BIBI KA MAQBARA Ė THE
Would you believe
if one were to tell you that India is the proud home of not one
but two Taj Mahals? Probably not!
But it is a fact
that a monument identical to the Taj stands in Aurangabad in Maharashtra
and it is lovingly called the Mini Taj of the Deccan. The monument
is Bibi Ka Maqbara built by Aurangzebís son, Azam Shah, in 1660
as a loving tribute to his mother, Dilras Bano Begam. Interestingly,
while the Begum nestles in the magnificent structure, the austere
Moghal emperor chose to be laid in and commemorated with touching
simplicity. Aurangzebís tomb is also in Aurangabad at Khuldabad
en route Daulatabad Fort. It is a simple latticed enclosure with
whitewashed walls, a small marble railing, erected 200 years later,
and a tomb marked by the white cotton sheet spread over it to
delimit the modesty of his desires.
Bibi Ka Maqbara
is an architectural wonder with intricate designs, carved motifs,
imposing structure and beautifully landscaped Moghal-style garden.
The walk from the entrance to the monument is dotted with lush
lawns, deep green cypresses and gurgling fountains. The pavements
leading to the mausoleum are flanked by oblong reservoirs. The
ambience is overwhelmingly that of the Taj. On close encounter,
however, one realizes that while the Taj is pure white with the
coolness and smoothness of the Rajasthan marble, the walls of
the Maqbara are a little dusky by contrast. They lack the sheen
of marble. In fact, the dome and some parts of the main building
are made of marble, the rest is plastered with Eastco plaster,
a kind of high quality cement which gives marble-like look and
strength to the walls. That is the reason why the Maqbara looks
a little dull compared to the Taj. That is also probably one reason
why it is often referred to as the "poor manís Taj".
The epithet is, however, unjust as the Maqbara has its own splendour
and grace and by no standards can it be called poor.
that initially Aurangzeb was not in favour of building a monument
as lavish as the Taj. He blocked the movement of marble from Rajasthan
and various other parts of the Moghal empire, an ordinary structure
was to be planned but Alam Shah was determined to have a monument
to his mother that might vie with the Taj. Somehow, Alam Shah
prevailed upon his father who eventually relented. Thus, only
the onion dome was built with marble. The rest is of plaster.
The French traveller, Tavernier, also records that in 1653 while
crossing the present Aurangabad, now Sambhaji Nagar area, he spotted
around 300 bullock carts loaded with huge marble slabs. On enquiry,
he was told that they were for the Maqbara. The work was completed
in six years and it cost six-and-a half lakh rupees as compared
to the 22 lakh and 22 years that the Taj took.
The main onion
dome of the Maqbara is smaller than the dome of the Taj. Square
in shape, the Maqbara has four octagonal minarets. These are shorter
than the main structure. There is only one mosque on the main
plinth of the Maqbara while there are two mosques on either side
of the Taj, giving it symmetry. The mosque, it is said, is a later
addition. It was not in the main plan.
Legend has it
that in 1803, Nizam Sikander Jahan was so captivated by the Maqbara
that when Aurangabad and the Marathwada area were annexed to his
kingdom he planned to shift the Maqbara to his capital, Hyderabad.
He even ordered dismantling of the structure, slab by slab. But,
somehow, he had a premonition of some disaster which might befall
him were he to harm the existing structure. He stopped the work
and as a penance got the mosque built.
Bibi Ka Maqbara,
a "travesty of the Taj," has a charm and grandeur of
its own. It has its own personality, so to say its own identity.
It may be like the Taj but it is not its exact replica. At the
backdrop of the Maqbara stands the rugged Deccan terrain back,
rocky and infinitely lonely. The off-white structure, latticed
with colourful motifs and intricate patterns, stands as a befitting
tribute to the fourth wife of an austere emperor. She is laid
there alone while in the Taj the lovers are laid side by side.
The Bibiís tomb is decorated moderately. The atmosphere is serene
but is laden with the eternal sadness of the ultimate finality.
You come out, throw a departing glance at the monument and bid
goodbye to the mini Taj as the guide whisks you to the nearby
Panchakki, built in 1624 to commemorate a Muslim saint, Baba Shah
Muzaffar. If the Maqbara speaks of manís architectural ingenuity,
the Panchakki is a wonder of nature.
and Photographs from Usha Bande, Freelance Writer, Shimla
can be downloaded from www.pib.nic.in