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The Art and Architecture of Mughal India

The Tomb of I`timad ud-Daula at Agra: Architecture, Decoration and Inscriptional program

Master of Arts Thesis by Aleksandar Stefanovic Mentored by Prof Dr Ebba Koch and Dr Jelena Erdeljan

University of Belgrade Belgrade, May 2012

The Content ____________________


I INTRODUCTION ...... p. 6

II BODY of WORK .... p. 15 1. Historical introduction .................................................................................................................. p. 15 - Mughal tomb garden & Eight gardens of paradise .. p. 15 - Mughal court & Persian affairs: Jahangir, Nur Jahan, Itimad ud-Daula .... p. 21 2. The Tomb - Architecture & Decoration ........ p.27 - Family mausoleum ..... p. 27 - Exterior and interior tomb features ... p. 33 - Floral and abstract decoration Interaction between earthly and otherworldly symbols . p. 46 3. Inscriptions - Interpretation .. p. 61 - Mere decoration or Divine feature? .. p. 61 - Interaction between the inscriptions and the architectural/decorative features .. p. 69 - The date controversy . p. 82 - Surahs - Tafsir (Exegesis) ... p. 88

III CONCLUSION - Itimad ud-Daula of the Seen & the Unseen ...... p. 96




Acknowledgements ____________________

I hereby would like to express my profound gratitude to the ones who helped me make my way to the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula, and back during the subsequent process of my contemplations, research and conceiving the etheric, the paradisiacal, the unspoken vocabulary of this remarkable Mughal monument:

To Professor Dr Jelena Erdeljan, my original mentor, for recognizing the passion for Islamic art and architecture inside me as a young student and for encouraging the conquests of my Oriental spirit so far. To the International Council of Cultural Relations New Delh (Mrs Neeru Misra), Indian Embassy in Belgrade (Her Exellency the ambassador Mrs Nengcha Lhouvum) and Zoran Djindjic Foundation in Belgrade (Mrs Ruzica Djindjic) for supporting my scholarly stay in India and for recognizing its importance in a view of my future academic development. To Dr B.R. Mani (add.Director General and National Spokesman) and Dr Siddiqi (former Joint Director) of the Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi, to whom I am most grateful and endebted for putting their trust in me and kindly granting the requisite permission to approach and study the monument of the Indian national heritage, the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula in Agra. Additionally, to R.K. Sukla the foreman and the curatorial and technical staff of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula, for sharing my excitement in discovering the tomb, and for all the kindness and efforts in helping me fight the monsoon heat while completing the photo documentation at the tomb site. To Iman Habashi, Bashar Al-Hadla and Dragana Djordjevic, the lecturers at the Department of Oriental Philology of the University of Belgrade for being a substantial support in establishing the original date of the tomb construction. To Eliezer Papo, the rabbi of Sarajevo and professor of Hebrew literature of the Ben Gurion University of the Negev for being the enduring light above my Tafsir readings. A special mention for the Reverend John Philip Warner of the St Magnus-the-Martyr London, Mladen Ostojic, Queen Mary University of London, Amela Veledar, University of Vienna, Andrea Saula and Aleksandra Tekijaski, University of Utrecht. Eventually, thanks be to Professor Dr Ebba Koch of the University of Vienna, my teacher and my driving force, for introducing me to the Mughals, for selflessly sharing the knowledge and miracle of Mughal architecture with me and for being ever patient with my inquiries and contemplations. And so thanks be to the Mughals for choosing me. 4

The Tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg Tehrani entitled Itimad ud-Daula, 1629/30 Pl.1

I Introduction ____________________ In July 2009 I approached Professor Ebba Koch from Vienna, expressing my interest in the studies of Mughal Empire, particularly in the field of Mughal architecture. I had not known of Professor Koch and her work until I read her ground-breaking study about the Taj Mahal mausoleum. After completing my two Bachelor of Arts, first in Art History with a thesis on The Islamic Monuments of Cairo in 2005, and second in Arabic Language and Literature in 2009 at the University of Belgrade, I kept on reading and discovering the inspiring field of Islamic architecture. After reading Professor Kochs encaptivating study about famed Mughal shrine, I found Mughals and their art and architecture a crown jewel of Islamic art and architecture. Moreover, I have found this, and it will remain a great source of inspiration for my future work. Professor Koch introduced me to the Tomb of the Itimad ud-Daula and drew my attention to the negligent scientific treatment of this Mughal monument of outstanding and unsurpassing beauty. Although the tomb represents an immediate forerunner to the Taj Mahal, it has been undeservedly overshadowed by its glorious neighborhood ever since. The tomb was dedicated to the high Iranian dignitary and Mughal courtier of the highest ranks in the empire, the minister of Treasury and prime minister of the State, Mirza Ghiyas Beg Tehrani entitled Itimad ud-Daula. The tomb belongs to the domeless class of the Mughal sepulchral architecture and famously introduces a whole register of innovations such as adjoined towers and profuse and elaborate decorative techniques unseen in Islamic India at that time. This tomb has been a keystone of the transitional phase of colour and design (from red sandstone to white marble) of the Mughal architecture, a link between Akbari building style of personality architecture1 and Shahjahani style of architectural aestheticism2. Built during the reign of Jahangir, fourth of the six Mughal emperors who ascended to the Mughal throne, this small and delicate masterpiece represents the pioneer example of the graceful use of white marble, rare and semiprecious stones, as well as vibrant painting, stucco and mosaic work in the Mughal architecture. Nevertheless, considering the tomb as the first Mughal structure ever to be built in marble is erroneous,

1 2

History of Mughal architecture, vol. 2, Akbar (1556-1605): The Age of Personality Architecture (New Delhi, 1985) History of Mughal architecture, vol. 4, pt 1, The Age of Architectural Aestheticism, Shah Jehan 1628-1658 AD (New Delhi 2005)

since the marble tomb-shrine of Sufi sheikh Salim Chishti was built beforehand, in 1580-81, by Akbar, Jahangirs father. Even after the erecting of this Sufi shrine within the royal city of Fatehpur Sikri, the top tier of the Akbars tomb was built entirely in marble just as well. But what is it that does make the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula standing as a pioneer and far beyond its contemporaries? It is its overwhelming decoration programme: its polychrome profuse ornamentation consisting of intricate florals, stylized arabesques, abstract geometrical designs, mosaic techniques, exquisite faade carving - both incised and bas-relief resembling finest lace embroidery work, encrowned with lavish ornamentation in semi precious and rare stones inlay. All these were mostly inspired by Iranian plant studies and their motifs of rich flora and fauna, but also by Hindu heritage. This is what made this structure essentially distinct from any other Mughal monument of that time, its finest visual blend of two strong visual cultures unified into an outstanding and unique monumental expression. Above all, it was the Mughal introduction of the artisitic skill called pietra dura (Ital. solid stone), an intricate technique of precise inlay of rare and semi-precious stones into the surface of white marble, that made this tomb outstanding and also a key monument of Mughal architecture. In this inlay art, finished slices of semi-precious or rare stones were delicately placed in specially fitted spaces in marble faade plates according to perfectly composed naturalistic and abstract decoration patterns, thus making the monument as if it was covered with some dazzling bejewelled ivory carpet. Nevertheless, it was something else about the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula that Professor Koch drew my attention to; delicate and almost hidden to the eyes of average viewer standing before this graceful tomb, there is a monumental Koranic inscription carved in two bands within the tombs decoration programme. Professor Koch revealed that, until nowadays, no one had paid attention to this inscription nor executed the reading/interpreting of the tombs monumental inscription in its full on the basis of scientific principles of epigraphy as well as Islamic calligraphy and Islamic inscriptions. Although the inscriptions make a substantial part of the tombs outstanding decoration programme, they were left neglected and unstudied ever since. So far, only one scholar in the world, Professor R. Nath, treated the inscription, yet quite briefly and merely in addition to his article in the survey of Jahangiri architecture3. Moreover, Professor Begley and Professor Desai had taken the pioneer efforts in collecting and interpreting the imposing Taj Mahal Koranic inscriptional programme, and several other monumental inscriptional programmes of the Mughal Empire. Yet they completely ignored the existence of the

History of Mughal architecture, vol. 3, The Transitional Phase of Colour and Design: Jehangir 1605-1658 AD, (New Delhi 1994), 418-421p.

inscriptional programme of the Tomb of Itimad ud-Daula, although it was executed less than a decade before the completion of the Taj Mahal inscriptions. Whatever the reason for this omission, whether it was due to the fact that Itimad ud-Daula was not a royal Mughal tomb or some other factors, I have tried and shall be observing this important question further in my present work. In addition to this issue, I shall also discuss in particular the controversy upon the year of construction of the tomb and challenge the current interpretation of the historical inscription on the tomb bearing the year of construction, while elaborating my own interpretation. Based on my skills and education in Islamic art and Arabic, Professor Koch and I agreed that, as a subject for my Master of Arts programme The Tomb of I`timad ud-Daula: Architecture, Decoration and Inscriptional program at the University of Belgrade, under her guidance I would take on this pioneer task and shed more light on this monument. I shall address the key features of the tomb which emerged during my field work at the tomb site, but my main focus remains on studying its epigraphic programme. Although the tombs inscription constitutes the centerpiece of this Master of Arts thesis, I find addressing these key questions such as construction date controversy, South wall features and question of tomb patronship/dedication being of equal importance in contributing to our knowledge in Mughal architecture The Basic research questions of my present study concern defining the tombs inscriptional programme, both religious and historic as well as defining its specific features of architectural and decorative programme I discovered at the tomb site. By this I consider also examining here the process of making the photo-documentation at the tomb site, my prior systematic preparation based on reading the relevant literature, tutorials with Professor Koch in Vienna as well as with other professors, Islamic theologians and scholars in Delhi and the Balkans. Firstly, I shall study the relation between floral and abstract decoration patterns, both inside and outside the tomb and in the overall outlook of the building. Secondly, I shall observe how the decoration pattern and inscriptions feature together on the walls and in which material and style the calligraphy bas-relief is done. A special emphasis will be put on the content of selected Surahs and what would be their meaning, earthly and otherworldly, interpreted separately and together. Thirdly, I shall present my own interpretation of the tomb inscriptional programme, taking into consideration who was its creator, who was the real patron, why the existing selection of the inscriptions was placed at the monument and eventually what would be the inscription message to the reader and buried dignitaries.

