I wonder how many of you had ever heard of a baby Taj Mahal before today? It’s located only a little more than a mile away and across the river Jamuna to the east of the Taj Mahal in Agra. It’s about 69 feet high as opposed to 115 feet. As you can see from the picture, it’s nearly identical to the larger one. I learned about it only several months ago while I was planning a trip to India in January.
At first I assumed it was a copy of the Taj Mahal by a slightly less wealthy emperor, but I was wrong. The tomb of I’tmad-Ud-Daulah was built between 1622-28, a good ten years before the Taj Mahal was begun in 1632, a year after the death of Mumtaz. It was the very first monument built of all-marble in India, and it was commissioned by Noor Jahan for her father, and is widely believed to have been Shah Jahan’s inspiration for the Taj Mahal that was to come later.
Noor Jahan was the 20th wife of the Emperor Jahangir (the son of Akbar, father of Shah Jahan). Her father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg, had immigrated to India from Persia after the death of his father and his family’s subsequent fall from grace there. Received by the Emperor Akbar, he quickly ascended the Mughal court system, serving as a court official under Akbar and his son, Jahangir. He was apparently a fellow with great style and aplomb, so Akbar conferred the title of I’timād-ud-Daulah (the trusted minister) on him. Noor Jahan would later become Jahangir’s 20th wife (she was 35 and he was already an older man by that time). Now, in case my writing made it difficult for you to follow bloodlines here, that would make Mumtaz, for whom the Taj Mahal was later built, the I’timād-ud-Daulah’s granddaughter.
Like me, you might assume you’ve never heard of this man, the I’timād-ud-Daulah before, but I’ll bet most of you are at least familiar with his portrait (from the Smithsonian in Washington) or if you may have seen prints of this Persian miniature somewhere.
Doesn’t this entry gate look familiar?
At least one historian I’ve read begs to differ, however. He wrote “to compare it to any other building is to show poverty of mind and spirit.” I choose to let the pictures speak for themselves.
The stories of this period of the Moghul empire of Akbar are as colorful as those 1001 stories with those hanging endings Scheherazade told for 1001 nights to her Arabian husband so he wouldn’t have her killed the morning after. One such book, Nur Jahan, empress of Mughal India, by Ellison Banks Findly, may be read online here in its entirety in case anyone is interested.
What I liked most about the baby Taj was the relatively quiet and peaceful atmosphere of this much less popular site than the grand scale Taj nearby. If you ever go all the way to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, I think you should add the baby Taj to your itinerary.
These final two pictures, in the same vicinity, capture that sense of solitude. Not only am I intrigued by the numerous ways travelers to India may indulged themselves to get about, including this camel for one, but I have a soft spot for animals of all kinds. Notice the oxen being led down the road in the distance. And no matter what horror stories you’ve heard or read about camels, there’s something quite dignified about–not just the camel–but of his driver as well.
Just as I am interested in how people in other countries live their lives, I can’t help wondering as well what life as an animal, both here or in foreign settings, would be like. Look at the little horse (below). He’s not all that big, those rickshaws are pretty small even compared to the scaled down automobiles we drive in this country, which makes that little horse all the more vulnerable. Don’t you feel just a little sorry for him?