More than the Taj Mahal: Travel in India

Most tours to North India include a stop at Agra to visit the sublime Taj Mahal. However, as one of the most important cities in India under the Mughals, Agra contains some of the most splendid of Mughal era buildings, gardens and monuments. The city was the capital of the Mughal Empire (from 1556 to 1658) under three of its greatest emperors – Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan – all of whom contributed to its architectural glory.

A less well-known example of this architectural splendour is the exquisite tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah. Located amongst the pleasure gardens on the banks of the Yamuna, it is often described as a “jewel box” and sometimes referred to as the “Baby Taj”. The mausoleum was commissioned by Nūr Jahān, the wife of Jahangir, in memory of her father Mirzā Ghiyās Beg. Originally a Persian Amir in exile, he had become the Emperor’s chief minister or Wazir and was given the title of I’timād-ud-Daulah (Pillar of the State). Built between 1622 and 1628, the translucent white marble tomb marked the transition between the first phase of monumental Mughal architecture – primarily built from heavy red sandstone, as in Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi – to its second phase, based on white marble and pietra dura inlay, most superbly realized in the Taj Mahal.

Although obviously less grand than the Taj Mahal in terms of scale – the beauty of its proportions and the intricacy of its inlays and mosaics make the tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah well worth a visit. Many of our tours, including those that cover the Golden Triangle, Rajasthan and North India, include a stop at Agra that can accommodate this.