Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah is a Mughal mausoleum in the city of Agra in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Often described as a "jewel box", sometimes called the "Baby Taj", the tomb of I'timad-ud-Daulah is often regarded as a draft of the Taj Mahal.
It is Commonly referred to in the tourist literature as the "Little Taj", the tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula is a breathtaking mausoleum situated on the Yamuna River just outside Agra and should be appreciated in its own right and not as a miniature version of the Taj Mahal. Built by the Mughal Empress Nur Jahan for her parents, Itimad-ud-Daula and Asmat Begum, between 1622 and 1628, this small mausoleum is the first example of a Mughal tomb faced in white marble that employed such a wide use of stone inlay to decorate its exterior.
The mausoleum was commissioned by Noor Jahan, the wife of Jahangir, for her father Mirza Ghiyas Beg, originally a Persian Amir in exile, who had been given the title of I'timad-ud-Daulah (pillar of the state). Mirza Ghiyas Beg was also the grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal (originally named Arjumand Bano, daughter of Asaf Khan), the wife of the emperor Shah Jahan, responsible for the construction of the Taj Mahal. Nur Jehan was also responsible for the construction of the Tomb of Jehangir at Lahore.
Itmad-ud-daula has a special place in the chronicles of both history as well as architecture. This is precisely because Itmad ud Daula is the very first tomb in India that is entirely made out of Marble. This is actually a mausoleum that overlooks the River Yamuna and is a tomb of Mir Ghiyas Beg, a minister in the court of Shah Jahan.
The story of Itmad-ud-daula is an inspirational rag to riches saga. The tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah is as interesting as the life of the person for whom it was built. Mirza Ghiyas-ud-din or Ghiyas Beg (later known as Itimad-ud-Daulah) was a poor merchant and lived in Persia (modern-day Iran). His wife gave birth to a daughter whom he wanted to abandon for he has no money to feed her but the persistent wails of the infant changed his heart. The baby girl brought a stroke of good luck to her parents, for Ghiyas Beg found a caravan that straightaway took him to the court of the great Mughal Emperor, Akbar. After Akbar's death in 1605, his son Jahangir became the Mughal emperor, who made Ghiyas Beg his chief minister or Wazir. Ghiyas Beg was also honored with the title of Itimad-ud-Daulah or the pillar of the state.
Jahangir fell in love with his widowed daughter who processes unspeakable beauty. She was later christened Noor Jahan and went down in the history as one of the most beautiful and artistically gifted women in the world. Jahangir conferred the title of Itmad-ud-daula or 'Pillar of the Empire' to his father-in-law. Noor Jahan ordered the tomb after the death of her father in 1622. Itmad-ud-daula is a pure white and elaborately carved tomb that conforms to the Islamic style of architecture. The Indo-Islamic architecture becomes prominent because of the fusion that this tomb displays. While the use of arched entrances and octagonal shaped towers signify the Persian influence, the absence of a dome and the presence of a closed kiosk on top of this building and the use of canopies talks about the possible Indian influence. From out side, when you take a bird eye view, Itmad-ud-daula looks like a jewel box set in a garden. This tranquil, small, garden located on the banks of the Yamuna was to inspire the construction of the Taj Mahal in the later years.
Interior decoration: Every surface is accentuated with floral, geometric and animate motifs, the decoration of which is rivalled only by the profuse and varied depictions of these same motifs in colourful paintings and inlaid stone used to enhance the interior of the structure. While originally the entire surface area of the interior would have been decorated, this is not the case today. However, a large portion of the original decoration, albeit restored, is still evident.