As we already know, the inscriptions of Islamic buildings were far beyond just a mere decoration. Although sometimes very intricately executed and difficult to read and understand, they were always meaningful and contemplative, beyond just a mere decoration. They were meant to give a specific meaning to a building and its particular programme was always a message, both visual and religious, but to those able to read these writings. In other words, the inscriptions were meant to communicate in both religious and visual terms with the viewer. Following my present research, I reviewed numerous studies dedicated to the historical, religious and aesthetic significance of Islamic inscriptions and Islamic calligraphy over the past few years. Through my readings, I have studied both general and specific examples of the imperial mausoleums and mosques of the Mughal empire. I have been building my own study drifting between assumptions and assessments, both mine and the ones made by distinguished scholars whose studies I had read in order to approach the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula. They were helping me answer some of the key questions of my own research. My questions mainly addressed these scholars studies, (either were they pioneer studies or studies later contributing to the subject). In this regard, I have particularly appreciated studies on Islamic inscriptions by Sheila Blair4 and Erica C. Dodd5 on how to approach and understand inscriptional programmes at Islamic monuments, as well as the studies on the inscriptional programme of the Taj Mahal by Wayne Begley and Ziauddin Desai6. When it comes to the essential learning about the Mughal tomb, its features and lawfulness, I was mostly guided and directed by Professor Koch herself and her studies78 as well as Michael Brands9 excellent Muqarnas article on imperial Mughal tomb architecture. Yet this was not a full survey of the existent research literature. Although the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula is said to be a rather important transitional mark in Mughal architecture where Mughals abandoned usual red/white imperial pattern cladding for distinguished sanctifying whiteness of Rajastani marble, the tomb was not treated sufficiently in scholarly terms of study and research. Any study of this graceful tomb so far hasnt done any justice to it yet. In other words, any scholarly mention of it would usually terminate as a complementing survey, a chapter contributing to the studies of other more appreciated and acknowledged Mughal monuments (as in Koch E, Asher C, Smith E.W, Brown P, Nath R.), inaccurately treated (as in Okada A, Danby M.) or without any mention at all (as in Begley W, Desai Z.). As if the tomb was not significant enough for the
4 5

BLAIR, Sheila, 1998, Islamic Inscriptions, Edinburgh University Press DODD C. Erica, 1969, The Image of the Word, Notes on the Religious Iconography of Islam, Berytus 18, p35-79 6 BEGLEY E. Wayne./DESAI A. Ziaoudin, 1989, Taj Mahal: The Illumined Tomb: An anthology of Seventeenth-Century Mughal and European Documentary Sources, Cambridge 7 KOCH Ebba, 1991, Mughal Architecture, Prestel-Verlag, Munich 8 KOCH Ebba, 2006, The Complete Taj Mahal, Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 9 BRAND Michael, 1993, Orthodoxy, Innovation and Revival: Considerations of the Past in Imperial Mughal Tomb Architecture, Muqarnas X, 323-34

study in its own right, or even not being in the same scale with other existing Mughal monuments. In most of the relevant literature, the material about the almost forgotten tomb in Agra, albeit not exhaustive, proved to be useful as a general introduction to the tomb and for me to conduct a study of it. Thus, for a start, I settled with the available literature, although I was aware of the limitations emanating from the lack or inaccurateness of official records of the monuments. Since it was difficult to learn more profoundly about the tomb, its inscriptional programme and its features for my study, I went to India in July 2010 to visit the tomb site. While creating the draft for my field work, the most important part was the plan of the systematic taking of the photo-documentation at the tomb site. In this regard, the Begley10 and the Desai11 pioneer studies on the monumental inscriptional programmes of the Taj Mahal and three imperial mosques were surely the best examples to rely on at the initial moment. Being aware of the drawback of these scholars work, that is, the fact that they completely ignored the inscriptional programme of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula - even if it was immediately built prior to the construction of Taj Mahal it helped me approach my own task and understand the use and meaning of the inscriptions on Mughal tombs, ie. mosques. Begley and Desai collected and published for the first time since the seventeenth century the complete photo-documentation of the monumental Koranic inscriptions of the Taj Mahal. In their study, according to the photographs taken, two scholars presented in order different parts of the inscriptional programme as a whole and unique programme through historic and profound religious interpretation. Apart from the historical inscriptions, the Taj Mahal inscriptional programme was mostly composed of carefully selected Koranic passages with deep eschatological meaning. The two scholars thus presented a ground-breaking study consisting of photo-documentation and complete translations of all the Koranic inscriptions on the tomb. However, in my opinion, although the photographs of Taj Mahal inscriptions were taken in whole, they still seem to be far from being successfully documented, photographed and presented. Yet, their study was valuable and important in the process of building my knowledge and very welcome as an introduction to the subject of my field work. In addition to this, bearing in mind that my impressions should not be taken either critical or judgmental over Begley/Desai studies, I allow myself to formulate a critical view of the mentioned literature I used. In particular, I feel the importance to highlight the poor quality of the presentation in the photography lay out (the same


BEGLEY E. Wayne, 1981, The Symbolic Role of Calligraphy on Three Imperial Mosques of Shah Jahan, Kaladarsana: American Studies in the Art of India, ed. by John Williams, American Institute of Indian Studies, New Delhi 11 BEGLEY E. Wayne/DESAI A. Ziaoudin, Taj Mahal: The Illumined Tomb


applies to the published presentation, ie. book itself) and, even more importantly, issues to do with the translation of the highly delicate religious inscriptional programme. In my critical view of literature I should perhaps firstly clarify in brief my observations regarding the Taj Mahal inscriptions at the mausoleum site and secondly, the inscriptions photography lay out in Begley/Desai study. The photo-documentation section taken from all eight surrounding arches in the tomb interior was done from quite an inconvenient angle, and the photographs were thus left rather in an unreadable state and highly intricate for the reader's eye. I base my observation upon the assumption that either skilled scholar or admirer standing before the Taj interested either in Mughal art and architecture or Islamic inscriptions (having skills in Arabic or not) would probably read the imposing and beautiful Taj inscriptions not just in its full, but also at its best. By looking carefully at the epigraphic photo-documentation of the tomb interior, it is obvious that the issue had nothing to do with the source of light, but rather with the way the photographs had been taken. Therefore, I could not help but wonder if photographs of the other inscriptional sections of the interior, namely the ones in the dome drum had been taken one at a time (or one per shot) then why the same had not been done with the inscriptions of eight arches of the tomb interior. In these terms, even if we do settle with the photodocumentation of the Taj interior inscriptions given as they are, the English translation/interpretation of the Holy Koranic verses of this imposing epigraphic programme is far from being satisfying for interpreting and understanding one of the most aethereal decorations on Earth. More precisely put, the present Begley/Desai translation of the Taj Mahal Koranic verses is not doing justice to its Muslim reader (a subject highly unlikely to be negligible here), since all Koranic translations provided in the world outside the Islamic lands so far are nothing but a mere re-interpretation of the holy word of Koran and not the Holy Koran itself. That is, I am firm in my conclusion that Begley/Desai inscriptions study (translations) most definitely isnt the original word of the Revelation of the Holy Koran presented in Tajs inscriptional programme in situ. And if we ever settle with the English translation and neglect the key importance of Arabic script, wouldnt that be the same as if we had copies of the Koran in Western world without the Arabic chapters, or even, as if we played the Koran on a CD device in English instead of attending prayers in a mosque? I am also being firm in my opinion that religious inscriptions embracing each corner of the monument whose significance surpasses time, ages, visual cultures, both this world and one beyond, simply cannot have a universal translation. I believe English language cannot be the only language revealing (bearing) the messages encrypted into the surface of this timeless shrine. I am raising these questions not quite 11

for the sake of photography aesthetics or the quality of the Taj Mahal epigraphic photo-documentation, but rather more for the sake of present (like myself) and future readers in Arabic and Islamic epigraphy whose attention should not be either disabled or withheld by drawbacks of this kind. With regards to this matter, if I was given the privilege in the future to study the Tajs inscriptions myself, I would approach them with the utmost attention to the eye and visual concern as I did in my present study of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula. Thus, meeting both the visual and reading expectations of the observer, whether one had prior religious or historic knowledge, would result in fuller understanding of the Tajs inscriptions. So when it comes to the reading of the inscriptional programme of Itimad ud-Daula tomb in my present study, it will focus on precisely taken and systematically presented photo-documentation, composed of one inscription panel per photograph, followed by both standard Arabic transcription and English translation. Therefore, complete photographic documentation of the two bands program of Koranic inscriptions on the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula will be assembled here for the first time and followed by adequate transcriptions and translations displayed on same pages. My methodology in approaching this task and writing this present study was based on the knowledge and skills that I gained from the range of disciplines like Art history, Arabic, History, Genealogy, Botany, calligraphy, also Koran and other religious texts like traditional Islamic exegesis Tafsir. Approaching and studying a monument of the Mughal architecture considers knowing and complementing these disciplines, for each one of them is relevant and inevitable in closer discovering, determining and understanding arguably the richest cultural heritage among the Muslim royal dynasties. During my readings (particularly of Begley/Desai study), I was highly surprised to learn about the striking congruence between the inscriptional programme of Itimad ud-Daula and that of Taj Mahal. Actually few Koranic chapters repeat in the inscriptional programmes of both tombs. Chapters No.48 al-Fath (the Victory) and No.67 Al-Mulk (the Dominion) were selected for religious inscriptions which decorated the same architectural elements of both tombs: Chapter al-Mulk - inside of the Taj dome drum and inside of the Itimad ud-Daula super structure respectively; Chapter al-Fath unfolds along the arches of the Tajs tomb interior and outside all four walls of the Itimad ud-Daula). Truth be told, it is not possible to say precisely whether the selection of Koranic passages on the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula (completed in 1629/30, ie. just few years before the Taj Mahal construction began) may have influenced that of the Taj Mahal. Nevertheless, my comparative reading of the inscriptional programmes of these two visually closely related tombs might lead us to that conclusion. However, some Taj Mahal figures may serve us well here, therefore I shall address this matter in detail later in my inscription chapter.


In the forthcoming chapters I shall try focusing solely on the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula and its features, without making any necessary comparisons either to precedent or succeeding Mughal tombs. Observing and studying the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula from the immediate proximity was incomparable to any book I have ever read on Islamic architecture so far. Well preserved and well conditioned, the tomb unfolded to me with its beaming glow and beauty as if it was built not ages ago, but just a while ago. Having been long enough under layers of time, understatement and oblivion, the monument and the garden sought to recapture an admirers eye and be rediscovered in the present. Above all, the decoration of the tomb, its principal and most beautiful feature, was hiding something even more delicate; immaculate white marble bands of monumental Koranic inscription flowing over the whole body of the tomb. Looking pure and sanctifying like a halo embracing the tomb, the inscription captivated me from the first moment. From then on, I realized that any euphemisms, resemblances and comparisons e.g. Baby Taj, Little Taj, draft for Taj Mahal, jewel casket, etc. would simply not do justice to this outstanding monument completed at the very dawn of rising of the mythic Illumined tomb12. I had opened the royal Agra jewel box and found the forgotten gemstone of the Itimad ud-Daula.


BEGLEY W.E./DESAI Z.A, op. cit.


