Tell me…. as a tourist what do you feel is the main attraction of Agra? Well… the answer is unanimous…. The Taj Mahal!! The name of Agra Fort takes a second row in this list, followed by few other gardens reminding us of the Mughal era. But have you come across the name of Itimad-Ud-Daulah?? I doubt not many of us are familiar with this name. In fact, I can’t blame you guys, as the presence of this engineering marvel is actually eclipsed by its neighbor on the opposite bank of river Yamuna…. the Taj Mahal.
Often referred to as the Bachha Taj, the tomb of Itimad-Ud-Daulah is a sheer visual treat!! Even if you fall in love with the splendor of the Taj Mahal (which is quite obvious), you simply can’t just fail to notice the beauty of Itimad-Ud-Daulah. Located on the eastern bank of the Yamuna River, this tourist spot is only 7 Kms away from Taj Mahal and 5 Kms away from Agra Fort. While the Taj Mahal is an eternal symbol of Love, Itimad-Ud-Daulah is a tribute to a father from her daughter!
THE STORY OF ITIMAD-UD-DAULAH
Mirza Ghiyas Beg or Ghiyas Beg Tehrani was a nobleman from Iran (the then Persia) who fled from his country to avoid religious persecution. He arrived at the court of Akbar the Great seeking refuge and was eventually appointed as a courtesan. Ghiyas Beg worked his way up to the top of the hierarchy and later on his daughter Nur Jahan (originally named Mehr-un-Nissa) was married to the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. When Jahangir ascended the throne, Ghiyas Beg was made the ‘Wazir’ (Prime Minister) and was awarded with the title of ‘Itimad-Ud-Daulah’ which means ‘Pillar of the State’.
After his death, Nur Jahan commissioned the construction of this mausoleum in the memory of her father. The construction of the tomb began at around 1622 A.D and was completed by 1628 A.D, i.e. five years before the commencement of the construction of the Taj Mahal.
AN ENGINEERING MARVEL
The mausoleum of Itimad-Ud-Daulah was the first tomb to be built of white marble. Before that, all the tombs of Mughal era were usually built of red sand stone. The entrance gates are made of red sand stone, resembling typical Mughal architectural style, but the main tomb is built of white marble. The tomb is located at the middle of a garden crisscrossed by walkways and waterways. A similar pattern of construction can be found in the Taj Mahal.
Designs on the white marble were made using the Pietra Dura technique. Pietra Dura is also known as ‘Parchin Kari’ in India and is a style of decorative art created by using semi-precious stones on marble surfaces. Using this technique beautiful designs were created on the white marble surface of the tomb. The marble used in this construction was brought from Rajasthan and the designs were created using semi-precious stones like Lapis Lazuli, Cornelian, Jasper, Onyx etc. If you zoom in to the pictures a little bit, you will find the awesome work on the marble surface.
The tomb has four Minarets which is a common pattern of Islamic Architecture. The cenotaphs of Mirza Ghiyas Beg and his wife Ashmat Begum are located in the central room of the tomb. The other rooms houses tombs of the relatives of Nur Jahan. Most of this architectural pattern was later followed during construction of the Taj Mahal. That is why some historians regard the Taj Mahal was inspired by the tomb of Itimad-Ud-Daulah!
DID YOU KNOW??
The tomb of Itimad-Ud-Daulah was the first tomb built on the banks of River Yamuna!
Itimad-Ud-Daula’s Grand Daughter was Arjumand Bano. She later married Emperor Shah Jahan and became famous by the name Mumtaz Mahal. Yes… Taj Mahal was constructed in her memory!
Although the name of the main architect of the tomb of Itimad-Ud-Daulah is not found in the historical records, the name of the Calligrapher responsible for inscription on the panels has been recognized. His name was Abd al-Nabi al-Qarshi!
The tomb of Itimad-Ud-Daulah was the first Mughal architecture which used the Pietra Dura inlay!
SOME IMPORTANT INFO
A visit to the tomb of Itimad-Ud-Daulah is generally a part of one day city tour of Agra but often tourists ignore this site as it is not as popular as the Taj Mahal or the Agra Fort.
This mausoleum is maintained by the A.S.I. Entry tickets are available in the ticket counter located at the main entrance gate of the tomb. You can also opt to purchase online tickets. For pricing and online booking please click here. Even if you purchase online entry ticket, you have to buy separate ticket for ADA Toll Tax from the main counter.
Carrying food items is prohibited inside the monument. Also, I would request everyone to refrain from etching names or writing anything on the marble. Please do not litter the surroundings.
When I visited Itimad-Ud-Daulah it was close to sunset. The reflection of the setting sun created magic on the white marble! Sadly very few tourists (mostly foreigners) were present there to witness such a wonderful phenomena.The tune of that particular day was set perfectly when I visited Taj Mahal in the morning and it ended in a similar way when I visited Itimad-Ud-Daulah just before evening. So the next time you are in Agra, don’t forget to visit the tomb of Itimad-Ud-Daulah. Trust my words…. this monument is really worth visiting!