The Baby-Taj Mahal: Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah in Agra | India

After catching a glimpse of the Taj Mahal from the rooftop of our hostel in Agra, Aileen and I agreed to temper first our excitement and check out the other nearby attractions. Before proceeding to Agra Fort, we went to this low-key historical landmark also situated along the eastern bank of Yamuna River. Built from 1622 to 1628, the "Bachcha Taj" or the Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah is frequently regarded by architecture scholars as a draft of the Taj Mahal.

Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah

Tomb of Nur Jahan's Father

This Mughal mausoleum was constructed upon the commissioning of Nur Jahan—the consort of Jahangir—for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg, a Persian General known among the Mughal Empire for his war exploits.

Coincidentally, Mirza Ghiyas Beg (holder of the title I'timad-ud-Daulah) was also the grandfather of Mumtāz Mahāl, the wife of Shah Jahan (son of Jahangir from his other wife Jagat Gosain) and for whom the Taj Mahal was built for.

As complex the Mughal Empire was, these presence of other bygone landmarks somehow helps in understanding its storied history.

Described as a "jewel box" because it appears as one when viewed from a distance, the tomb is also referred to as the ‘Baby Taj Mahal'. Using red sandstone as prime building materials and marbles for decorations, the structure evokes a similar visual look as Humayun's Tomb in New Delhi.

The gate to the complex opens up to a spacious gardens, courtyards and outlying buildings. The tail-end of winter that brought forth a set of blooming colorful flowers and a lush green grass capes added a layer of charm to the place when we visited.

Mughal Architecture

The tomb is considered as one of the earliest representation of Mughal Architecture that would remain prevalent during the lifespan of the kingdom. The builders of Taj Mahal pulled a lot of design inspirations from Bachcha Taj and a number of other edifices built by the Mughal and Timurid dynasties.

The tomb housing is placed on the center of the compound surrounded by a four-quartered garden and prominent lawns. Made of white marble and embellished with beautiful patterns and designs, it is also surmounted by chhatris and covered by a square-shaped roof laden with intricately detailed cornice. Four domed-top minarets completes the exterior.

Each block of walls blossoms with rich niche details and screened by jali pierced stone. Inside, another version of decorations and paintings in dark pallet are seen on the walls. A central hall houses the tombs and cenotaphs of Mirza Ghiyas Beg and his wide Asmat Begum.

Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah
Tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg and his wide Asmat Begum

For such a limited space, the interior is bombarded by an array of designs stylized in various patterns, carvings and geometrical shapes. One thing that stands out is the process of Pietra dura that was employed on the interior walls. A Pietra dura is sculpturing technique that uses fitted and cut colored, polished stones to depict an image.

Aileen Siroy
My India travel buddy Aileen.

As we slowly walk out of the Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah, I realized the scope of architectural influence Agra’s past rulers—especially from the Mughal Empire—remains in the city. As if indicating that we’re in for more fascinating things to see and learn, a local standing outside the gate of Bachcha Taj asked us “You been to Taj Mahal?”

I answered “Not yet, tomorrow morning”. He said back. “This is beautiful (pointing to Bachcha Taj), but wait when you see Taj Mahal. It is more pretty”.