Bibi Ka Maqbara – Story of Poor Man’s Taj Mahal

Bibi Ka Maqbara – Story of Poor Man’s Taj Mahal

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Bibi Ka Maqbara meaning Tomb of the Lady is also known as the Taj of Deccan is situated in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. Bibi Ka Maqbara was built by Azam Shah the eldest son of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the honor of his mother. Being the principal monument of the city it is a significant landmark of Aurangabad.

Azam Shah’s mother Dilras Banu Begum was the first wife, chief consort and most favorite of Aurangzeb. She was a Persian princess, who died sometime after delivering her fifth child.  

Prince Azam Shah ordered the construction of his mother’s tomb in the year 1668 it was finally completed in 1678.

The idea behind making this tomb was to make it as gorgeous as the Taj Mahal. But Aurangzeb had put strict budgetary restrictions. He allocated only 7 lakh rupees for the construction of this mausoleum. As a result, what was supposed to be a replica of great Taj mahal came out to be a cheap imitation of it. Architecturally speaking Bibi Ka Maqbara lacks the grandeur, beauty, and magnificence that Taj Mahal commands.

The reason behind strict budget allocation could be poor financial condition of Mughals at that time. Not too long ago 3.2 Cr rupees were shed from the treasury for the building of the magnificent Taj Mahal on top of it continuous battles with Marathas brought lot of cost on Mughal Empire.

But visiting this monument is worth it because you will see the difference between the two structures and understand the shift of power and change of conditions in the Mughal Empire in both the eras.

Taj Mahal Agra speaks of golden days of Mughal Empire, architectural creativity and prosperity. On the other hand, Bibi ka Maqbara speaks for a downgraded state of the Mughal Empire which is reflected in, loss of architectural creativity, budget restrictions etc. All of this points toward this being the lowest point of the empire.

An annual festival named Bibi ka Maqbara festival is organized in the month of October every year.

Dilras Banu Begum

Dilras Banu Begum was the first wife, chief consort and the favourite wife of Aurangzeb. She was Persian princess born to Viceroy of Gujrat named Shahnawaz Khan. She got married to Aurangzeb in the year 1637.

 Aurangzeb and Dilras Banu Begum had five children together. Her last child was born in October 1657. Dilras died one month after giving birth to her fifth child. Her death was a result of some post-delivery complications (perhaps childbed fever). Dilras Banu Begum was given the title of Rabia Ud Durrani after her death.

Aurangzeb and his son Azam Khas loved Dilras dearly and hence her death caused them to go through a nervous breakdown. The father-son duo took months to recover from the state of shock. Finally, in the year 1668, Azam Shah decided to make a beautiful mausoleum for his mother. 

A French merchant/ Traveller named Jean Baptiste Tavernier tells in his records that he saw 300 wagons loaded with white marbles that were taken for construction of the monument. The marbles were sourced from Jaipur for construction of the tomb.

Bibi Ka Maqbara

Bibi ka Maqbara is a failed attempt of replicating the Taj Mahal. One of the most beautiful monuments Taj Mahal was built at an approximate cost of 3.2 cr and Bibi Ka Maqbara was built for about 6.68 lakh rupees. Monetary restrictions did not allow the use of high-end material and labor hence the result had to be a poor copy of the former.     

Architecture: of Bibi ka Maqbara

The tomb is smaller in size than the Taj Mahal. It is built on a raised platform that has four minarets at its corner. One can access the tomb through a flight of steps. As one enters the main gate and walks further, he/ she will find many fountains in the center that are flanked by lush green gardens.

The mausoleum also incorporates Persian Char Bagh type of garden, where the gardens are divided into four parts representing the gardens of heaven.   

An inscription on the tomb gives us some details about this monument. As per the inscription the cost of building Bibi Ka Maqbara was about 6.6 lakh rupees. It was designed by Ustad Ata Uddin the son of the person who designed Taj Mahal Ustad Ahmad Lahauri and the engineer of this project was Hanspat Rai.

There are four towering minarets one at each corner of the mausoleum. Octagonal shaped lattice screen made of white marble borders the plinth that supports the grave of Dilras Banu Begum.  The mortal remains of Dilras Banu Begum are housed in beautifully crafted marble chambers.

The mausoleum is topped with an onion dome. The marble is used on the lower sections and the upper parts are built with plaster. Only the main dome is made with marble.

As one takes a closer look at the tomb it gets clear that the entire tomb is not made of marble, some parts of it are built using plaster. This difference is evident from lack of shine.

The use of alternate and cheaper material than marble is one of the reasons why it is called Poor Man’s Taj Mahal.


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Also read about the other amazing places of Maharashtra Raigad Fort, Harishchandragad Hill Fort, Daulatabad Fort, Shaniwar Wada

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