Friday, June 23, 2017

A Daughter's Homage. The Tomb of I'timad-ud-Daulah aka the Baby Taj.


The Tomb of I'timad-ud-Daulah is a Mughal mausoleum that is commonly called "Baby Tāj" as it is often regarded as a draft of the Tāj Mahal.  I will just call it Baby Taj - easier to type out 😁

Enroute to Baby Taj and because it's located just a short distance from Sikandra, we made a brief stop at a gurdwara.

Gurdwara Shri Guru ka Tal is a historic Sikh pilgrimage place dedicated to the memory of ninth Guru Sri Guru Tegh Bahudar Ji. The Gurudwara was built over the place where the Guru Tegh Bahadur offered voluntary arrest to Aurangazeb, the Mughal Emperor who was also the son of Shah Jahan. Several devotees gather every year to pay homage to the great Sikh guru, who was martyred along with his followers in defense of the freedom to practice one's faith, in this Gurudwara.

Even though  my ankle is feeling a world better than it did yesterday, I opted to hang back.  I didn't think that hobbling around the gurdwara with wet, bare feet on marble was a good idea.  I had nightmare vision of me slipping and falling and injuring another body part.  Not good.  So, I let the gals go.  Both wandered away from car all the while getting their scarves wrapped around their heads. 


Chantale knew the routine by now; they figured out where to deposit their shoes.  This would be Ayşe's first visit to a gurdwara so I hoped she would find it interesting.  I literally stood beside the car and used my zoom lens to take a few photos.  Surprisingly, the girls were not inside for all that long.  The did walk around the pool but it was a very small one.  No visit to the dining hall to check out the langar.





Then it was off to the Baby Taj. 


I've never been to the Baby Taj so I had no clue that it was situated alongside the Yamuna River.  At the height of the Mughal Empire, in the 17th century, there were 44 gardens along the river.  Today, 4 survive.  One is Mehtab Bagh which we ran through yesterday to catch a sunset view of the Taj.  A second is this one at the Baby Taj.




The World Monuments Fund has partnered with the Archeological Survey of India to restore the four remaining gardens to their original splendor.  You can check out the project here.   I would love to come back one day, after the project is completed on all four gardens but for today, I will just admire the buildings here.

At the center of the Baby Taj complex is a mausoleum that was commissioned by Nur 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, the beloved wife of Shah Jahan.

Along with the mausoleum, the Baby Taj complex consists of several outbuildings and gardens. The mausoleum itself was built between 1622 and 1628 and represents a transition between the first phase of Mughal architecture – primarily built from red sandstone with marble decorations, as in Humayun's Tomb in Delhi and Akbar's tomb in Sikandra – to its second phase, based on white marble and stone inlay most elegantly realized in the Taj Mahal which we will be visiting bright and early tomorrow morning.

The entrance gate is that beautiful red sandstone inlaid with white marble.


Through the archway,  you get a glimpse of a white building.  That's all you need to tell you that something spectacular is waiting for you on the other side.  But no need to rush.  Take a few seconds to admire the magnificent facade of the entrance gate.







My jaw literally dropped at the sight of the white marble building that stood before me.  I didn't think any Mughal building could take my breath away except for the Taj but I was wrong.  In many ways, this small building is much more beautiful....if that is even possible, than the Taj.  Yes, I said it.

Surprisingly, the place was quite crowded.  So as much as I wanted a full frontal shot of the mausoleum, I held back as I really wanted fewer people in my shot.  Instead, I focused my photo taking on details of the building itself.

All this time I have been referring to what I see as inlaid stone and that it is but there is a more formal name to the art form - pietra dura or as it is known in India - parchin kari.  I just call it amazing!!












Inside the building is even MORE breath taking!


I have to look up close to not only admire the small details but remind myself that even something as seemingly simple straight line was created using inlaid stone.  Someone had to hand carve a narrow strip of stone and embed in a hand carved trough in the marble and it all had to fit perfectly!

This is the first Mughal site where I have seen floral designs like these.  The white Rajasthan marble is inlaid with cornelian, jasper, lapis lazuli, onyx, and topaz formed into images of cypress trees and wine bottles, or more elaborate decorations like cut fruit or vases containing bouquets.  Jaw drop at the sight of this exquisite.  I probably wasn't suppose to do it but I couldn't help myself.  I slid my finger tips over the stones to feel the surface.  Incredibly smooth even over joints between stones.


Thankfully, I wasn't trying to position my baby for a photo.  In all honesty, I really think they should cordone off the walls to preserve them for future generations to admire.  Would not surprise me if that happens before this baby grows up to be an adult.


In the center of the building is a room that houses the cenotaphs of Mirza Ghiyas Beg and his wife Asmat Begam.  Forget the simple cenotaphs.  Look at that ceiling!!  Jaw dropped again!  I should just leave my jaw here.  This is stunning beyond stunning beyond any words in my simple vocabulary to describe.  If you come to Agra and don't come here, you are definitely losing out.  Surprisingly, coming to the Baby Taj is not on many tourists' itinerary and tour groups don't often include it.




I was so fixated by that ceiling, I could not take my eyes away from it.  The detail is incredible!







To help preserve this historic monument we had to put on shoe covers.  Made it a bit slippery for me to walk so I did pay special attention.  By the way, this most amazing site is NOT a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  What's up UNESCO??


Just imagine all the labor and workmanship that went on to just creating the floor.  Unbelievable!


Even the white marble that formed the entry archway is a work of art. Look at that carving!




Imagine the work of chiseling out the detail of just this one plaque.  Just stunning.  Simply stunning.  If I hadn't left my jaw in the cenotaph room, it would have dropped here again.


The Baby Taj is not a big building and neither is it's entry gate.  But....size really does not matter - it's a gorgeous site!


By the time we were ready to leave, it was late afternoon and the sun would soon be setting.  I loved the way the color of the white marble warmed up by rays of the afternoon sun.





The crowds had faded and it was just the three of us on the site.  I finally could get in a full shot of the mausoleum.  It was good to have Chantale and Ayşe in the shot to provide a sense of scale. Imagine that entire building is constructed of white marble inlaid with stone.  Even when viewed from a far, when you can't really see all the details, it's so stunning, it takes your breath away.





In the photo below, you can see part of the site's gardens that the World Monuments Fund is working in collaboration with the Archeological Survey of India to restore.  The goal is to recreate the gardens to their Mughal era grandeur.



One last full shot before leaving the grounds.  It two trips to Agra to make it here and it was worth it!


This morning, Chantale had asked Saeed if we could return to the Yamuna view point for a sun set view of the Taj so that's we're were heading next.  Hopefully, we'll get there in time!