The Earth was like a marble and I was a giant on it Transglobal Underground


I Body of Work ____________________

1. Historical introduction

Mughal tomb garden and Eight gardens of paradise

Mughal imperial tomb is the landmark of the dynastic architecture of the Mughals and yet controversial than any other Mughal architectural type. No other region in the world before had so many mausoleums both in succession and in monumental scale. Nevertheless, Mughals never constructed one and unique funerary monument in order to create a single dynastic mausoleum of the most impressive and lasting kind. Also, neither any of emperors were even buried in one same city. There were six of Mughal emperors and also six completely different imperial graves and tombs - Babur's in Kabul, Humayun's in Delhi, Akbar's at Sikandra, Jahangir's at Lahore, Shah Jahan's in Agra, and Aurangzeb's near Aurangabad. Although the age of the Mughals was beyond any other rule in Islamic world and considered a period of state expansion and the highest achievements in art and architecture, the features of royal tomb remained undefined in terms what constituted an appropriate Mughal imperial tomb. Every Mughal emperor had the separate tomb built for himself standing in the class of its own, each one distinguished from another in construction, design and beauty. Burial and entombment in Mughal empire were ever since determined by different social and historical factors, above all: the religion, the ancestry and the empire. Yet the main gap in mausoleum development was between Islamic orthodoxy on one hand and imperial practice on the other. When it comes to Islamic ritual of burial, according to Koran, nothing more is being required than a simple uncovered grave purified by rain as symbol of humility; however, in Hindu tradition dead bodies are considered impure, so structure, over a body is also impure. Thus, the body should be cremated as soon as one passed away and their ashes delivered to the purifying force of the holy river. Yet Mughal imperial tomb continued its structural development influenced also by Muslim saints' tombs, structures often covered and monumental and thus became an alternative model for royal burial sites. In their entombment practices, Mughals were particularly guided by two traditions of funerary architecture which were actually parts of their heritage: one through their Timurid ancestry and the other through their conquest i.e. Delhi Sultanate. Speaking of their ancestry, Timur, his sons and grandsons were all buried (starting from 1405) in a Samarqand mausoleum known as the Gur-i-Amir 15

which thus became a dynastic mausoleum. This structure, a modified octagon with a projecting portal with its double dome over the top was a clear statement in contributing to what tomorrow will be the grand dynastic mausoleum of then rising Mughal empire. However, from their Indian tradition Mughals inherited a true architectural heritage through craftmanship and skills in long-term building of monuments. According to Michael Brand and his outstanding essay on imperial Mughal tomb architecture13 Mughal tomb faces two major issues through its development. The first is that after almost a century Mughal dynasty was established, there was still no consensus of an appropriate imperial tomb. The second issue is that the patronage, design and construction of every Mughal imperial tomb were often influenced by the crisis and turmoils of dynastic rebellion. This is how we have got today four imposing mausoleums (of six existing Mughal emperors), each one of them built in its own terms of construction, design and beauty. Yet, a large domed mausoleum (mostly located by the river) set together with formal square garden in a joint plan called char bagh where the centre of a large garden is occupied with monumental tomb will establish a future model for the Mughal funerary garden, i.e. Mughal funerary architecture. Char bagh dates from Achaemenid Persia and in India it became closely identified with the concept of the Mughal imperial mausoleum. Chag bagh is Persian for four gardens, a model successfully introduced in the Mughal funerary architecture. There are over one hundred and twenty references to the Garden in the Koran, the phrase most commonly used being jannat al firdaws, meaning garden (alJannat, )of paradise (al-Firdaws) or furthermore, The highest level of Paradise). The amount of epithets used with jannat indicates a place not only everpeaceful and comforting, but also a sheltered and safe retreat (al-Khalwa). On one level this evokes the literal image of water (channels) flowing under the pathways in order to irrigate the flowerbeds. Yet the more profound level this suggests the nurturing of the garden within by the ever-flowing waters of the spirit which purify the soul. Indeed, water is symbolic of the soul in many sacred traditions, reflecting the souls ability to renew itself while remaining true to its source. The lines among the most often used in Kuran (over thirty times) are the ones of Sura No2 al Baqara ( ,) the longest Sura of Koran:

Gardens underneath which rivers flow,

13 14

BRAND, Michael, Orthodoxy, Innovation, and Revival - Considerations of the Past in Imperial Mughal Tomb Architecture Holy Koran, 2:25


The most detailed account of the Gardens of Paradise in the Quran is in Sura 55 ar-Rahman, The

Almerciful ( .) Four gardens are described, divided into two pairs. The lowest pair are the
Garden of the Soul and the Garden of the Heart, reserved for the Righteous and the higher pair are the Garden of the Spirit and the Garden of the Essence, reserved for the Foremost. Perhaps the most beautiful lines saying the about the Islamic garden say about a great dome of mother-pearl resting on four corner pillars on which are written the four elements of the Basmala with four rivers flowing from the centre, one of water, one of milk, one of honey and one of wine:

Here is a Garden of the Paradise which the righteous are promised: in it are rivers of water incorruptible; rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; rivers of wine, a joy to those who drink; and rivers of honey purified. In it there are for them all kinds of fruits; and Grace from their Lord.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that four-fold form of the Islamic Garden is not just a harmonious and beautiful design, but incorporates a complex and profound meaning asking for more profound studies separated from my present one. As we know, the classic char bagh plan was divided into four plots, sometimes into four further plots, a composition of most garden patterns. Light and water of the garden were constant metaphors - the channels of water from the central fountain or pool were constructed so that the pool was always overflowing, like the eternally-flowing waters in the Paradise garden. These flows of water, usually making cardinal axis in garden, were often attributed to the holy rivers of ancient

Holy Koran, 47:15


world (Indes, Ganges, Euphrat and Nile) or paradisiacal potions (wine, water, milk, and honey). Garden was usually surrounded by high walls with gateways to the gardens, usually one in the centre of each wall. The gateway is said to be associated with the mihrab, the arched niche that indicates the Qibla (the direction of Mecca) in the wall of a mosque. One of the fundamental meanings of both the gateway and the mihrab is that they represent the entrance to the celestial world, the heavenly gardens obviously. Now here are the original plans of the early development of the char bagh garden in Persia.

Fig. 1a

Fig. 1b

Fig. 1c

a / Original plan of char bagh with four channels running from fountain in the centre to channels around the four gardens linked by bridges b / Char bagh with only one water channel, tree lined paths and four little ponds surrounding the fountain in the centre c / Char bagh with paths and central pond with no water channels

According to Professor Kochs study on the Taj Mahal the riverfront gardens of Agra16 there were three types of Mughal char bagh: ideal garden (char bagh), terrace garden and waterfront garden. Ideal form of Mughal garden is square in form, divided into four equal square parts with walkways in cross-axis. In the centre of the garden there is always a structure set - usually a garden pavilion, but more often a tomb. The composition is surrounded by a wall from all sides with corner towers. This garden form with a centrally placed building became the best known figure of Mughal funerary garden in its most monumental and perfectly planned expression. Terrace Mughal garden was developed in Kabul and Kashmir after the Central Asian concept of a garden located on the local landscape slopes. The main structures were usually erected on the terraces along a main water channel which actually formed a central axis. The separated terraces may have the original four-fold form, just as in the imperial gardens in Kashmir, founded by Shah Jahan in 1620.


KOCH Ebba, The Complete Taj Mahal, p.24


Mughal waterfront garden was created by the Mughals due to the authentic Indo-gangetic landscape. There the garden structures were not centrally positioned as in the classic char bagh, but on the one side of the garden, on an oblong terrace running along the riverfront. The Taj Mahal and its riverfront garden expresses this garden type in its most remarkable form. The concept of Eight paradises inspired the creation of the Timurid architectural nine-fold plan namely the ground floor design multiplied four times within the overall plan, in order to achieve monumentality and intensify paradisiacal symbolism. In Islamic architecture the nine-fold plan made an early appearance in the Umayyad period, c. 700-750 AD and further was developed in Safavid Persia. Therefore it is also known in Persian as Hasht bihisht. Through Persian Timurid influence plan became the pattern for all monumental Mughal mausoleums, in particular centrally planned nine-fold building where the plan is divided into eight chambers surrounding a central room17. The term Hasht bihisht was also known in Sufi mysticism as the Nine-fold ascent, ie. levels of migration on the path to God.18 These eight forehall chambers surrounding the main hall in the centre represent the eight levels of paradise for Muslims and a central ninth chamber representing the Sun. This might suggest us the key to the understanding of the Mughal interpretation of an emperor as the earthly embodiment of the Sun. Often these structures were topped with chattris, small pillared pavilions at each corner. The axial forehalls are expressed by large vaulted niches or by pillared verandahs, called iwans by the Mughals. Usually a cenotaph marks the grave in the lower chamber, while the similar cenotaph in the central hall above has only symbolic feature. Now this is exactly how the plan of the cenotaphs was laid out in the tomb of the Itimad ud-Daula in Agra. The structure has three tomb chambers built one above another:

1. the sealed crypt being the original burial place of the Persian dignitary and his consort 2. the ground floor central chamber as a part of hasht bihisht nine-fold plan 3. and the superstructure chamber executed as a delicate screened pavilion in white marble

Ninefold plan also finds particular resonance in the Indian mandalas, the cosmic maps of Hinduism and Buddhism as well. In addition to this, it is also familiar to us that, according to Islamic tradition, Paradise has seven or eight levels, and heaven has nine levels. I shall return to this matter in the following chapter which discusses the link between text and context in Islam.

FAIRCHILD, RD, 1997, Humayuns Tomb and Garden: Typology and Visual Order In Attilio Petruccioli, Gardens in the Time of the Great Muslim Empires: Theory and Design. Studies in Islamic Art and Architecture: Supplements to Muqarnas VII, BRILL, p.173-186

KABBANI, Shaykh Muhammad Hisham, 2009, The Nine-Fold Ascent, Islamic Supreme Council of America


