Jahangir and Nur Jahan’s Agra – Sikandra and the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula

1 - Tomb of ITmad Ud Daula

Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula, commissioned by Nur Jahan and built between 1622 – 1628.

The Emperor Jahangir, son of Akbar and formerly known simply as Prince Salim, reigned from 1605 – 1627 in his father’s capital city of Agra.

Like his father, Jahangir was a patron of the arts, with himself being known as a great connoisseur of art. Unlike his son, Shah Jahan, however, he did not leave much by way of architecture, in the city of Agra, or at least, not much of it has survived.

2 - Prince_Salim,_the_future_Jahangir (1)

Prince Salim, the future Jahangir enthroned, c. 1600. [Public Domain.]

One of his most important legacies is the Mausoleum of his father, Akbar, in the suburbs of Sikandra, which had been initiated by his father in 1604, but completed by himself in 1613. This is the second of the four tombs of the great Mughal Emperors to be built – Jahangir would have his own mausoleum erected in Lahore. Just outside Akbar’s tomb at Sikandra sits Kanch Mahal – a harem quarter (later used as a hunting lodge) built by Jahangir himself.

One of the most architectural legacies of his reign, was not commissioned by him, but by his favourite wife, Nur Jahan (“Light of the World”), whom he married in 1611, after (so rumours say) conspiring to have her husband – she was previously married – killed off so he could have her.

3 - Jahangir_and_Prince_Khurram_Entertained_by_Nur_Jahan (1)

Jahangir and Prince Khurram entertained by Nur Jahan, c. 1640-50. [Public Domain.]

Nur Jahan, who had Persian origins, was responsible for perhaps the second most exquisite Mughal monument in Agra proper, after the Taj Mahal. This is the jewel-like Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula – a mausoleum for Nur Jahan’s father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg, who had been given the title “Itimad-ud-Daula” or “Pillar of the State”.

The entire mausoleum is constructed in white marble inlaid with semi-precious stone, a technique heavily influenced by Safavid styles in the West, but came to be the epitome of Indo-Persian architectural style. Nicknamed the “Baby Taj”, this mausoleum represents a transition between early Mughal red sandstone architecture to the Taj Mahal, and is often cited as an inspiration for the latter.

Situated on the banks of the Jamuna River like its more famous relative, it is one monument in Agra not to be missed.

Akbar’s Tomb at Sikandra

4 - Entrance to Sikandra

Entrance to Tomb Complex is by the South Gate.

5 - Kanch Mahal

Nearby sits the Kanch Mahal, or “Glass Palace”, built by Jahangir.

6 - Kanch Mahal front

Facade of the Kanch Mahal.

7 - Closeup Entrance

Back to the South Gate of the Tomb Complex.

8 - Closeup Entrance II

Close-up of the entrance, revealing the intricate decoration in red sandstone.

9 - Approaching Sikandra

Approaching the mausoleum.

10 - Sikandra Front

View of the Mausoleum’s south-facing facade.

11 - Closeup of front

Note the intricate upper floors of the tomb structure, in particular the white marble screens with accompanying marble chhatris.

12 - Side of Sikandra

Further approaching the structure.

13 - Back of Sikandra

Unfortunately, the closer one gets to the tomb structure, the less one is able to see the upper floors.

14 - Interior Sikandra

Interior of the cenotaph.

15 - Upward view

The highly elaborate and beautiful ornamentation of the ceiling in the cenotaph. This has roots in Safavid Persian architectural and interior design.

16 - Side Chambers

The corridors

17 - Detail side chambers

Muqarnas features.

18 - Deer Park

Deer on the grounds of the tomb complex.

Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula

19 - Entrance to Baby Taj

Entrance to the Tomb structure.

20 - Approaching the tomb

Approaching the heartbreakingly exquisite “Baby Taj”.

21 - Front of Tomb

The Mausoleum itself, constructed in white marble, inlaid with semi-precious stones. The structure, with its four minarets, echoes that of the Taj Mahal, to come later.

22 - Minaret

Close-up of a minaret – every inch of the surface of the marble is decorated.

23 - Detail window

Detail of the facade. Note the beautiful latticed window.

24 - Detail door

More details of the facade. This is the entrance to the cenotaph.

25 - Detail interior

The interior of the cenotaph is also exquisitely ornamented, though in a slightly poorer condition than that of Sikandra. The cypress trees draw from Persian tradition.

26 - Detail tile

Detail of interior ornamentation.

27 - Detail wall

“Zoom out” to demonstrate the extent of ornamentation (and disrepair). 

28 - Detail roof

Detail of ceiling ornamentation, in a rather poor condition.

29 - Detail ceiling

Detail of ceiling ornamentation.

30 - Photo-taking

Enjoying the tomb in the evening.

31 - Backward Glance

A backward glance at the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula, and Jahangir and Nur Jahan’s Agra.

Essential Reference:

  • Agra – The Architectural Heritage. An INTACH Roli Guide. By Lucy Peck, 2008.  New Delhi: Lotus Collection – Roli Books.

About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, Cities & Regions, Culture & Lifestyle, Heritage, India, Landmarks & History, Photography, Travel & Mobility and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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