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Interesting Facts About the Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah
- Itmad-ud-Daulah means ‘Pillar of the Goverment’
- The Tomb of Itmad-ud-daulah is also known as ‘Baby Taj Mahal’
- It doesn’t have the same awesome beauty as the Taj but it’s arguably more delicate in appearance thanks to its particularly finely carved jali (marble lattice screens)
- This was the first Mughal structure built completely from marble, the first to make extensive use of pietra dura and the first tomb to be built on the banks of the Yamuna
- The small yet elegant marble tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah is lyrically described as a “jewel box in marble”
- The style of the tomb is similar to the tomb built for Jehangir near Lahore in Pakistan
- The star features of the tomb are the marble screens, pietra dura artwork and the tomb chamber itself
The tomb was built for Mirza Ghiyas Beg, a Persian who had obtained service in Akbar’s court, and his wife. On Jahangir’s succession in 1605 he became Wazir (chief minister). Jahangir fell in love with his daughter, Mehrunissa, who at the time was married to a Persian. When her husband died in 1607, she entered Jahangir’s court as a lady-in-waiting. Four years later Jahangir married her. Thereafter she was known first as Nur Mahal (Light of the Palace), later being promoted to Nur Jahan (Light of the World). Shah Jahan married her niece, Mumtaz Mahal and built the Taj Mahal in her honour.
The marble tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah was built by Nur Jahan between 1622 and 1628 in the char bagh that he himself had laid out. Stylistically, this is the most innovative 17th century Mughal building and marks the transition from the robust, red sandstone architecture of Akbar to the sensuous refinement of Shah Jahan’s Taj Mahal.
Architecture of the Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah
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The square two-storeyed tomb stands in the centre of a charbagh. At the four corners of the low platform are four squat attached minarets. Open-pillared domed pavilions known as chhatris top the minarets. Tapering pinnacles with lotus mouldings crown the minarets. The dome, with its canopy-like shape, is different from the conventional domes of this period. The tomb is beautifully conceived in white marble, coloured mosaic, stone inlay and lattice work. Panels of geometric designs, created by inlaid coloured stones, decorate the dado level of the tomb. Niches with painted floral bouquets, trees, fruit and wine decanters embellish the interior of the central chamber of the main tomb. The replica tombs of Itmad-ud-Daulah and his wife are placed in the marble-screened upper pavilion. There is a good view from the roof of the entrance.
The star features of the tomb are the marble screens, pietra dura artwork and the tomb chamber itself. Perforated marble screens with complex geometric lattice work are carved out of a single slab of marble; they permit soft lighting of the inner chamber. The polished marble surface is covered with stone inlay, the first time this technique was extensively used in Mughal architecture. The ceiling has incised, painted and gilded stucco and stalactite patterns. The yellow marble caskets appear to have been carved out of wood. On the engraved walls of the chamber is the recurring theme of a wine flask with snakes as handles – perhaps a reference by Nur Jahan, the tomb’s creator, to her husband Jahangir’s excessive drinking.
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Stylistically, the tomb marks a change from the sturdy and manly buildings of Akbar’s reign to softer, more feminine lines. The main chamber, richly decorated in pietra dura with mosaics and semi-precious stones inlaid in the white marble, contains the tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah and his wife. Some have argued that the concept and skill must have travelled from its European home of 16th-century Florence to India. However, Florentine pietra dura is figurative whereas the Indian version is essentially decorative and can be seen as a refinement of its Indian predecessor, the patterned mosaic.
How to get to the Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah?
The Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah is located on the east bank of the Yamuna river 4 km (2 miles) from the Taj Mahal. The most affordable way to get here is to hire a cycle rickshaw to and fro; alternatively, you can get an auto rickshaw will be faster but cost at least double.
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