Agra Journals

Itmad-ud-daulah's Tomb: The Persian Connection

A July 2000 trip to Agra by kharkhuwa

Quote: Even though the Taj was the absolute realisation of the different architectural styles evolving over a period of rule of four consecutive emperors, this churning had some very arresting variants. The tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg (or Itmad-Ud-Daulah) at Agra, built by Nur-Jahan, is one such example of aesthetic impression.

Itmad-ud-daulah's Tomb: The Persian Connection

Overview

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Quick Tips:

If you visit Agra from Delhi, it's best to take the early morning Shatabdi Express. The train ride is pleasant, with comfortable roomy seats and good food. For overnight stay you can opt for the Taj Ganj area, which is where all the budget accommodation can be found. However, foreigners have to pay around £8 (500 rupees) to visit all the five attractions on offer. Don't be disheartened though: Agra's attractions are worth the cost.

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Introduction

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Rising on the eastern side, on the left bank of the Yamuna lies a sublime white monument that casts a pure halo about itself when bathed in the early morning light. Framed within a rectangular red sandstone wall that runs along its entire contour, it has a stillness that surrounds the final resting place of a human life. Seldom has death been cloaked with such beauty. That death was given painstaking thought and planning appears incredulous, but this was characteristic of the Islamic rulers, who dwelled upon the making of tombs with an eagerness that almost betrayed a nonchalance to the final call. They were people who accepted the inevitable with both grace and beauty. In attempting to i...Read More

Jahangir

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As is often the case with children of famous parents, Jahangir’s life from the beginning was eclipsed by the achievements of his famous father, Akbar. He grew up resentful of his father and the latter’s coterie of nobles and courtiers, and there were frequent tiffs between the father and son. Even after he became the emperor, he remained aloof and indifferent to the day-to-day affairs of the empire, bored as he was by the nitty-gritty and monotony of it all. He also lacked the obvious inclination for warfare unlike his famous predecessors. To make matters worse, he was self-indulgent and sensual with a streak of cruelty, and an addict whose daily regimen included six cups of alcohol and two doses o...Read More

The Forsaken Daughter

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Nur Jahan’s Persian grandfather, Khwaja Muhammad Sharif, was the vazir (prime minister) of Khurasan and then of Yazd under the Safayid rulers of Persia. However, after his death, the family fell upon hard times so much so that Muhammad Sharif’s son, Mirza Ghiyas, had to flee to India in 1577 along with his pregnant wife. As they traversed the stony path to India Mirza’s wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl near the city of Kandahar whom they named Mihr-un-nissa (Sun of Women). However, the prospect of another life to nurture appeared a formidable task to the dejected family and they abandoned the baby by the wayside. As Mirza and his family continued their journey after leaving the b...Read More

The Light of the World

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When Mihr-un-nissa met her second husband Salim, who had taken the name Jahangir after his ascension to the throne in 1611, she was already a widow of 35 years and ‘burdened’ with a daughter from her first husband—Ali Quli, entitled Sher Afkun (also Sher Afghan). For a woman thus placed to enchant and bemuse a king in possession of a harem stacked with beautiful women shows her remarkable class—her astuteness, charisma and temperament. In fact, Jahangir was so impressed by his wife’s multifaceted personality that he gave her the title of Nur Mahal (Light of the Palace), which he later expanded to Nur Jahan (Light of the World). Nur Jahan had diverse achievements to her credit. She could s...Read More

The Tomb

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The tomb that Nur Jahan’s built for her father Mirza Ghiyas (Itmad-ud-daulah) after his death in 1622 is, unlike her own, a symphony in white marble inlaid with coloured stones and enhanced with gold paint. The tomb, which stands on the left bank of the Yamuna, is presented through the formal char bagh (four-part garden that emulates the Garden of Paradise in Islamic tradition) plan with high walls on all sides. Justly famous, the tomb marks the transition point in Mughal architecture from which white marble replaces red sandstone as the ground for multicoloured pietra dura inlay—a style that finds its superb culmination at the Taj in Agra. The main entrance to the tomb is on the e...Read More