An ode to a mother

Bibi-ka-maqbara

An ode to a mother

Bibi-Ka-Maqbara figures among one of the must-visit spots in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. Though the district has several other iconic sights like Ajanta and Ellora caves, which are artists’ and sculptors’ delight, and have drawn the attention of the world, Bibi-Ka-Maqbara has its own charm.

Though the structure did not impress me at first, a plaque at the entrance drew my attention. The plaque, put up by the Archeological Survey of India, states that the monument is a beautiful mausoleum of Rabia-ul-Daurani alias Dilras Banu Begum, the wife of Emperor Aurangzeb. The monument is called the Taj of Deccan, as it architecturally resembles the more famed Taj Mahal of Agra. However, unlike the Taj, this mausoleum was built in memory of a mother, by her son. 

‘Her’ story

Rabia Daurani was the daughter of Shah Nawaz Khan and a descendant of Shah Tahmasp of the Safavid dynasty of Iran. Her marriage with Aurangzeb on April 15, 1637 at Agra was celebrated in a grand manner by Shah Jahan. She is said to have led a pious and religious life, and after her death, she was considered a saint.

I soon realised that the description on the plaque was apt as the structure looks like a smaller replica of Taj Mahal. It also has a beautiful garden and walkway with reflection pools like the monument in Agra. Though Bibi-Ka-Maqbara is not as beautiful as the marble structure in Agra, it  is quite attractive, as the mountain ranges behind provide an ideal backdrop.

Bibi-Ka-Maqbara has three small ponds and a mosque on one side. According to records, the mausoleum was constructed between 1651 and 1661 AD, by Prince Azam Shah, in memory of his mother. The mausoleum was designed and erected by Ataullah, an architect, and Hanspat Rai, an engineer, and the marble for it was brought from Jaipur. 

According to official records, the construction cost of the mausoleum was Rs 6,68,203 and seven annas. It is said Aqa Abdul Qasim Beg, who was supervising the work, was drawing a salary of Rs 230 a month, a princely sum at that time. Ataullah was an expert in metal work and the specimen of his workmanship and expertise in Arabesque ornamentation is evident in the beautiful metal cover over the door panels of the tomb’s entrance.

Inspired by Taj

The mausoleum is built on a high square platform with four minarets in its corners. The mausoleum is encased with marble up to the dado level. Above the dado level, it is constructed of basaltic trap up to the base of the dome; the latter is again built with marble. A fine plaster covers the basaltic trap, and is given a fine polished finish and adorned with fine stucco decorations.

The mortal remains of Rabia-ul-Daurani are placed below the ground level, surrounded by an octagonal marble screen with exquisite designs. The roof of this chamber that corresponds to the ground level of the mausoleum is pierced by an octagonal opening, and given a low barricaded marble screen. Thus, the tomb can also be seen from the ground level through this octagonal opening.

Entrance at the southeast angle is embellished with some neat running patterns of floriated decorations over a scalloped arch, with pillars on either side. This entrance leads into a gallery running round the interior, which looks down upon the tomb. The three windows of marble trellis work, and the accompanying panels with flowers, are as delicate as anything found at Agra.

The floor inside is also paved with white marble. The cupola is of white marble, and the same material reappears in the lower parts of the building, while bricks are used in some of the upper portions. The finishing touches are given with beautiful white lime plaster. 

The mosque, a later addition, stands to the west of the mausoleum. The bays are pierced through with five cusped arches, and a minaret can be noticed at each corner. The interior contains a row of pillars with corresponding pilasters on the back wall, which are connected with the front arches, and with one another, by a series of cusped arches.

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