passes through delicate jali screens of intricately carved white marble.
The Baby Taj stands right on the eastern bank of the Yamuna River and you get great views of the daily life on the banks and in the river itself. Dozens of water buffalo lounge around whilst herdsman walk along trailing camels behind them. And, as it's a river, there's always washing to be done. Large sheets are then dried on the banks.
As well as the main gatehouse on the eastern side there are 3 other gatehouses are the north, south and west sides. These were constructed only to maintain the symmetry, following the rules of the Char Bagh pattern. These red sandstone gateways have inlaid marble designs and are double storeyed. The northern and southern pavilions are almost identical. They have a single storeyed iwan in the middle and double storeyed wings on their sides. There are rooms and halls on the first floor of these pavilions. There are stairways on the sides of the façade. The largest and most elaborately decorated pavilion is the western one, which is situated on the riverbank and is believed to be used by Itmad-ud-Daulah as the pleasure pavilion during his lifetime.
The interior of the tomb features superb pietra dura which is marble covered with colourful stone inlay of painted flowers, trees, fruit and wine decanters. This was the first time this technique was extensively used in Mughal architecture. Mosaic patterns of geometric designs grace the lower part of the walls.
This is the main entrance gatehouse into the complex. Located on the eastern side of the garden, it is made from red sandstone unlike the marble of the tomb itself. The gatehouse follows the same design of other gatehouses by having marble inlay designs.