Fig. 2a Humayuns tomb, nine-fold plan,

Fig. 2b Itimad ud-Daula tomb, nine fold plan

Fig. 2c Taj Mahal tomb, nine fold plan


Mughal court and Persian affairs: Jahangir, Nur Jahan, Itimad ud-Daula

Persian Mirza Ghiyas Bey also known as Itimad ud-Daula was the most confident Mughal courtier of the highest rank and also prime minister in the reign of fourth Great Mughal Jahangir. Itimad ud-Daula first came to light in the Mughal court as father of emperors most beloved wife Nur Jahan. After she married Jahangir as the oldest and most beautiful woman of the imperial court, her father Itimad ud-Daula started his rising in power in the Mughal state, bringing also other Persian family members to the court influence. Along with advancing in his state career, Itimad ud-Daula also won emperors trust, confidence and friendship by time, thus easily establishing himself at some of the most influential and trusted posts in the Mughal state. At the peak of his career, Itimad ud-Daula was in charge of state treasury, his own army and prime minister at the same time. No wonder he rather remained known after his official state title Pillar of the State (pers. Itimad ud-Daula). In the beginning, since he was a member of the court of Akbar being a very kind, wise and mild man of intellect, dignity and respect, he obviously had had enough time to earn the highest trust from the emperor and his heir, while getting on his own rising influence. Many records, including imperial memoir Jahangirnama, told of Itimad ud-Daulas reputation in state affairs as well as in his personal life. But to know better Itimad ud-Daulas role and influence in Mughal state, one should first know way much more about his notorious daughter Nur Jahan and her defining overpowering role as an empress at the Mughal court after she married Jahangir. Becoming a key figure at husbands court, it was not actually a personal interest that she was obsessed about. Yet she also kept other family members, first her father and then others like her brother Asaf Khan and her niece famed Mumtaz Mahal (the consort of Shah Jahan, future Mughal emperor and Jahangirs son) close to herself and top court affairs. She introduced them to the most influential relations and positions at the court at that time, making sure their future would be well established in wealth and court links. No wonder then that her niece Mumtaz was later wisely calculated for the marriage with forthcoming emperor, Jahangirs son prince Khurram, future Shah Jahan. Mumtaz was clearly chosen in order to sustain further Persian influence within the Mughal state. Nevertheless, this Persian party of influence (Itimad-ud Daula, Nur Jahan, Asaf Khan and Mumtaz Mahal) would not have appeared at the pages of Mughal history neither came to the light of our knowledge if there was not an emperor whose influence, wealth and family relations they at length were taking advantage of. Supported by their loyal entourage at the court, Persians were said to be even more powerful than the emperor Jahangir himself. Now let us have a brief and closer insight into the Mughal court, that is, emperor himself during whose reign Persians rose to power. 21

Emperor Jahangir and Itimad ud-Daula (left), 1615, Manohar, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Plate 2


Prince Salim Mohammad Nur ud-Din, regally known as Jahangir - Conqueror of the World, was the fourth Mughal emperor, and the first one of his dynasty to have been born in India in August 1569 (died in November 1627). Born to Rajput princess and father of Muslim royalty in Sikri near Agra, Jahangir was the first offspring of Akbar. He was named Salim after the Sufi Sheikh Salim Chishti who had foretold his birth to Akbar and his Rajput princess during her pregnancy before long awaited birth took place under the blessing of this revered holy man. To commemorate his sons birth and honor the Sufi holy man for long awaited prophecy fulfillment, Akbar gave his son name Salim and established foundations for building the new capital city of Fatehpur Sikri where young prince Salim was raised in. Jahangirs court was strongly influenced by the Persian political, cultural, and aesthetic traditions of his paternal ancestor Timur. Although in wealth and glamour, Jahangirs court kept a firm touch with tolerance, equality and multiculture in its foundations. Merchants, craftmen, poets, diplomats, artists were very welcomed guests at all times at Jahangirs court from across the Subcontinent, Central Asia, Persia and also Europe. Jahangir was highly cultivated emperor and during his reign Persian predominated in his court not just as an official language but as well as the language of high culture. In addition to that, his role as a patron cannot be questioned, but patronage in building is not to be considered fruitful in the age of his reign. Jahangir was rather well-known of his enthusiasm for nature and painting. His palace workshops produced the finest examples of Mughal miniature painting and since he was familiar with painters individually, he influenced their styles and thus directed the creation of illustrations. One of these talented artists at the court was a Persian, the miniaturist Ustad Manour, who later became the closest painter to Jahangirs court famous for his numerous and incomparable studies of birds and animals. Among the works of Jahangirs workshops was also a monumental tomb for his father at Sikandra as well as an authored intimate personal memoir Jahangirnama inspired in the tradition of the diary of his Timurid great grandfather Babur, containing the most significant notes of his reign. If we exclude the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula built in his reign and allegedly constructed by his wife for her closest family, Jahangirs only and most prominent architectural project was the construction of Akbars large domeless multi-storeyed tomb. Although he was his the first son and heir to the Mughal throne, in later years an uneasy relationship developed between father and son - Akbar and Jahangir. At the time being prince Salim, he used to rebel, form his own army, fight and even he made to have assassinated one of the highest courtiers whom he resented and feared from, his fathers closest friend and advisor, Abu al-Fazl. Horrified by the murder, Akbars choice of possible successors was far away from Jahangir, but weakened by the early deaths of his younger sons , ie. Salims two younger brothers, he finally had to give it away to Jahangir. Prince Salim ascended the Mughal throne at the age of 36, in October 1605, 23

taking the regnal name of Nur ud-Din Moammad Jahangir (farsi, The Conqueror of the World). Jahangir was fascinated by the classic Perso-Islamic model of sovereignty and its demands for imperial justice and royal charity. He banned non-Islamic punishments, while his public acts of piety and religious patronage, among both Muslim and Hindu subjects, were particularly valuable to the emperor who was a Sunni. Yet, Jahangir did remain loyal to the Chishti Sufi Order, maintaining a close relationship with Sheikh Chishtis sons, while Mughal India at that time lived an utter Timurid renaissance.19

Empress Nur Jahan offering gifts to Emperor Jahangir and prince Khurram, 1617, Fig. 3

When it comes to his controversial family life it is widely known that Jahangir and his empress consort Nur Jahan were undisputedly one of the most controversial royal couples in the records of Islamic history. In particular, Nur Jahan (1577-1645) undoubtedly was one of the most powerful women in Indian and Mughal history. Her first marriage was to Sher Afghan when she was yet in her teen age and in 1605 she gave a birth to a daughter Ladli Begum who was the only offspring she ever had. After her husband was killed in 1607, Nur Jahan as a widow was introduced to the Mughal court to serve as a lady-in-waiting. Remarkably beautiful as she was, no wonder that Jahangir noticed her immediately and


Encyclopaeadia Iranica, p.37


married her very soon. Jahangir married a thirty-four year old Persian widow Mehr un-Nissa in 1611, formerly a court lady at his fathers court and he made her his principal queen, the empress and renamed her from Mehr un-Nissa to Nur Mahal - the Light of the palace. Later, he would rename her into more famed Nur Jahan - the Light of the world. While Jahangir was losing his drive and ambition for imperial duties settling himself with frequent travels, pleasure trips and hunts through countryside, Nur Jahan was restless in her ambition. On her way to take over the empire, she started becoming more and more powerful behind the purda, overpowering the Emperor himself. After only nine years Nur Jahan took over all the rights of sovereignty and government in which the emperor would usually be the only one in charge and concern of. Although womens appearance was not allowed in front of men in the court, Nur Jahan was wise enough to operate through male subjects of her entourage which were very loyal to her. Not only her officers were everywhere, her affairs and wealth were growing high, but she also had at her service the vast zanana (female residence of the Mughal court) which was a household of hundreds of people including other wives of the emperor, ladies-in-waiting, concubines, servants, slaves, female guards, spies, entertainers, craftsmen, eunuchs, including all the children belonging to the women. Behind the purda she thus ruled the whole empire until Jahangirs death in 1627, when she was exiled to Lahore where accompanied with her daughter Ladli Begum she spent the rest of her life projecting both tombs for her late husband and herself until her own death in 1645. Apart from being notorious for its manipulating affairs, her building activity record was to be remembered as a contribution to both imperial and public Mughal architecture. During her overpowering influence she constructed and erected three tombs of outstanding beauty; one of them is said to be just for her father Itimad ud-Daula on the riverbank in Agra. As we have already mentioned before, the tomb was the pioneer funerary Mughal monument in white marble, decorated with semi-precious stones inlayed into the surface of the marble facing. This newly introduced technique in the Subcontinent, pietra dura, will be perfectly elaborated few years later in the construction of the Taj Mahal. Tomb of Itimad ud-Daula that Nur Jahan built for her parents today is the best preserved of all three architectural projects she created. The other two monuments, imperial tombs though, were located in Lahore nearby, nowadays Pakistan, where the notorious empress spent final years of her life in exile away from Mughal court. One tomb was built for her late husband Jahangir and the other one for herself and reportedly her daughter Ladli Begum. In spite of her notoriety for her utamed influence over both state and court affairs, Nur Jahan remained strongly devoted and loyal to her Persian roots and her family.20 The tomb of Itimad ud-Daula obviously demonstrates a touching evidence of that devotion.

FINDLEY B. Ellison, 1993, Nur Jahan: Empress of Mughal India, Oxford University Press


Here is a Garden of the Paradise which the righteous are promised: in it are rivers of water incorruptible; rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; rivers of wine, a joy to those who drink; and rivers of honey purified. In it there are for them all kinds of fruits; and Grace from their Lord. Muhammad, 47:15


2. The Tomb: Architecture & Decoration

Family mausoleum The Tomb of Itimad ud-Daula is not to be considered as just another monument of Mughal architecture, but one of the finest and most delicate garden tombs in the whole scope of Islamic architecture. Considered to be the resting place of the high Iranian dignitary and Mughal courtier of the highest rank in the empire and also the minister of Treasury and prime minister of the State, Mirza Ghiyas Beg Tehrani entitled Itimad ud-Daula and of his consort Asmat Begum, it is actually believed to be the mausoleum of his almost entire family, namely as well prominent members themselves at the Mughal court. It is said that even during Itimad ud-Daulas lifetime, this distinguished Persian nobleman loved spending leisure time contemplating here in his garden hideaway by the Yamuna river, later obviously becoming his final resting place. Furthermore, this funerary site on the left bank of Yamuna river in Agra undoubtedly and clearly testifies the rise and highly influential presence of this controversial Persian family in the history of Mughal empire. Despite being direct forerunner to the Taj Mahal, the tomb has been undeservedly overshadowed by its glorious neighborhood ever since. Regrettably, only few scholars have studied and examined the building, yet concentrated almost exclusively on the tomb's formal qualities and relationship to the forthcoming Taj Mahal. The tomb belongs to the domeless class of the Mughal platform tomb and famously introduces a whole new register of constructing principles and innovations in elements, techniques and features such as adjoined towers and profuse decorative techniques, so far unseen in Islamic India. Having a privilege myself to study the tomb from the close, l realized that it hardly came across to anyones attention so far that the tomb of ltimad ud-Daula is one of the rarest tombs or mausolea (one of two ever built actually) in the architectural legacy of the Mughal dynasty being the resting place of a married couple of court dignitaries. The other one is Taj Mahal, but in contrast to the tomb of ltimad ud-Daula, it was an imperial mausoleum for buried married couple was the Mughal royalty (emperor Shah Jahan and his consort Mumtaz Mahal). Mughals were known to be into more than one legitimate wife and while most of these wives were buried separately, some of them were laid in the same funerary structure as their husbands (eg. Hamida Begum in Humayuns tomb in Delhi), however not together and not in the same chamber. Yet, only few Mughal imperial consorts (and mistresses) had a true privilege to have their own funerary structure erected over their grave site just as it was in the honour of Maryam ez-Zamani in Sikandra (consort of Akbar, mother of Jahangir), Shah Begum in 27

