The Three Taj Mahal in Agra

First of all, I can totally understand the confused look on your face when you read the post title. I am not kidding you though. While Agra is synonymous with The Taj Mahal, I recently discovered the existence of the other two Taj Mahal in Agra !

Without much ado, let me dive into this post. As you know me well enough now, I enjoy building up of a mystery so starting with the better known Taj 😉 . Keep reading !

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal

The best description I have heard of this ivory-white marble mausoleum is from the great poet Rabindranath Tagore, who called this UNESCO site “the tear-drop on the cheek of time”. Though there are many who find Taj Mahal overrated, I must confess that I fall in love a little more with this monument each time I see it.

Quick information about the monument of love

Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal who died in 1631, while giving birth to their 14th child. He started the construction of this magnificent monument one year later, in 1632. The mausoleum was completed in 1643 but work in the other phases of the project continued for another 10 years. Almost 20,000 workers worked on this New Seven Wonders of the World and completed it in 1653. . Also, contractors used about 1000 elephants to transport the materials needed for construction! Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal for Mumtaz Mahal also rests in the same tomb alongside his beloved wife.

The monument of love - The Taj Mahal

The monument of love – The Taj Mahal

Details about some of the architecture (in photos)

Calligraphy on the walls, plant motifs and marble lattice in the Taj Mahal

Sculptor’s skill displayed with calligraphy on the walls, plant motifs and marble lattice in the Taj Mahal

Optical illusion on the exterior walls of the Taj Mahal, check the flat surface looking spherical on top

Optical illusion created by on the exterior walls of the Taj Mahal, check the flat surface looking spherical on top

Flowers carved in marble and detail of pietra dura jali inlay

Artist carved flowers in marble and detailed pietra dura floral inlay

One of the minaret of the Taj Mahal. They were designed as working minarets, used by the muezzin to call the Islamic faithful to prayer

Architect had designed the Taj Mahal minaret as a working one, used by the muezzin to call the Islamic faithful to prayer

View of the Yamuna river from the Taj Mahal

View of the Yamuna river from the Taj Mahal

This was my 4th visit to the Taj Mahal and it was at its whitest best, thanks to the effort of the authorities to keep it clean. No scaffolding and repair work in sight, making for a great photo op :).

Itimad-Ud-Daulah or Baby Taj (2nd Taj Mahal in Agra)

The historic Itimad-Ud-Daulah, considered the inspiration for the Taj Mahal

The historic Itimad-Ud-Daulah, considered as inspiration for the Taj Mahal

First marble tomb in India

This exquisite tomb of Mizra Ghiyas Beg is nicknamed Baby Taj. It is quite special in architecture as well as in history. It is the first tomb in India to have been built entirely out of marble! Prior to the construction of this tomb, all the Mughal architecture was built in Red Sandstone. Built overlooking the Yamuna River this tomb is said to be the inspiration for “The Taj Mahal”.

Entrance to Itimad-Ud-Daulah

Entrance to Itimad-Ud-Daulah

History of this mausoleum

A little about Mizra Ghiyas Beg which I found quite interesting. He was a Persian nobleman and had an inspirational rag to riches story, as a poor merchant who came to India from Persia and rose to be a key Mughal courtier. He was Mumtaz Mahal’s grandfather and Emperor Jehangir’s chief minister (wazir). His daughter Nur Jahan, who married Jehangir, built the tomb between 1622 and 1628 in a similar style to the tomb she built for Jehangir in Shahdara Bagh near Lahore in Pakistan.

Itmad-ud-daula is a pure white and elaborately carved tomb, built using the Indo-Islamic architecture. The arched entrances and octagonal towers signify Persian influence, the absence of a dome and the presence of a closed kiosk on top of this building hints at Indian influence.

A fascinating view of Itimad-Ud-Daulah or Baby Taj

A fascinating view of Itimad-Ud-Daulah or Baby Taj Mahal

The fascinating interior of Baby Taj

The talented artists render the interior of the tomb is equally fascinating with exquisite carvings on marble, pietra dura work and use of colorful vegetable dyes.

Ceiling at the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah decorated with geometric patterns using vegetable dye

Artist’s skill on display – Ceiling at the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah decorated with geometric patterns using vegetable dye

Cenotaphs at the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah

Cenotaphs at the Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah

Pietra dura vases in the interior marble wall in Itimad-Ud-Daulah

Sculptors carve Pietra dura vases in the interior marble wall

Pietra dura vases in the interior marble wall in Itimad-Ud-Daulah, along with geometric floral border

Artist’s skill on display – Pietra dura vases in the interior marble wall in Itimad-Ud-Daulah, along with geometric floral border

Pavilion facing the Yamuna river

As we had reached Baby Taj around lunch, the marble was extremely hot. So this pavilion in red sandstone was a blessing. We sat in here , shielded by the hot sun, watching the Yamuna river flow by . A great place to sit and bond !

