Poor Man’s Taj Mahal in Aurangabad

Poor Man’s Taj Mahal in Aurangabad

Aurangabad , the second capital of the Mughals

We were traveling in Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra for five days, and after completing a famed trip to Ajanta Caves and its equally famous cousin Ellora Caves we decided to explore the city and suburbs of Aurangabad. Bibi-Ka-Maqbara was just 10 kilometers from our hotel and we decided to pay a visit. After negotiating through typical Indian city lanes in a crowded neighborhood of Aurangabad city called Begumpur we arrived at the monument. The scene was typical old Indian city streets. Men, cattle, and two-wheelers managed to avoid each other with practiced skill. On arrival at the mausoleum gates, we purchased our entry tickets. The entry tickets are priced at 25 Indian Rupees for Indians and 300 Rupees for foreign nationals. We arrived around 10 O’clock but the entry timing is from 8 AM to 8 PM from Monday to Sunday. The monument is enclosed within a garden divided into four sections confirming to the Mughal architectural pattern. It is surrounded by an enclosure wall with pillared pavilions. 

The Arabic word “Maqbar” meant a mausoleum and is derived from another word called ‘qabr’ which translates into a grave.

A view of the Bibi-Ka-Maqbara in Aurangabad.
Aurangazeb had erected the Bibi-Ka-Maqbara in memory of his deceased wife, Dilras Banu Begum
Bibi Ka Maqbara as a 'Poor Man's Taj Mahal' or 'A mini Taj Mahal'

Poor Man’s Taj Mahal

The Arabic word “Maqbar” meant a mausoleum and is derived from another word called ‘qabr’ which translates into a grave. The Mughal emperor Aurangazeb had erected the Bibi-Ka-Maqbara in memory of his deceased wife, Dilras Banu Begum. Now the Urdu words ‘Bibi” or “Begum” are often confused in India as a wife. The term Bibi in Urdu is used for a woman of nobility, while the word Begum is used as a term to refer to a gentle or kind woman. Aurangabad is 200 km away from the city of Mumbai. The monument has for long been unjustly ridiculed, textually, as a ‘Poor Man’s Taj Mahal’ or ‘A mini Taj Mahal’ and it is my personal opinion that Taj Mahal in Agra has to an extent overshadowed the glory of this beautiful piece of architecture much like Delhi had overshadowed Daulatabad.

Bibi Ka Maqbara was built with marble till the lower part of the wall
The mausoleum was built with marble till the lower part of the wall
Bibi-Ka-Maqbara was built with marble till the lower part of the wall

Daulatabad was briefly positioned as the capital of the Delhi Sultanate and had almost managed to make itself as the administrative capital of India. Perhaps had it been the case, the whole contemporary political structure of India would have been a different story altogether.

The mausoleum was built with marble till the lower part of the wall. Basalt was used beyond this level till it reached the dome. The dome is itself made of marble. The finely polished basalt is decorated with stucco, although now occasional patched of stucco designs are crumbling.

Bibi-Ka-Maqbara marble brought from Rajasthan
The tomb was constructed by the use of marble brought from the mines of Jaipur in Rajasthan

While I may have credited the construction of the monument to Emperor Aurangazeb, historians debate on the ownership. Some have credited Aurangazeb with its creation while others have maintained that his son, Mohammed Azam Shah, as the creator in memory of his mother. I am going to give Emperor Aurangazeb the credit, as in either case, he was the one who financially commissioned it.

Emperor Aurangazeb constructed Bibi-Ka-Maqbara

While I may have credited the construction of the monument to Emperor Aurangazeb, historians debate on the ownership. Some have credited Aurangazeb with its creation while others have maintained that his son, Mohammed Azam Shah, as the creator in memory of his mother. I am going to give Emperor Aurangazeb the credit, as in either case, he was the one who financially commissioned it.

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Monsieur de Thevenlot, a French traveler, described the monument ‘King Aurangazeb built a lovely mosque for his first wife whom he dearly loved and who died in this town. The mosque was covered with domes and minarets,’ While many of us marvel at such monuments now after so many years, we sometimes miss the fact such creativity is borne out of a person’s enormous love for someone.

The garden which forms an integral part of this monument is in sync with geometric designs developed in Persia and Turkistan.

Comparison of Bibi-Ka-Maqbara to the Taj Mahal

While the Taj Mahal’s grace can be attributed to its location on the banks of the Yamuna River, the beauty of the maqbara in Aurangabad is enhanced by the verdant green hills that form a picturesque backdrop. The garden which forms an integral part of this monument is in sync with geometric designs developed in Persia and Turkistan. The garden now although disintegrated a bit now due to lack of maintenance or perhaps we arrived early before the start of the tourist season, if taken back into times bygone, must have been lush green lawns lined with trees. The grace of its youthful days is still vehement in its aura.

The beauty of the maqbara in Aurangabad is enhanced by the verdant green hills that form a picturesque backdrop.
The beauty of the maqbara in Aurangabad is enhanced by the verdant green hills that form a picturesque backdrop.

Another interesting fact is the streaks engineering brilliance, so noticeably prevalent in those days. This aspect finds its best usage in the application of water sources. The water required for the upkeep of the garden is supplied through underground water channels from the canals nearby and the huge tank located in the premises of the monument.  Unfortunately, over time the status of these water devices has degraded and the lime pipes are broken at different places.

Continuing my romance with doors, the wooden door at the entrance of Bibi-Ka-Maqbara is an interesting piece with a metal plate. This plate had geometric designs accompanied by star-shaped motifs and tiny rosettes.

the Taj Mahal and the Bibi –Ka-Maqbara similarity

While it is an unnecessary exercise to compare two monuments, in this case the Taj Mahal and the Bibi –Ka-Maqbara, the history of the creators, the prevailing political and cultural conditions formulated the design and architecture of these monuments. Bibi-Ka-Maqbara as an architectural memoir has its independent charm, grace, and story. I have always made it a habit to enter a historical monument with empty thoughts and minimum expectations. This helps me walk out with a new learning and a satisfied human being. The idea is to unwrap yourself from fed certainty to a more enlightened human being by see, touch, and feel the experience.

Bibi – Ka – Maqbara , unless you are having an extremely bad day, will never fail to impress you as a tourist. As a dilettante of historical monuments it will give you plenty of fodder to qualm about the lack of resources on this piece of history.

Bibi-Ka-Maqbara as an architectural memoir has its own independent charm, grace and story
Bibi-Ka-Maqbara as an architectural memoir has its own independent charm, grace and story

Read the post on a wilderness trip in Pench National Park

Published by Bearded Traveling Soul

My name is Amitabh Sarma and I am a storyteller. People fondly call me the “traveling pundit”; I humbly present myself as the “bearded traveling soul”. I appreciate you taking some time to read my experiences and in case you would like to stay connected, please do get in touch through my social media profiles. Stay Blessed!

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