Much before the Taj Mahal was built, Agra boasted of two beautiful tombs – the imposing red tomb of Emperor Akbar (which he himself commissioned and laid out), and the dainty white tomb of Itmad-ud-daulah (commissioned by his daughter the Empress Noor Jehan).
The Mausoleum of Akbar (1542-1605):
Every schoolchild in India knows of Akbar the Great. A visionary leader, who ruled over a vast terrain, Akbar is without doubt the most popular of the Mughal emperors. During Akbar’s long reign of over 50 years the Mughal empire grew from strength to strength, encompassing nearly all of northern Hindustan. His reign was marked by agricultural and land reforms, improved taxation systems, and a spirit of religious tolerance. Akbar’s tomb at Sikandra, on the outskirts of Agra, houses his mortal remains. Designed by Akbar himself, and completed within his lifetime, it was modified later by his son Jahangir who augmented it by building a marble portion on the top.
“Baby Taj”- The Mausoleum of Itmad-ud-daulah:
Akbar’s much-longed for son Salim (later called Jahangir) was fond of opiates, and spent the second half of his life in stupor. His queen Noor Jehan (Light of the World), a beautiful, talented and strong woman, ran the Empire by proxy, controlling it through her network of trusted advisers and ministers (which included her father and brother). Noor Jehan’s father, Ghiyath Beg, was one of Akbar’s trusted court officials. Akbar gave him the title Itmad-ud-daulah (Pillar of the State). He was the chief treasurer, and a man of significant influence. Later, under Jahangir’s rule (and no doubt, by Noor Jehan’s influence!), Itmad-ud-dalulah rose further to become wazir (chief minister).
Itmad-ud-daulah’s tomb is a tribute to Noor Jehan’s refined sensibilities. Built fully in white marble, it has some of the prettiest inlay work in all of Agra. It is the first example of outstanding pietra dura in Agra, showing a marked deviation from the robust and masculine style of Akbar. It was this new style that would later manifest itself in the Taj Mahal.
Duration: 4 hours
When: All days of the week
Start point: Agra Cantonment Station (AGC), or Agra Airport, or your hotel
End point: Agra Cantonment Station (AGC), or Agra Airport, or your hotel
Coverage: Sikandra and Baby Taj