Pavilion across Itimad-Ud-Daulah where we took shelter from the sun and watched river Yamuna flow by

We took shelter from the sun in the pavilion across Itimad-Ud-Daulah and watched river Yamuna flow by

Images of wine and dine on the walls at Itimad-Ud-Daulah

I noticed interesting images of wine and dine on the walls at Itimad-Ud-Daulah

John Hessing’s tomb (3rd Taj Mahal in Agra)

John Hessing's Tomb aka The Red Taj Mahal

John Hessing’s Tomb aka The Red Taj Mahal

We were lucky with this one. It took us some time to reached the Roman Catholic Cemetery, as the route is not very straight forward and google maps was not very reliable about the small twists and turns of the road. It was about 5.30 pm and there was already a big lock on the cemetery! I guess we looked morose enough and the Gods listened. While we were sulking near the small gate of the cemetery, a guy on the cycle stopped by. He was the caretaker and normally closes the place by 5 pm! Anyway, on our request, he opened the gates and gave us the grand tour of the place.

 

John Hessing’s tomb also known as the Red Taj Mahal

Another view of John Hessing’s tomb

More about John Hessing

This tomb is built in Red Sandstone therefore called the Red Taj Mahal. Apparently, it was built by John William Hessing’s estranged wife, which in itself is quite interesting. He was a military officer and a Dutchman, who served in the armies of the Maratha Empire in the late 18th and early 19th century. Hessing fought with the Maratha armies against the British in the Second Anglo-Maratha War. He died in Agra on 21 July 1803 while in command of the Maratha forces there. The Fort was captured by the British the same year.

John Hessing’s tomb is an almost exact replica of The Taj Mahal in a miniature form. It is built on a high platform just like the Taj Mahal with a dome on the center top and minarets in the four corners. The facet of the tomb has four arches, a big central arch that leads to the coffin. The monument isn’t as grand as the original but the depth of love is probably the same.

Close up of John Hessing’s tomb

Close up of John Hessing’s tomb

Other tombs keeping the Red Taj Mahal company

Our guide was enthusiastic and showed us around the cemetery. We saw the burial site of the first foreigner in Agra, a chapel, coffin of a small boy that touched my heart the most and others. There were not many visitors here and we spent a quiet late evening paying obeisance to the departed souls.

First tomb of a foreigner at the Roman Catholic Cemetery

A foreigner’s first tomb at the Roman Catholic Cemetery

A small chapel at the Roman Catholic Cemetery

We visited a small chapel at the Roman Catholic Cemetery

Tomb of a 10 year old at the Roman Catholic Cemetery

Tomb of a 10 year old at the Roman Catholic Cemetery

Another tomb at the Roman Catholic Cemetery

Another tomb at the Roman Catholic Cemetery

Natural flowers growing near the tombs at the Roman Catholic Cemetery

Natural flowers growing near the tombs pay respect at the Roman Catholic Cemetery

Conclusion

Finally having seen the three Taj Mahal in Agra, I find the inter-related stories fascinating and would want to share with my readers these offbeat destinations in Agra. If you have you already visited, do head to the comments section and share your experience 🙂

Things you may want to know before the travel (Travel tips)

  • If you want to have a clear view of the Taj Mahal in pleasant weather, plan your trip in October, November, later part of January and February. I once visited Agra in December and mist played spoiltsport
  • Taj Mahal is open every day (except Friday) from sunrise to sunset. Try to be in the queue by 5:30 am to be one of the first to get in at 6 am. Increases your chance of seeing the Taj Mahal relatively uncrowded and for good photo ops
  • As you will experience, everyone has become aware of this tip and there is a substantial queue even this early in the morning
  • The security at the Taj is quite strict, so carry as less as you can. Water bottles are ok. Tripods were not allowed inside and we had to put in a locker
  • I would highly recommended a guide if you are keen on history. Ours had additional knowledge of interesting photography locations 🙂
  • Indians are charged INR 20/- and children below 15 years of age have free entry. Foreigners are charged INR 750/-
  • Taj Mahal is also open for viewing at night (on full moon night, two days before and two days after -except on a Friday) from 8:30 pm to 12:30 am at higher entry fees
  • You will likely spend 2.5 – 3 hours here
  • You can utilize use and pay washrooms in the premises
  • Itimad-Ud-Daulah is located in the old city area of Agra. You can hire a cab or auto from near your hotel
  • Indians are charged INR 10/- for entry. Children below 15 years of age are allowed free entry. Foreigners re charged INR 110/-
  • You will take about 1 – 1.5 hours in Baby Taj
  • timad-Ud-Daulah is open on all days from 8 am to 6 pm
  • John Hessing’s tomb is open from 7 am but closed by 5 pm. Try and be there early, you may not be as lucky as us
  • You will want to spend about an hour at the Red Taj Mahal
The Three Taj Mahal of Agra

The Three Taj Mahal in Agra

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A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now - a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.

admin

A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now - a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.