Allahabad (first consort of Jahangir, mother of prince Khusrau) Nur Jahan in Shahdara Bagh, Lahore (famed consort of Jahangir), Rabia-ud-Durani in Aurangabad (Bibi ka-Maqbara for consort of Auranzeb) and Anarkali in Lahore (mistress of Jahangir).21 Therefore, apart from many strikingly matching features between Itimad ud-Daula and Taj Mahal, twin cenotaphs - quite seldom burial set-up in Mughal architecture is yet another valuable reason to discuss further the importance and distinguishness of this tomb in Agra. On another scale, as mentioned above, what sets apart the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula from

Tomb east faade (entrance view), Fig. 4

other Mughal funerary monuments is that, unlike the Mughal emperors resting places - six separated tombs per six emperors, it represents a burial site where almost entire Persian family is said to be laid to rest.22 Although paying a much of respect in many ways to their celebrated Timurid heritage and their forefather, either through governance, visual culture, ideology or politics, Mughals (accidently or not) never actually followed funerary/burial orthodoxy of their ancestor. The tomb, distinguished and

We shall return and observe more some of these tombs later in regard to Itimad ud-Daulas tomb and influences in its construction. 22 Nowadays there are several interpretations in dispute, mostly scholar and local, concerning who among the Persian family members was actually buried at the tomb site. We shall return to this point and observe it in detail later in this chapter


unorthodox as it is, was a keystone of the transitional phase of colour and design of the Mughal architecture (from red sandstone to white marble), a link between Akbari building style of personality architecture23 and Shahjahani building style of architectural aestheticism24. Built during the reign of Jahangir, fourth of the six Mughal emperors who ascended the Mughal throne, this small and delicate architectural masterpiece represents the pioneer example of the graceful use of white marble, rare and semi-precious stones, as well as vibrant painting, stucco and mosaic work in the Mughal history. Nevertheless, considering the tomb as the very first Mughal structure ever to be built wholy in marble is erroneous, since the marble tomb-shrine of Sufi sheikh Salim Chishti was built beforehand, in 1580-81, by Akbar, Jahangirs father. Even after the erecting of this Sufi shrine within the royal city of Fatehpur Sikri near Agra, the top tier of the Akbars tomb was next to be built entirely in marble just as well. But what is it that does make the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula standing as a pioneer and far beyond its contemporaries? It is without a second thought its overwhelming decoration programme: its polychrome profuse ornamentation consisting of intricate florals, stylized arabesques, abstract geometrical designs, mosaic kaleidoscope techniques, exquisite faade carving (incised and bas-relief) resembling finest lace embroidery work, enriched with lavish ornamentation in semi precious and rare stones inlay. All these were mostly inspired by plant studies and motifs of vivid flora and fauna - strong and distinguished influence of Persian heritage drawn by masterful artisans and craftsmen of Persia who had worked at Mughal court with also present influence of Hindu heritage. This is what made this tomb essentially distinct from any other Mughal monument of that time, its finest blend of two strong visual cultures unified into an outstanding unique signature and monumental expression. Above all, it was the Mughal introduction of the artisitic skill called pietra dura (Ital. solid stone), an intricate technique of precise inlay of rare and semi-precious stones into the surface of white marble, that made this tomb distinguished and also a key monument of Mughal architecture. In this inlay craft, finished slices of semiprecious or rare stones were delicately placed in specially fitted spaces in marble faade plates according to perfectly composed naturalistic and abstract decoration patterns, thus making the monument as if it was covered with some dazzling bejeweled ivory carpet. The tomb is said to be constructed in 1627/28 (1037 AH), yet in this present study as I further examine the tomb's remarkable architectural and decorative features, I shall challenge the official interpretation of this historical inscription, for I believe that according to my first official reading of its inscriptional program, the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula was more likely to be completed(construction and inscriptions) in 1629/30 (1309AH).
23 24

History of Mughal architecture, vol. ll History of Mughal architecture, vol. IV, pt 1


Tomb garden, ground plan,, Fig. 5

Tomb garden, ground plan aereal view, Fig. 6


The tomb is situated in a classical well-preserved char bagh garden on the bank of Yamuna river where the tombs of other Mughal dignitaries as prince Parviz, Afzal Khan, etc, were constructed too. Once formal summer garden, after death of his beloved consort, the minister decided to convert it into a tomb site as a final resting place for her and himself. The garden measures roughly 150m and is crossed by the rigid geometry of pathways, water-channels and well-kept flowerbeds. On one level this landscape network at the garden evokes the literal image of water flowing under the pathways in order to nourish and nurture the flowerbeds. Yet on the more profound level this suggests treating the souls of the late wazir and his family, ie. the garden within by the ever-flowing waters of the spirit which purify the souls transcending to the world beyond, invisible to our eyes though but still very present in this tomb garden. Therefore, water course in the tomb garden reflects the souls ability to renew themselves just as the rays of the sunlight penetrate to the tombs interior and purify the souls of late family from their alleged sins. Apart from water, light was also a well-known Mughal fascination serving as a metaphor for Gods presence and Divinity. The tomb garden is embraced with four walls each of them centrally flanked with a red sandstone structure - gate look alikes, among which Eastern one stands as a main gate and access to the tomb garden, Western by the river-bank as a well preserved pleasure pavilion and access from the river, while the other two (Northern and Southern) are merely decorative structures. Besides, not only the main gates were a functional necessity, but they also had the symbolic of division between the everyday profane world and the divine world. Meanwhile, other pavilions were built according to the formal garden plan highlighting the full symmetry of the tomb site. The main gate on the East and the pleasure pavilion one the West are double storeyed and decorated in the varieties of white marble inlays of floral and arabesque ornaments used on iwans (archways), dados (the finishing of the lower part of interior wall), spandrels of arches around and also inside the wings. Centrally placed in cross-axial plan there is the white marble tomb set on a red sandstone plinth with beautiful white geometrically repeated pattern, with four identical ponds around the tomb, each facing the four accessing archways, ie. entrances to the tomb axial forehalls. Although unique in its own right, tombs resemblance (in particular its exterior features) with past Mughal imperial tombs seems rather obvious; therefore we may easily track back the sources which may have inspired many aspects of Itimad ud-Daulas tomb design and construction. One of the earliest instances of inspiration we may refer to is certainly the Chauburji (Fig.9), temporary burial place of Babur, the establisher of Mughal Empire and dynasty, before his remains were taken for final burial in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Chauburji was constructed circa 1527 and is situated across Yamuna river in another char-bagh just opposite the


Maryam ez-Zamanis tomb, Sikandra, adpt 1623, Fig. 7

Shah Begums tomb, Allahabad,1606-07, Fig. 8

Chauburji, Agra c.1527, Fig. 9

Jahangirs tomb, Lahore, 1628-38, Fig. 10

tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula. There are several strikingly familiar architectural features we can notice at the site such as the tombs square plan, raised tomb plinth with water ponds, shapes of arches, attached corner towers, and also decorative pattern on facades. All these features quite clearly refer to the same architectural solutions as that of Itimad-ud-Daulas. Another example by Professor Asher displays Itimad-ud-Daulas resemblance with funerary platform with lighter superstructures, ie. Shah Begums tomb (Fig.8) in Khusrau Bagh, Allahabad.25 The tomb was built circa 1606-07 for Jahangirs ill-fated first wife who ended her life by poisoning herself. Aqa Reza the leading artist at Jahangirs (at that time selftitled Shah Salim) own independent court in Akbar's Allahabad fort was responsible for the construction of this three-tiered tomb with the cenotaph mark on the top surmounted with a square pillared chhatri. Further, Asher finds the tomb also resembling Akbars Diwan-i-Khaas at royal city of Fatehpur Sikri near Agra. In particular, Asher finds the tombs general outlook rather Indian, while only in the terms of decorative pattern Asher sees it Safavid influenced.26 Unlike Asher, Professor Koch in her own defining

ASHER B. Catherine, 1995, The New Cambridge History of India I/4: Architecture of Mughal India, Cambridge, p. 104-05 idem, p. 132


of the features of funerary platform with lighter superstructures, indicates directly the tomb of Maryam az-Zamani (Fig.7) in Sikandra, namely a square platform tomb with its superstructure set up, as a brightly preceding version of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula. Indeed, the tombs exterior outlook does show a striking similiarity to Itimad ud-Daulas. The structure of the tomb was originally a pleasure pavilion built in 1495 and later converted into a tomb attributed to the imperial consort. Koch highlights that Maryam az-Zamanis superstructure scheme, with octagonal chhatris above the corners and oblong ones above the centres of the facades, found its most elegant expression exactly at the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula which additionally received a small square dome above enclosing large marble latticed screens that surround empty twin cenotaphs.27 Eventually, Jahangirs tomb (Fig.10) in Lahore as the subsequent contemporary tomb with Itimad ud-Daulas displays further deriving of the similar yet enlarged architectural program. Here, apart from the corner towers, elongated and still attached to the structure,flat platform tomb has no superstructure elements, yet according to orthodoxy of Islamic faith and emperors ascetic convictions, a decorative cenotaph (nowadays not in existence) stands alone uncovered at the centre of the flat top facing mercy of the open skies while the original one in the main hall of ground floor marks the emperors real burial place. Accordingly, Itimad ud-Daulas may be indeed an eclectic solution of them all, yet unique in its own right.

Exterior and interior tomb features

Closely observing the tomb and revealing its exterior and interior features makes one realize this is not just another lavishly designed tomb in a thread of the Mughal architectural legacy. Furthermore, once we step forward into the tombs aura an extraordinary and delicately composed register of architectural and decorative solutions unfolds before us, but only at close range. Unfortunately, so far it seems previous scholars either did not reach or did not want to reach in studying this remarkable monument beyond superficial. Apart from complementary brief reviews of the tomb none have seemed to treat fully its rich exoteric (Zahir) and esoteric (Batin) vocabulary. Learning a distinction between Zahir (exterior, revealed meaning) and Batin (interior, concealed meaning) and recognizing their presence in the tomb features, either we observe architectural, decorative program or the Koranic script alone, will bring us closer to the tombs constructor, her/his devoted work and attention to detail and eventually help us understand the delicate concept undertaken in creation of this tomb. Interpretations of Zahir and Batin aspects have been one of the basic conventions of Islamic faith

KOCH Ebba, Mughal Architecture, p.72-74


ever since. In the first place, it was a matter of interpreting readings and scriptures of the Islamic literature, then the concept spread further to the artistic forms as well. Apart from having a general eye at the tomb, its garden and variety of traditional and skillfully utilized programs closely related to the principles of Islamic orthodoxy, we have come across some remarkable solutions applied at the tomb and to be examined now. The tomb is square in size as the garden itself, made in white Rajastani Maqrana marble, about 20m long per side and set on the plinth. Making the composition with the surrounding gates in red sandstone with marble inlay, the plinth as well is done in red sandstone with geometrically repeated pattern in marble inlay. Although not being an imperial tomb, the structure was built traditionally according to hasht bihisht nine-fold plan, as no exception in a thread of other Mughal tombs, such as Humayuns and Taj Mahal. As being observed earlier, eight interconnected chambers here surrounding the main hall represent eight levels of paradise for Muslims. The main hall as ninth chamber represents the Sun, here the resting place to be for the highly dignified couple of the Mughal court. Generally speaking, the nine-fold concept not only allows the circumambulation of the sacred object (here the twin cenotaphs in main hall),a practice common in Hindu ritual, Sufism and also present in some Mughal imperial mausoleums, yet it also reflects the concept of Kaaba ritual and Paradise

