The Taj of Deccan

Heritage Beat

The Taj of Deccan

It is said that Aurangzeb’s puritanism could not reconcile itself with the patronage of art. Though not openly hostile to architecture, the puritanic emperor ceased to encourage it.

Still, in keeping with the tradition of Mughal rulers, Aurangzeb couldn’t resist the temptation of building a mausoleum in memory of his first wife. In a bid to imitate his father Shah Jahan’s monument for love, it is believed he asked his son, Prince Azam Shah, to build a replica of Taj Mahal.

Originally, he planned to rival the Taj Mahal, but later prevented himself from doing so due to budgetary constraints. Designed and erected by Ata Ulla, an architect, and Hanspat Rai, an engineer, at a cost of around Rs 7,00,000, it was built during circa 1651-1661 AD. This monument was called Bibi-ka-Maqbara, whose literal translation is
‘Tomb of the Lady’. It lies eight kilometers from the town named after Aurangzeb — Aurangabad — the Mughal capital during the reign of Aurangzeb (1659-1707 AD).

Just as Shah Jahan built Taj Mahal over the grave of his beloved wife, Aurangzeb built Bibi-Ka-Maqbara over the grave of his beloved wife, Rabia-ul-Durrani, alias Dilras Banu Begum. The mausoleum is built at the centre of a high platform, with four minarets at its corners.

The lower body and the dome of the building are made up of pure marble, decorated with beautiful carvings, whereas the middle portion is of basaltic trap, covered with fine plaster, rendered with a marble finish and adorned with stucco work. The grave is simple, devoid of any ornamentation, surrounded with marble screens of exquisite design.

Though the entire edifice is modelled on that “jewellery on a bigger scale”, Taj Mahal, Bibi-ka-Maqbara turned out to be a feeble imitation. Yet, comparisons apart, Bibi-ka-Maqbara has its own grace and splendour. Portions of the tomb are in pure white marble.

An octagonal screen of perforated marble encloses the tomb of Rabia-ul-Durrani. The pavements that lead to the mausoleum are flanked by oblong reservoirs. The edifice has a high wall with bastions running around it. The recesses have little minarets. Just as at Agra, the entrance leads to an arch and from this point, a splendid view of the structure ahead can be obtained.

The tomb in itself represents the transition from the ostentatious architecture of Akbar and Shah Jahan to the simple architecture of the later Mughals. The Mughal Garden, water management system, pavements which are ornamented with little kiosks, finely worked brass doors, stucco floral motifs on shell lime plaster... all these rank Bibi-ka-Maqbara among the best of the ‘beautiful Mughal buildings of Deccan’. More than anything else, it will remain as the monument of Aurangzeb’s conjugal fidelity.

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