Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah - The forgotten Taj of Agra!

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The Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah (Urdu: اعتماد الدولہ کا مقبرہ‎) in Agra is a monument of exquisite beauty which is unfortunately now forgotten and rarely visited by the millions to tourists who throng Agra to catch a glimpse of the more majestic Taj Mahal. Older than Taj, the tomb was actually the first Mughal building ever to be built in marble.

Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah - The forgotten Taj of Agra!
Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah

Also known as the 'Jewel box' or 'Baby Taj', the tomb also represents the love of a daughter for his father as it was queen Nur Jahan who commissioned it for her father Mir Ghiyas Beg.

A brief history

So who was I'timād-ud-Daulah? Why was such a beautiful tomb built in his name? Was he a royalty in the court of Mughals?

Well, the story of I'timād-ud-Daulah is perhaps even more interesting than those of many Mughal kings who came before and after him. In fact his story of rags to riches can inspire us even today, even though luck had a great role to play in it. The story is part-mistry and part-legend and it's quite tough to separate the two now.

I'timād-ud-Daulah, or Mir Ghiyas Beg as he was known as during his young age, was and Amir form Persia (currently day Iran) but lived a poor life. To change his fortunes he decided to leave his motherland and go where anyway who wanted to build a fortune did - towards India, which immensely prospered under the Mughals and was a throbbing centre of trade and culture. This was the time of Akbar and both art and architecture was reaching its pinnacle under him.

Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah - The forgotten Taj of Agra!
The inlay work on the walls of the tomb

However, his journey was marked by robbery and birth of a daughter in Kandahar (present day Afghanistan). Already short on resources, he contemplated leaving his daughter behind but better sense prevailed and the family looked upon her as someone who will change the fortunes of the family. She was, thus, appropriately named Mehrunnisa which literally translates into 'Sun of the Women'. As luck would have it Mir Ghiyas Beg found a good job and rose through the ranks and became a Chief Minister under Akbar's son Jehangir. He also conferred the title of I'timād-ud-Daulah (Pillar of the State).

Unfortunately Mehrunnisa was windowed at a young age, and lived with her father. She was known for her exquisite beauty and when Jehangir (yes the same guy who earlier loved Anarkali) saw her for the first time, he completely fell in love with her and they soon married. After she became queen she was given the tile of Nur Jehan and over the next few years she became one of the strongest women ever in the Mughal empire, often even more powerful than her husband and often took decisions for the empire on his behalf.

When Mir Ghiyas Beg passed away in 1622, Nur Jehan commissioned the first ever Mughal building in marble as an ode to his father.

The tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah

Even though the tomb is not as majestic or beautifully proportioned as Taj Mahal, in many ways it was the prototype on which Taj was later built. However, in some ways the tomb even surpasses the beauty of Taj when it comes to the exquisite inlay work on it's walls. The tomb was also the first one which was built on the banks of river Yamuna, a zone which was till then used only for gardens (unfortunately only one such garden survives now).

Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah - The forgotten Taj of Agra!
Entrance to the tomb in red sandstone

Like all Mughal buildings, the tomb is completely symmetrical. Some might call it's proportions a bit too strict, but to me it simply shows the skill of the workers who made this possible.

The tomb has another gate which is red sandstone and another gate which overlooks river Yamuna on the back. It's located on the opposite side of Taj Mahal, though you can't really see Taj from here. When I visited it was winters and the day was quite foggy, but otherwise it's easy to see on the other side of the river.

The walls are made of marble with inlay work in semi-precious stones from Rajasthan. You can also see cypress trees on the wall, which simply shows the connection of Mughals to the land they came from.

Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah - The forgotten Taj of Agra!
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Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah - The forgotten Taj of Agra!
Overlooking river Yamuna

How to reach Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah

It will be tough to go on your own, so take an hand-rickshaw, an auto-rickshaw, or an Ola or Uber cab to go there. It's just across river Yamuna near Ambedkar bridge.

Entrance fee

Foreigners: Rs 110/-
Indians: INR Rs 10/-
Children below 15 years of age are allowed free entry.


Open on all Days
Morning to sunset

Tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah - The forgotten Taj of Agra!
A guard at the tomb

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Siddhartha Joshi
Last Updated : Jan 15,2021
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