Main chamber, S-E view, Twin cenotaphs, Fig. 11

N-W corner chamber, Nur Jahans grandfather cenotaph, Fig. 12


South axial forehall, (main hall, left; Nur Jahans grandfather cenotaph, background), Fig.13

in Islamic cosmology.28 The nine fold interior plan of the ground floor is actually created by four intersecting construction lines which produce nine space units - main chamber (Fig.11) in the centre with twin cenotaphs of wazir Itimad udDaula and his consort Asmat Begum, four rectangular axial forehalls (Fig.13) and four square flanking chambers in the corners (Fig.12). The chambers are interconnected with passageways, thus creating an ambulatory corridor for circumambulation circa 80 meters in length around the main chamber. As being observed earlier, the circumambulation has been present both in Hindu and Islamic heritage not just as a part of funerary ritual, but also as believers every day spiritual transition. It is the part of Islamic belief that not only worshippers, pilgrims and mourners circumambulate the sanctuaries, but birds and angels just as well. Apart from twin cenotaphs irregularly placed (consorts in the centre and wasirs to its right) in the main hall measured app. 6.50m p/side, each of the flanking corner chambers contains a cenotaph, with the exception of N-E corner chamber containing another pair of twin cenotaphs, in total of seven cenotaphs on the ground floor. Additional pair of decorative twin cenotaphs (same placement scheme as on the groundfloor), much the Islamic funerary tradition, is enclosed within the superstructure chamber directly above the main hall on the ground. All of the cenotaphs in the building are aligned on the North-South axis as per Islamic funerary orthodoxy. The cenotaphs are made in marble, except for the main twin cenotaphs in the ground floor made in porphyry and they bear no marks, i.e. historical inscriptions. The absence of historical inscriptions namely the lack of official records of the tomb endowment, construction

I shall address in further detail to paradisiacal concept and design in Islamic cosmology in my later chapters as I observe symbolics and meaning of the tombs decorative and inscriptional program.


funding, whom it was dedicated to (burials speculation) is among the key questions of the present study. It is claimed that real burial with original twin cenotaphs of the couple actually took place in now permanently sealed tomb crypt in the ground, directly below the ground floor cenotaphs. Thus, the tomb construction creates a symbolical vertical axis of three tomb chambers designed one above another presumably representing three stages of late couples essence - on earth (the ground), in heaven (the superstructure), and in the final resting place (the crypt). The surrounding cenotaphs in the corner chambers on the ground floor were said to belong to other close relatives of presumed patroness Nur Jahan (grandfathers, uncles, brothers, sisters in law, daughters) (Fig.14) as per following order:

Tomb ground floor, nine fold plan with presumable cenotaphs lay-out, Fig. 14

N/E - cenotaphs of Asaf Khan and Diwanji Begum (Nur Jahans brother/Itimad ud-Daulas son/Shah Jahans wazir and his wife; aka parents of Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahans wife buried in Taj Mahal) S/E - cenotaph of Mansour Malik (Nur Jahans grandfather) S/W - cenotaph of Mirza Asm ud-Din Bey (Nur Jahans uncle) N/W - cenotaph of Ladli Begum (daughter and only offspring of Nur Jahan) 36

Yet the claims of trustworthiness whether the tomb was indeed the burial site of the wazirs family have remained a matter of speculation until present and may be misleading for there are no historical inscriptions on either of cenotaphs with the names of family members whom the cenotaph marks were dedicated to. The main chamber and the corner chambers have very elaborate vaulted ceiling designed in the networklike pattern of radiate stellar forms - a great display of polychromed stucco work, another typical architectural feature of Jahangiri age - while the axial forehalls and superstructure chamber have coved ceiling with another intricate pattern of plain stucco work. According to Professor Koch these specific features of the tomb, coved and vaulted ceilings with patterned network, introduced forthcoming architectural trends of Shah Jahani age.29 Likewise, according to Professor Asher the vaulted polychrome network of the Itimad ud-Daulas ceiling is clearly a more elaborated version of that of Maryam az-Zamani mosque aka Begum Shahi mosque in Lahore, Pakistan. Here apart from the same floral and geometric patterns of the ceiling, the names of God are additionally inscribed within starlike forms of the ceiling decoration pattern.30 True, the vaulting ceiling with patterned network is yet to become later a typical feature of the Mughal mosque. Speaking further about the interior decoration, all of the chambers of the tombs ground floor are renowned for different elaborately composed decorative programs, the best preserved among all Nur Jahans building projects, devised in floral paintings, stucco and mosaic. While in whole the tombs decoration mostly resembles paradise and its divine, sheltering serenity, the interior decoration is particularly soothing, reduced in colour yet not in expression of funerary otherworldly atmosphere and transcendence of earthily life. Through each of four accessing archways the tomb forehalls provide sunlight for the main chamber interior by its four openings, which all but Southern are intricate jali screens. The same jali separation plan (in glass) is repeated in more elaborate Taj Mahal interior plan.31 Regardless of sunlight breaking inside through the screens, the interior still saves a lot of its tranquil and serene shade. These screens of the main hall face forehall archways, namely together they lie in the same axis at the East, West and North side of the tomb, yet only the South archway/entrance leads directly to the twin cenotaphs in the main hall interior. In effect, axial forehall on the South side has no stone screen, it is fully open passage and provides direct access to the main chamber(Fig.13). Therefore, the building may be accessed from the East (for main gate of the tomb garden and road are on the East) unlike other Mughal tombs , but the entrance to the tomb itself from the South clearly demonstrates the precedence of principles of Islamic funerary orthodoxy over tomb's construction plan in whole. This is where figures of some
29 30

KOCH Ebba, Mughal Architecture, p. 75 ASHER B. Catherine, The New Cambridge History of India I/4: Architecture of Mughal India, p. 131 31 KOCH, Ebba, The Complete Taj Mahal, p. 175


imperial mausolea like Taj Mahal,Akbar's tomb,Humayun's tomb,etc. may serve us very well in understanding and approach, for all of the mentioned mausolea and their gardens were constructed traditionally on S-N cardinal axis. This means the main gate, tomb entrance and cenotaphs with burial positions were always on the same alignment. This unique feature in construction plan of the I'timad udDaulas(tomb entrance contrary garden entrance)again sets this tomb apart from other Mughal tombs.32

Tomb faade, elevation, South, Fig. 15

On the exterior, tomb displays a wholly new vocabulary of both architectural and decorative elements introducing us to marble cladding, adjoined towers, profuse polychrome decoration and other features of the following age of Mughal architecture. As mentioned earlier, each side of the tombs ground floor has got three large niches, central one is an archway providing an access to axial forehall on each side, while the other two niches on the sides are recessed and closed by screens providing delicate interior illumination. Additionally, each central archway is flanked with two screened openings smaller in size. According to Islamic tradition and orthodoxy light of the Sun should always be a present element in religious Islamic architecture for its rays are said to cleanse from sin. The design and craftsmanship of these screened niches commonly known in India as jalis is pure feature of delicate floral and geometric patterns, skillfulness among the finest in the Mughal architecture. The corners of the structure are

I shall address in particular the matter of the tombs South wall and its specific features at length later, for it may help us understand in depth the tomb construction and its distinguished programs.


flanked by engaged large octagonal towers (Fig.18), also in white marble with pietra dura work with a kiosk like finishings. The body of towers is divided by characteristic eaves into three vertical architectural and decorative sections. These eaves are architectural element also known as chajja in Mughal architecture and they also appear along the top of tomb faade visually dividing ground floor and top floor. Generally, chajjas are projecting eaves, rather functional than mere decorative element made of stone or marble slabs fixed below the roof of a building and designed for preventing the sun rays from falling on the windows and protecting the walls from the monsoon rain. The towers of the tomb are octagonal in the ground level, but in the height at the level of the upper floor the towers change their shape into a circular form. Each tower has a staircase accessible from the upper floor. The top composition of the each tower consists of eight delicately finished pillars covered with kiosks (chhatris) and topped with pinnacles in the form of upside-down lotus flower. In the Hindu tradition, upside-down lotus flower symbolizes sorrow and grief. More importantly, one can barely notice here the strong reflexion of the Islamic paradisiacal concept due to eight kiosk pillars. Namely, in Islamic vision of Paradise eight pillars (presumably angels) support Throne of God.33 Although the tomb is considered domeless, the top floor is composed of five superstructure elements-four top sections of the towers and fifth light pavilion of exqiuisite design and beauty. The superstructure pavilion (Figs.16-17) might be the most delicate and famous decorative feature in the view of the whole tomb. It superimposes the ground structure and quite elegantly encloses the vertical axis of the whole tomb. The pavilion is square, app. 7.50m p/side and enclosed from all sides with elaborated latticed marble screens of remarkable design. The pattern of the screens is renowned and frequently quoted in the Islamic arts. There are three large screens per each side of the pavilion, while the central ones on the S-N axis provide two accesses to its interior. Each screen is topped with the form of tympanum richly decorated with elements of Persian iconography which I shall address in detail later. Interior of the pavilion has two cenotaphs set in S-N axis with lavish inlaid marble floor authentically resembling designs of Mughal carpets. With soothing and calming effect the floors were inspired by carpets and sacred space of the mosque. Although the tomb is considered domeless, the pavilion is surmounted with canopy-like finishing with four upsidedown lotus pinnacles, well known motif in Hindu heritage. The dome is of highly unusual design in the terms of Mughal tomb architecture, closely resembling the covering of Sufi tombs, but also it may be identified with Bengali hut as of curved roof and long-drawn eaves or chau-chala (4-sided) vaulted roof protruding over the walls, resembling crescent moon on its sides and crowned with three lotus finials.34
33 34

Kuran Karim, 69:17 Banglapedia, National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh, Chau-chala roof


Superstructure pavilion, N-E view, Fig. 16

Pavilion interior with twin cenotaphs and floor inlay, fig.17

Tower top section chajjas and pillars, Fig. 18


South Wall is among the key features of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula I am addressing in this study. Apart from observing in depth the religious inscriptional program along with establishing the exact date of the tomb construction (the controversy to be discussed later in the separate chapter) and questions upon patronship and endowment of the tomb, the features and design of the South wall deserve rather more attention from the vicinity. The tomb of Itimad ud-Daula seems to be precedent in the Mughal tomb architecture in the terms of tradition of the tomb gardens built in South-North axis. In other words, while most of Mughal imperial tomb gardens (Humayuns, Akbars, Shah Jahans, Nur Jahans, with the exception of Jahangirs) were built in the usual South-North axis (main gate, main tomb entrance, main hall entrance and cenotaph positions in the same alignment), the construction of the tomb garden of Itimad ud-Daula seems to be out of that regular manner of the Mughal tomb architecture. As we observed earlier - either for sake of position of the tomb site (between the accessing road on the East side and Yamuna river on the West side) or not - the tomb garden of Itimad ud-Daula was not built in that long-running tradition, namely in South-North axis. Thus, while the main gate and the tomb itself lie in East-West axis (in alignment with road and river), the entrance to the main tomb hall and twin cenotaphs position lie in traditional South-North axis. Still, tomb does remain accessible