Itimad-ud-Daula was the title given to Mirza Ghiyas Beg/Ghiyas Beg Tehrani, a Persian noble from Khurasan who arrived at the Mughal court during Akbar’s reign and swiftly worked his way to the top of the government hierarchy. After Jahangir ascended the throne in 1605, he awarded Ghiyas Beg the title of Itimad-ud-Daula, meaning Pillar of the Empire. The royal family and that of Itimad-ud-Daula soon became intertwined as his daughter, Mehrunnisa, married Jahangir in 1611; she was subsequently titled Nur Jahan (Light of the World) in 1616. Furthermore, Itimad-ud-Daula’s granddaughter, Arjumand Banu Begum, the daughter of his son, Abu’l Hasan, titled Asaf Khan, married the Mughal Prince Shah Jahan. It was Arjumand Banu Begum who was titled Mumtaz Mahal (The Crown of the Palace) and ultimately for whom the Taj Mahal was built.
Nur Jahan was a great patron of architecture, as exemplified by her varied building commissions, and also an independently wealthy woman. She had funds coming into her coffers from various trade ventures and land holdings, and on her father’s death was awarded his accumulated wealth as well. As a result, when she embarked upon the construction of her parents’ tomb, she was able to commission the mausoleum without budgetary constraints, the result of which is this jewel of a building.
The mausoleum can be categorised as a - platform tomb, a tomb style popular during Jahangir’s reign. It was constructed outside Agra’s city walls on the eastern bank of the Yamuna in a garden originally owned by Itimad-ud-Daula himself. The mausoleum, faced completely in white marble, was placed in the centre of a small charbagh atop a red sandstone platform, accessed through two of the four monumental gateways built into its enclosure walls. The main entrance was through the eastern gate while the western one, in actuality a waterfront baradari (pavilion), offered riverside access to the tomb garden; the structures in the east and west walls were built as false gateways, for the sake of symmetry. The riverfront entrance gate was conceived of as a pleasure pavilion, as indicated by the large interior chambers and riverfront views they afforded. Each of these four gates were faced in red sandstone and had geometric and chine khana designs inlaid into them in white marble. The chine khana decorative scheme consisted of niches, both real and false, made to look as if they contained vessels, bowls of fruits and/or flowers.
The square tomb, measuring approximately seven metres per side, has four round turrets crowned with chattris (small domed kiosks) rising from engaged octagonal bases at each corner. Along the roofline of this storey, between these turrets, was placed a carved, marble balustrade to enclose the created roof terrace. An arched entrance pierces the centre of each face of the mausoleum, the remaining rectangular openings per side filled with beautifully carved jalis (lattices). The interior space of this floor was divided into nine chambers, the central chamber being the largest. It is here that the sarcophagi of Itimad-ud-Daula and Asmat Begum were placed over the graves of the couple. The square superstructure which comprises the second storey of the tomb houses the false cenotaphs of the couple and is topped with a canopied dome rising from a wide chhajja. The walls of this superstructure are inset on each side with large, marble jalis carved in a variety of beautiful geometric designs.
Detail of Upper Pavilion Jali:Jalis have been used throughout the mausoleum: with the exception of the entrances, all the openings in the tomb’s facade were filled with beautifully carved screens. This decorative device, of Gujarati origin, was used throughout the Mughal period for all different types of architecture, ultimately becoming ubiquitous in its use. One of the likely reasons these carved screens were so popular was that they allowed for the introduction of muted natural light into the interior of buildings. Two prominent early examples of its use on Mughal constructions from Akbar’s reign are its use on the western wall of Humayun’s tomb in Delhi, where three arched jalis were placed, and at Fatehpur Sikri, where jalis were used essentially to create the external walls of the tomb of Sheikh Salim Chishti in the courtyard of the Jama Masjid.
Exterior Decoration: The fine marble surface of the mausoleum has been embellished with inlaid hard and semi-precious stones using a magnificent design scheme based on geometric designs and chine khana motifs that includes ewers, wine vessels, fruits and trees. In addition, delicately carved panels of calligraphy were placed in a band beneath the brackets delineating the two storeys; these epigraphic panels were carved so finely that they are almost invisible unless one is looking for them. Although the name of the architect or builder of the tomb is unknown, we know that the calligrapher responsible for these epigraphic panels was Abd al-Nabi al-Qarshi.