Instead of taking a rickshaw or taxi, I decide to ask my guesthouse for a bike, and one of the employees is willing to rent out his old bicycle to me for the afternoon. The ride from the Taj Ganj area past the Red Fort and further north to Itimad-ud-Daulah turns out to be a thrilling one: traffic coming from everywhere, dogs, camels, goats, cows and buffaloes criss-crossing the streets already full with pedestrians, motorbikes, rickshaws, bicycles and cars of which pretty few observe the traffic rules. After crossing the bridge over the Yamuna river, I soon find my destination for the afternoon on my left: the white mausoleum Itimad-ud-Daulah. It is immediately clear why it is dubbed the Baby Taj: just like its big sister further south, it has a symmetrical design of white marble, four towers on all corners, and a dome in the middle.
Fortunately, it does not attract crowds like the Taj Mahal, and when I enter the garden through the red stone main gate, there are only a few Indian families around. Every step I take towards the building, makes it more beautiful. What seems to be a white building, turns out to have walls with delicate decorations made with pietra dura, inlaid semi-precious stones, depicting flowers, vases, trees and wine bottles. I first walk around the red stone platform on which the mausoleum is built, and cross the garden to the building on the river side, which allows views across the Yamuna river. Kids below wave at me, and behind me, one of the Indian families walks in, taking pictures of each other. This is a great spot to be, in the dark, with views of the river, the garden, and of course, a frontal view of the precious mausoleum. The chaos of the traffic seems very far away now. I cannot resist the temptation to further explore the mausoleum, and walk back. The families sitting around turn out very open, and I talk to all of them, taking their pictures on request. A big pleasure: they all have bright coloured clothes, beautiful faces, but unfortunately, as soon as I point my camera, their big smiles and white teeth turn into a serious stare.
After leaving my shoes below the platform of the Itimad-ud-Daulah mausoleum, I walk up, and finally get a closer look of the walls. The decorations are indeed elaborate, and I cannot even imagine how much work how many men must have had to make them all. This is the first Mughal structure made entirely of marble, where normally they would be constructed with red sandstone. Interestingly, Itimad-ud-Daulah was born a pauper, called Mirza Ghiyas-ud-din, in Persia, and ended up being the chief minister, or Wazir, of emperor Jahangir. He was then given the name Itimad-ud-Daulah, which means pillar of the state, while Jahangir married his daughter Noor Jahan. It was her order to have this mausoleum built for her father, which was completed in 1628. Mumtaz Mahal, his granddaugher, was the wife of Shah Jahan, who commissioned the building of the Taj Mahal later in that century. I enter the mausoleum, which has delicate jali screens, carved marble windows. Apart from the tombs of Itimad-ud-Daulah and his wife, there are more tombs in marble around the mausoleum. The ceilings, the walls, the floors: every single detail is delicately worked out and dazzling to look at. I keep on walking around, discovering more every turn I take. At the end of my visit, I walk to one corner of the Char Bagh, or four quartered garden, for a different corner view of the mausoleum, before I get back to reality and cycle away from the Baby Taj.
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