Tomb, W-S corner, noticeable differences in wall niches design, Fig. 19


Blind niche design with semi-closed screen, South, Fig.20

Regular recessed niche design, E-N-W, Fig. 21

Archway acess to axial forehall and main chamber (above, blank inscription panel), South, Fig. 22


from either of the sides through the axial forehalls to its ambulatory interior, but it is the South side of the tomb that provides the only and direct access to the main tomb hall, namely to the dignitaries cenotaphs (Fig.14). The same scheme finds its repetition in the tombs superstructure pavilion for the access to its interior and decorative cenotaphs lie as well in the South-North axis. Obviously, the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula after all may not break with the building tradition according to Islamic orthodoxy rites for access to the main tomb interior remains unaltered, i.e. from the South. So then what else makes South side of the tomb distinct and different than any other architectural or decorative feature of the tomb and at the same time important to our knowledge in our current tomb observations? It is the strong funerary character of this side of the tomb which is particularly enhanced by aforementioned traditional access to the sepulcher from the South. Moreover, in contribution of this observation we may notice an additional number of both architectural and decorative features at this side of the tomb in support of this noteworthy finding. Among these features the most striking is difference in design between the flanking niches on South side and the flanking niches of the other sides. The design of South flanking niches here involves the differences in both architectural and decorative terms. As we already observed, the flanking niches in the tombs architectural vocabulary were designed to provide an additional illumination to the soothing shade of the tomb interior chambers. The niches are thus set on the sides of each of four accessing central archways, matching corner chambers inside. They are recessed allowing in this way more sunlight to penetrate to the corner chamber cenotaphs through their latticed screens (jalis) and tympanums. However, unlike the niches on the East, North and West side of the tomb, the South niches not only are they not recessed, but they are blind. Their latticed screens are reduced to the wall, that is, almost being in the line with wall surface as if they were meant to restrict an additional light to this part of the tomb and enhance somber and funerary atmosphere of the South side (Fig.19). For a moment we may give a thought of this architectural feature being present at the tomb just for the purpose of plain design and having nothing to do either with any concealed meaning or interior illumination. However, if we take a second look at these South niches we may notice that they are semi-closed, namely not fully screened as on the other sides of the tomb. In effect, here the niche tympanums are closed and covered with abstract design, thus reducing the sunlight even more in the South interior (Fig.20 and 27). Another decorative feature in favour of my observations upon South wall is the central inscription panel above the South archway of the tomb (Fig.22). The panel stands in the line of the frieze bearing religious inscriptions and it is left blank, yet again according to the Islamic orthodoxy, namely due to the high reverence of the Koranic verses on the frieze. In other words, it is because the Islamic custom determines that the bodies should 43

be buried in the South-North direction, heads turned toward the West (namely Kaaba direction in India) with legs toward the South. Therefore, the central panel was intended to be left blank in order to emphasize reverence of the Koranic verses since the panel and feet of the buried couple were in the same line. Eventually, as presumably the finest evidence of my observation upon the South wall stands the selection of the mentioned Koranic chapter which runs right precisely across the South side of the tomb ground floor, starting at the South-East corner tower and closing at the South-West corner tower. It is Sura Al-Muzzammil, chapter No.73 of Koran (The Enshrouded) that says about devoted nocturnal (!) prayers and worship, for prayers at night are very important in the religious rites of the Muslim.

O thou folded in garments! Stand (to prayer) by night, but not all night, Half of it, or a little less, Or a little more; 35 and recite the Qur'an in slow, measured rhythmic tones. ()

This Koranic chapter is among the earliest (3rd) Divine revelations delivered to the Prophet. Apart from saying about devotional services at night, it also reminds of the Day of Judgment which almost certainly indicates to the enhanced funerary character of the South side of the tomb as well as departing from earthly life and resurrection itself.


Koran Karim, Al-Muzzammil, 73:1-4


It is not permitted to the Sun to overtake the Moon, Nor can the Night outstrip the Day: Each floats in its orbit according to Law Ya -Sin 36:40


Floral and abstract decoration Interaction between earthly and otherworldly symbols

The decoration of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula is based on a skillfully designed pattern of geometry, ornament and calligraphy. The mutual interplay of these visual programs produces rich and sumptuous effects across the whole tombs surface. Each of these features has its own logic and composition, but in unity the programs do co-relate among each other just as well. In this respect, we may say that the tombs decorative program brightly reflects the principles of unity of Islamic art and thus the unity of the Universe itself as well. No matter where the inspiration for the tombs decorative programs was drawn from, either from the Universe or the individual, there were a masterful thought, delicate touch and playful inspiration engaged at the same time in creation of the tombs decorative program. Before taking a closer and detailed approach towards a fuller understanding of the delicate decorative program of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula we should first define its major themes through principle elements of Islamic design. If we carefully observe the major themes of decoration of the tomb, we shall realize how they brightly reflect the five principle elements of Islamic design determined permanently by Oleg Grabar.36 The first and rarest category presents human and animal features. They existed in Mediaeval Islamic sculpture with the earliest examples from Iran that no longer exist. Humans and animals do appear within the interior decorative program of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula. They do not appear explicitly, yet very delicately, through a manner as parts of smaller decorative programs on the faces of cups, dishes, interlaced with florals or fruits. The programs would mostly include fish, birds, peacocks, hens, dragonlike creatures, serpents with bird beak, even lions with silhouette of the man under the baldachine presumably an image of the deceased wazir. Yet, this is not a lonely depiction of a human in the Mughal art. Professor Koch also indicated the human image at the decoration program of Diwan iAm hall in Delhi Red Fort. Here in the Florentine manner, Orpheus is presented with beasts, birds and flowers.37 Furthermore, according to Professor Asher the interior cenotaph chamber of the Akbars tomb, before semi-successful restoration took place, also reportedly had paintings of angelic images, even Christian subjects as the Virgin Mary, probably rather a matter of fashion than of religious convictions.38 In this respect, it is noteworthy for us the way Persian scholar and historian Khwandamir described emperor Humayun and his close relation to the nature and its creatures:

36 37

GRABAR, Oleg / HILL, Derek, 1967, Islamic Architecture and Its Decoration AD 800-1500, Faber and Faber, 84.p KOCH, Ebba, Mughal architecture, 28.p 38 ASHER, B. Catherine, Architecture of Mughal India, 108.p


() under the protection and shelter of his justice, deer sleep in the lap of panthers, and fish fearlessly take rest near crocodiles; pigeons become friends of falcons 39 and sparrows chirp fearlessly in front of eagles ()

The human and animal motifs particularly when found together at the tomb create strong and distinct symbolics: silence and devotion (fish), eternity and immortality (peacock), royalty and imperial dignity (lion), divinity, promised divine help for deceased, lightness of being (bird), imperial metaphor, benevolence and wonder (dragon). The second category is architectural and is presented through certain elements intended to be structural but further transformed themselves function into decorative. In this category what we may find at the tomb is rich plaster and stucco work in the form of stalactite muqarnas and ceilings, or marble balustrade and projecting eaves elements (chhajjas) resembling elephant trunk at the superstructure program and other related elements that create three-dimensional decorative effect. The third category is geometry or abstract design mostly created at the tomb through basic star or arabesque patterns. A whole network of geometric variety of the stars (five-pointed, six-pointed, eightpointed, ten-pointed, twelve-pointed) and polygons (pentagons, hexagons, octagons, decagons) is systematically distributed across the panels of walls, towers and dados of the tomb. In general, stars were present in Islamic art ever since and their image shines on the holiest places and objects. Metaphorically, heavenly starlight guides a Muslim poetically through life which according to Oriental symbolism is a journey across the desert, in ever grief for the loss of paradise that can only be regained after death. Koran is yet another place where the star cult is met. Moreover a whole Sura 53 Al-Najm is dedicated to it.
It is He Who maketh the stars (as beacons) for you, that ye may guide yourself with their help 40 through the dark of land and sea

Observing the star motif at the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula as well as on other Mughal monuments, particularly at the tombs of Humayun and Akbar, the star is obviously and undoubtedly a dominant decorative expression of the Mughals according to the frequency and amount of its repetition. This feature is not by accident. Five-pointed, six-pointed and ten-pointed stars appear frequently on many Mughal monuments, usually placed at the entrances to the buildings, just as it was the case with star

LOWRY, Glen Humayuns Tomb Form, Function and Meaning in Early Mughal Architecture, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, 144.p; with further references 40 Koran Karim, Al-'An`m, 6:97


designs at the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula. While five-pointed and ten-pointed star patterns appear on the East and North walls, corner towers and balustrade of the tomb, six-pointed star pattern appear on the dados, niches and most of jali screens. It is believed that the star motif was first identified with Humayun and then with the whole Mughal dynasty (six-pointed star match six Mughal emperors, by accident or not) either for their fascination with astrology and alchemy or something else. An endless repetition of the star pattern through shape and colour further creates the arabesque motif which as well is one of the essential decorative elements of the tomb. The arabesque was created in 10th century in Iraq and since then it spread across whole Islamic world. Being popular for its infinite and flexibile visual expression the arabesque could be used in virtually all situations, from architectural context to illustrating the Koran. Here at the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula star and arabesque patterns create one of the finest and most profuse ornamentations in whole of the Islamic art executed in polychrome semiprecious pietra dura inlay both on the exterior and interior. Yet similar exquisite design patterns could be also seen at the tombs predecessors and successors, i.e. at Akbars tomb and Taj Mahal (Fig.23-25).

Pietra dura, Akbars tomb, Fig. 23

Pietra dura, Itimad ud-Daulas, Fig.24

Pietra dura, Taj Mahal, Fig. 25

The fourth category according to Grabar displayed at decorative program of the tomb of Itimad udDaula is writing. Devised through passages of three highly symbolic Koranic surahs, the inscriptional program of the tomb is almost aetheric in its presence and requires to be discussed in particular in the following chapter of this study. Scripts on the Islamic monuments would sometimes bear highly symbolic meaning either through selection of Koranic passages, eulogies to builders, pious memories or endowments and thus may become an Islamic monument for itself.