34 Responses

  1. sumit walia says:

    hi

    loved the article , grt choice of title too .. and the pics were a compliment to the article

    rgds

    sumit

  2. Taj Mahal is legendary. Never knew that there are more of them. That is really good information to the travelers 🙂

  3. Verity says:

    I never knew there was more. Thanks for this. The architecture on all them is so different yet the style is so similar. Pinned for later!

  4. Carlo Madrid says:

    I never knew this! This is good to know. Thank you!

    Carlo Madrid
    http://youngofw.com

  5. Ambuj says:

    congratulations for evoking inquisitiveness about 3 Taj Mahals. I had to read this post! This is a really different post and i loved the Red Taj Mahal as much as i adored the one in white!

  6. Neil Alvin says:

    Very interesting read. 🙂 I didn’t know that there were other beautiful burial imprastructure in Acra. I will keep this in my bucketlist.

  7. Indu says:

    Fascinating story on 3 Taj Mahal in Agra. Really a surprise factor. Liked the tale behind all. Impressive post.

  8. Maniparna says:

    We all know about the Great Taj but seldom tourists pay a visit to the second and third one. Wonderful pictures and quite an informative post… 🙂

  9. neha says:

    I have been to only one Taj Mahal, the one in Agra. And honestly speaking, it had such a great impact on my mind that I still remember the whole visit, although I visited as a kid. I remember even the intricate work that is done on the marble walls, the fact that even on a hot day that marble floor soothed the foot so much. I will soon make plan to visit the other two.

  10. Marge says:

    Ooh, I didn’t know there are 3 Taj Mahal, how very interesting. I like how they call the second one, Baby Taj Mahal and the architecture of it is very impressive too. I have never been to India, therefore, I haven’t seen the ultimate Taj Mahal, but if ever I get a chance, I will include these other two. I think they are both gorgeous.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Marge. You must visit the Taj Mahal and include the other 2 in your itinerary :). Ping me when you are visiting, I will be happy to guide you if needed.

  11. Louiela Ann Analista says:

    Nie to meet and know Baby Taj and the third Taj Mahal… 🙂
    The three of them have their own unique designs as you’ve shown us in your photos… hope to see the 3 Taj soon,

    • admin says:

      Thanks Louiela. Yes, they are unique in their own way yet inter-related. I loved that part about them. Hope you see all 3 of them soon 🙂

  12. I never knew that there were 2 more such monuments in the vicinity which has inspirations for the main taj. This is completely new to me. Did you find a great tour guide group there or you knew this through self- research?

    • admin says:

      Self research Kartik and so proud of myself ! In fact this was the first visit of my sister’s new family, so wanted to show them something offbeat. In fact, there are many more Taj like monuments across India – apparently one in Bangalore too ! Thanks for the appreciation. Hope you see them soon 🙂

  13. Swayam says:

    I did not know about John Hessing until I read your post. In the 19th century, Many foreigners used to offer their military services to the highest bidder.

  14. Kirstie says:

    The Taj Mahal is really very iconic. A landmark of the WORLD that must be seen. It’s beautiful and the story behind it is also very lovely. I wish to see it personally someday..

  15. Gel says:

    I have read many posts about Taj Mahal but what makes this one more interesting is that you included other off the beaten path one can visit in Agra, aside from the world class architecture. This is the first time I read about Baby Taj and the insides of it looks pretty amazing.

  16. Ami says:

    I can never get tired of the Taj. There is something that just is so amazing about it, especially at sunrise. The Baby Taj too, is an experience that is lovely. Could not do the John Hessing one the last time but hopefully one of these days soon for as you know, my Agra experience is still not complete 😉 Cheers

  17. FUMIKO says:

    Thank you for good information! I’ve never heard of the other Taji, I’ve never been to Taji itself, though! You describe about the places in detail. So it must be useful when I visit India some day!

  18. Pooja Thakur says:

    Oh Wow! This was something very exciting and also the story on 3 Taj Mahal in Agra was really amazing. Thank you for maintain the curiosity until the end.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Pooja for the comment and appreciation. I am glad the post kept you hooked till the end. Exciting isn’t it the fact that there are 3 Taj Mahals to visit in Agra ?

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