The colourful Taj Mahal’s of Agra

5 Mar

Yes, you read the title correctly! And no, I don’t mean the many small replicas of the Taj Mahal being sold as souvenirs in shops. During my recent visit to Agra, my awesome local host and sister, Chikirsha, took me around the city and I saw some of the lesser known versions of the Taj. Each of these versions were unique and beautiful in their own way and I thought of sharing this with all of you.

Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Taj Mahal – A UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal does not need an introduction or my opinion of how it is one of the most beautiful and enthralling structure built by the Mughal empire in India. Synonymous with eternal love, the Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal in 1630 AD. Made of ivory white Makrana marble it took 20,000 workers 22 years to complete it. It has beautiful and intricate carvings in solid marble, stunning inlay work and beautiful jalis (carved work in windows) all over the structure with calligraphic inscriptions. The spires, the arch, the spandrel and the dome leaves me spellbound everytime I see it (this was my third visit and I am not an architect). It has lost some of its shine over the years due to pollution but the government is doing some restoration work to restore its original color. The Taj Mahal leaves me with a surreal sense of love everytime I visit it.

Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Red Taj Mahal or the Hessing’s Tomb – Located inside an old Roman Catholic Cemetery, this tomb was built by the wife of British Colonel John Hessing as his final resting place. Story goes that John William Hessing was a mercenary in the Dutch East India Company and employed by a number of Indian kingdoms. He died in a battle defending the Agra fort and his wife built a miniature replica of Taj Mahal in red sandstone for his tomb. The tomb is mounted on a platform, with a simple square building in the centre and the characteristic Mughal dome on the top. There are decorative chattris (smaller domes) at each corner with simple decorations on the façade. There are loads of other interesting smaller tombs around including a Church. Though lacking the grandeur, carvings and scale of the Taj Mahal, this tomb is beautiful in its simplicity and backdrop. I also felt this tomb is Agra’s best kept secret.

The Red Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

The Red Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Baby Taj or the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah –Regarded as a draft of the Taj Mahal, this mausoleum was commissioned by Nur Jahan, wife of Emperor Jehangir for her father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg, a Persian Amir in exile, who had been given the title of I’timād-ud-Daulah (pillar of the state). The tomb is made of white marble with exquisite peitra dura inlay work, intricate jali (window) work (I felt these were better than the jalis at the Taj Mahal) and stunning decorative work on the ceilings. I loved the colors used in the inlay work here and the geometric design work all around the exterior. According to the local guide, this was the first Mughal structure built using marble (thus it is white in color), was the first to use stone inlay work and the first tomb on the banks of the river Yamuna.


Baby Taj or the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Stunning ceiling inside the Baby Taj or the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Stunning ceiling inside the Baby Taj or the Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

Black Taj Mahal – While exploring Agra I also heard about the legend or the myth of the Black Taj Mahal. Legend has it that Shah Jehan planned to make another Taj Mahal in black stone opposite the Taj Mahal, on the other side of the river, as his own masoleum. This story originated in the writings of a European traveler, Jean Baptiste Tavernier, who visited Agra in 1665, and wrote that Shah Jehan had began building this Black Taj Mahal as his own tomb but could not complete it as he was deposed by his son, Aurangzeb. There are no remains of any such structure and scholars, historians and archeologists believe that the Black Taj Mahal is a myth for various reasons. But what’s an old city or history without its share of the myths and fables.

Overall I loved all the versions of the Taj Mahal and definitely recommend a visit to see them all on your next trip to Agra.


23 Responses to “The colourful Taj Mahal’s of Agra”

  1. Ilakkiyaa March 5, 2017 at 18:36 #

    Insightful post! I guess none other than the locals have any idea about the existence of these other structures.. Thank you for drawing attention to them 🙂


    • getsetandgo March 5, 2017 at 18:39 #

      Thanks… I did see a few people visiting these structures but not as many as in the Taj Mahal.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mel & Suan March 5, 2017 at 19:15 #

    Now this is interesting! Who would have thought there are 4 other Taj Mahal!


  3. Juliana Lightle March 5, 2017 at 19:55 #

    Photos of the Taj Mahal are always impressive, but they do not even begin to express the grandeur of actually being there in person.


    • getsetandgo April 9, 2017 at 19:24 #

      You are absolutely right Juliana…. Photos never do justice to the actual Taj Mahal.. And I think that it has a lot to do with the aura and the setting of the Taj, that is not captured in the pics…


  4. Vibha Ravi March 5, 2017 at 21:29 #

    Nice post. I’ve read about the Black Taj Mahal and thought it must have existed. Well! Some mysteries are better unsolved I guess.


  5. lulu March 5, 2017 at 23:41 #

    I’m traveling to India in the fall so I’m especially appreciative of your posts.


  6. corneliaweberphotography March 6, 2017 at 07:58 #

    I have been at the Red Taj as well and fascinated by it too. Thank you for sharing


  7. Robin March 7, 2017 at 00:56 #

    We’ve been to the Taj 2x times and each time is breathtaking. I think most people think of the Taj as white marble, but unless you get up close, you never see the inlaid jewels. To me, that’s the beautiful color I love and rememebr. The dazzling green, radients rubies and lushish blues are what I rememeber and loved seeing at the Taj. We got talked into spending way too much for a marble plate with inlaid jewels. But I don’t care, I look at it in my living room every day and it takes me back.


    • getsetandgo April 9, 2017 at 19:30 #

      Thanks Robin and I totally agree with your comment about the inlaid jewels… I loved the inlay work too especially the one inside the Taj… And I cant’t wait to see it in full moonlight when it is said that the marble and the stones glow in the natural moonlight….


  8. 2travellingsisters March 8, 2017 at 19:58 #

    We had never heard of Red Taj Mahal until we read about it in your post! Each mausoleum is beautiful than the other. We will make a point to visit all of the above when we are in Agar! 🙂


    • getsetandgo April 9, 2017 at 19:31 #

      Hey, all of them are worth a visit and I hope you can make it there soon 🙂


  9. AppsConsultant March 13, 2017 at 17:22 #

    very nice


  10. WittyAyJ March 20, 2017 at 23:23 #

    Wah Taj !!


  11. Ravi April 4, 2017 at 11:08 #

    Stunning! That’s the best way to describe taj mahal. We visited here in August 2013 and it was amazing


  12. jems world April 6, 2017 at 17:14 #

    this is one of the best place in Indian Tour & travel…….


  13. Ademar Arau April 24, 2017 at 18:19 #

    Nice blog. Thanks for the information. Taj Mahal is the most famous tourist spot in India. Taj Mahal is the one of the Seven Wonders of the world. This is the one of the most visited destinations of India by tourist. This is the best way to describe Taj Mahal.


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