The reason why most of us visit Agra is the Taj Mahal. The grandeur and magnificence of the stunning monument has surpassed most Mughal architectural masterpieces in India. However, once you’ve admired the Taj Mahal and other gems like Fatehpur Sikri, it’s imperative that you explore the Tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah, also known as ‘Baby Taj’.
Built by the Mughal Empress Nur Jahan (wife of fourth Mughal emperor Jahangir) for her Persian parents: Asmat Begum and Mirza Ghiyas Beg (who was later given the title of I’timad-ud-Daulah, meaning ‘pillar of the state’) between 1622 and 1628, this structure is an artistic symbol of absolute filial devotion and a statement of her power.
The mausoleum built in Mughal India is appreciated for its peculiar stylistic character, providing immortality not only to the deceased, but to that era as well. Often described as a ‘jewel box’, the Tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah is often regarded as the precursor of the Taj Mahal. In fact, it’s the first Mughal structure built completely with white marble and inlaid hard and semi-precious stones.
The breathtaking mausoleum is situated on the Yamuna river just outside Agra, and is best appreciated in its own right and not as a miniature version of the Taj Mahal. The use of white marble signifies Light, and the idea appealed to Nur Jahan’s stepson, Shah Jahan, when he built the Taj for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
The interiors of the Tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah is equally enticing if not more. Every surface inside the mausoleum is accentuated with floral, geometric and animate motifs, along with colourful paintings and inlaid use of stones. While originally every square inch of the mausoleum was decorated, today only a restored portion of the original decoration can be seen. Watch out for the delicately carved epigraphic panels of calligraphy, on the exterior of the structure. These panels were carved so finely that they are almost invisible unless you look for them.