The fifth and last category regards vegetal elements. As we know Mughals were true devotees of the nature and their passion was embodied in the art and architecture of their empire. They had been particularly interested in botany and that was well documented during the reign of Jahangir for his chief court artist Usted Mansur recorded over hundred flowers native to Mughal lands and in particular Kashmir. Also, Mughal and Persian scholars and European visitors too were bringing botanical books and herbals to the Mughal court. Jahangir himself owned an admirable collection of exquisite miniature paintings and together with his consort Nur Jahan constructed beautiful garden across Mughal empire. The true significance of Mughal vegetal and floral decoration lies in its strikingly lively and authentic depiction; they were never sterile or still, but in constant movement and flow, either depicted individually or in flowerbeds, painted, inlayed or in relief. Flowers are dominantly displayed painted or inlayed in the interior of the tomb (as stem, as bouquets in vases, as floor design), but they are also found on the exterior as the part of abstract geometric programs in variety of techniques like pietra dura in semi-precious stones, incised or low relief. Depending on the placement, either in the interior or the exterior, flowers change in selection, colour and obviously in symbolics. On the inside of the tomb flowers and fruits include irises (here death, wisdom, admiration), poppies (death, rest, consolation, tranquility), tulips (spiritual awareness, resurrection and determination), honeysuckle (bonds of love and generosity), violets (faithfulness, humility and chastity), lilies (spirituality, unions, partnerships, renewal, faith), narcissuses (here sleep, rebirth, seduction), marigolds (herb of the Sun, love charm), hyacinnthes (forgiveness, regeneration, constancy), pansies (rememberance, union and memorial markers for the deceased beloved ones), columbines (inocence) and dandelions (faithfullness) with pomengranates (eternal life, rebirth, fertility, abundance and prosperity), figs (desire, enlightment in India), grapes and vine leaves (wisdom, immortality), court trees (wish-fulfiling, direct path from Earth to Heaven) and typical of the period chini khana (small niches in the walls with depictions of flower vases) and chi motifs (moving spirit of nature and all living things) . The colours of the interior are mostly dark with red being dominant and symboilizing mourning and sorrow. On the outside of the tomb decorative program includes mainly white vivid flowers like daisies (purity, innocence, loyal love and simplicity), jasmines (Hindu symbol for love and purity), marigolds and cypresses (here male principle, sorrow, death) with pomengranates, grapes, abstract swirling vegetals (female principle) and authentic Persian motifs as ibriqs/jugs (purification), flower vases, fruit baskets (prosperity), rose water flasks, incense boxes. Each figure thus brought in its own symbolic in creation of the tombs unique visual image. Obviously, defining 49

decorative features of the tomb would not make much sense without interpreting their exoteric and esoteric aspects. Zahir (exoteric, revealed meaning) and Batin (esoteric, concealed meaning) interpretations are thus key points to any thoughtful observing and understanding of the Islamic monument as well as of the highly symbolic decorative program of the tomb of Itimad ud Daula.

In this respect, we can conclude the constructor of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula devised separately two distinct and elaborate decorative programs, one on the interior and other on the exterior, expressed through symbolism of nature, iconography and mystical poetry of Persia and India. Obviously these visually powerful heritages matched in harmonious interplay with architectural setting, although endlessly rhythmically repeated. While on the exterior the polychrome designs enhanced by white marble base introduce a full bloom of nature and Universe, and celebration of earthly living distributed equally on the all exterior sections (walls, dados, corner towers and superstructure), the interior program meanwhile is rather soothing, somber and reduced in colour, expressing otherworldly atmosphere and transcending of earthly life. While wall decoration changes from dados, niches to upper wall surfaces depending on the elevation, tower decoration changes by vertical sections in rhythmical repetition of three patterns at the ground floor section, three patterns at the superstructure section to the stylized chhattri kiosk tops. Just as well, the superstructure pavilion decoration changes by vertical sections from latticed jail screens to Persia inspired tympanums and Koranic inscription marble cartouches. The highly ornamental ground floor interior also displays a lively flowing change of floral and geometric motifs from dados and chini khana walls to intricate stalactite ceilings. Polychrome expression was often considered at the Mughals to be a reaction against the monotonous and plain natural environment of Hindustan of which Babur once spoke by criticizing dust and heat of India. Each colour had its own symbolism and meaning to the Mughals. Red and white were particularly known as their trademark, namely colours of Mughal empire and royal dignity. According to Khwandamir mediaeval Persian scholar and historian, Humayun was well-known during his reign for selecting the color of his royal dress every day according to the color of the planet that was believed to rule that day of the week. Thus, Saturday was believed to be the day of Saturn, so the emperor would choose to wear black on Saturdays for it is the color of Saturn. On Sundays, Humayun would dress himself in yellow since this day was attributed to the Sun, etc.41 Eventually, colour and nature were major sources of inspiration in the Mughal legacy either we observe dynastic architecture, decoration or miniature painting, for there are an obvious number of sustaining reasons for that.

LOWRY, Glen D, Humayuns Tomb Form, Function and Meaning in Early Mughal Architecture, 143.p


Ground floor wall dado 6 pointed star, regular hexagone, daisy and jasmine

Ground floor tower dado 8 pointed star, regular square and daisy

Ground floor niche dado 6 pointed star and regular hexagone


Ground floor archway front dado 12 pointed star, hexagone, equilateral triangle and yellow narcissus

Ground floor wall S-N, archway dado S-N-E-W 5 pointed and 10 pointed star and decagon

Ground floor S-W wall 10 pointed star, decagon and marigold


Tower panel, ground floor section Hexagons overlapping and daisy

Tower panel, ground floor section 6 pointed star, hexagone and marigold

Tower panel, ground floor section 12 pointed star, hexagone and marigold


Tower panel top section 10 pointed rosetta, 5 pointed star and decagone

Tower panel top section 6 pointed star and daisy

Tower panel top section 5 pointed and 10 pointed star and decagone


Jali screen, ground floor flanking niche, South

Jali screen, ground floor E-N-W, superstructure E-N-W-S

Jali screen, ground floor blind niche South, flanking niche E-N-W


Tympanum, E-N-W, ground floor exterior, Fig. 26

Tympanum, South, ground floor exterior, Fig. 27

Tympanum, E-N-W-S, superstructure interior/exterior, Fig. 28


Archway inlay design, S-N-E-W, ground floor, Fig, 29

Niche inlay design, S-N-E-W, ground floor, Fig. 30


Chini khana interior decoration

Daffodils, irises, pansies, wine flasks, incense boxes, chi

Poppies, chrysanthemum, fishes, pomengranates, Nou

Irises, poppies, reversed tulips

Poppies, columbines, dandelions, incense boxes, rat, Nou

Stylized flowers with human image


Irises, chrysanthemum, grapes, chi



Hyacinth with Chi


Cypress with swirling blossom

Wine flask, cups with human image




My pen works miracles! And rightly enough is the form of my words proud of its superiority over meaning. To each of the curves of my letters the heavenly vault confesses its bondage in slavery, And the value of each of my strokes is eternity itself att. to MirAli Haravi


3. Inscriptions Interpretation

Mere decoration or Divine feature?

This chapter presents a main focus of my study of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula, namely its epigraphic program. It concerns religious inscriptions of three Koranic Surahs as well as historical inscriptions, i.e. dates and signatures of their creator. Here I shall also treat the questions concerning the patronship and endowment of the tomb, since there are no official records of these present at the tomb. It has been of a particular matter to me to observe and interpret how the decorative program and inscriptions featured together on the walls and in which material and style the calligraphy relief is done. A special emphasis I put on the content of selected Surahs, their meaning individually and in whole, either their message was earthly or otherworldly, intended to the buried or the visitors. Of special value and interest for our future knowledge of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula and Mughal inscriptions in general may be the reinterpretation of the dates of construction/inscriptions I shall present here. I believe the trustworthiness and accurateness of these historical key facts of the tomb are yet to be established at present. Although being a substantial part of the tombs remarkable decoration program, in this respect it is important to be reminded that the inscriptions of Itimad ud-Daula have never been properly studied or systematically analyzed so far. Thus the tomb inscriptions have never received the attention they deserve, with the exception of few shortly introductions made as a complementary to more specific studies of Mughal art and architecture, e.g. as Professor R. Nath made a brief introduction on Itimad ud-Daulas in his article in the survey of Jahangiri architecture42. On the other hand, Professor Begley and Professor Desai, pioneers in scholarly approach and studying of the Mughal inscriptions, were the first scholars to record and interpret the monumental Taj Mahal Koranic inscriptional program with several other monumental inscriptional programs of the Mughal Empire. Yet these scholars utterly ignored the existence of the inscriptions of the Itimad ud-Daulas. As we already know, the inscriptional programs of two tombs (Itimad ud-Daula and Taj Mahal) are being undoubtedly unique in their creation since they were the only Mughal monuments whose epigraphic programs were devised in Arabic - a highest decorative visual reverence to adorn an Islamic monument on Earth since only the Paradisiacal buildings are said to be decorated with the lines of the Divine language of the Almighty. Moreover, the inscriptional programs of two tombs are similar in content and composition as well. Yet above all, the programs were created immediately one after another. Here I also put my efforts to find and present

History of Mughal architecture, vol. 3, The Transitional Phase of Colour and Design: Jehangir 1605-1658, p. 418-421


the reason for the apparent omission of overlooking the preceding and no less important monument. In addition to this, we are most certainly familiar with the fact that wazir Itimad ud-Daula was not royalblooded and thus his resting place although expensive and sumptuous in creation, could not have had an aura and tomb worthy of a royalty. This brings us to the assumption that Itimad ud-Daulas inscriptional program may not have been examined and studied by Begley and Desai for the tomb was not the imperial tomb, i.e. dynastic monument.

However, the inscriptions of Itimad ud-Daula were far beyond just a mere decoration at one of many Mughal tombs. Although being very intricately composed and low-profile featured, asking patience to be noticed, read and understood, as any other Islamic inscriptions before they were meant to give a specific meaning to the tomb or the building. It was Professor Dodd that first established this theory.43 A message of the inscriptions, both visual and religious was intended to those able to understand these calligraphic writings. According to Islamic teachings, calligraphy is believed to be the embodiment of the sacred word just as Allah was believed to be the first calligrapher in the Universe for He created (revealed) the holy words and passed them to the Prophet through the angel Gabriel. Accordinlgy, it is also suggested that the Divine Pen(Al-Qalam) and the Guarded Tablet(Lawh Al-Mahfuz) were the first objects Allah created for himself so that he could write down the destiny of the world and words to be revealed in the Koran. In this respect, all the Muslim sepulchers traditionally on their top have representations of these objects - male ones bear the Divine Pen adornment and female ones bear the Guarded Tablet adornment - as symbols of determined destiny carved out before they departed. In the perception of a Muslim calligraphy has been a way of disciplining his own soul. Drawing lines of the letters from right to his left, Muslim is moving his own being and course of thinking to the heart (which happens to be located as well in the left side of the body), and while concentrating upon writing, he is bringing back his soul to the center of his being.

Shahada, Profession of faith - Thuluth - There is no God other than Allah and Muhammad is a Messagener of Allah


43 44

DODD C.Erica, The Image of the Word: Notes on the Religious Iconography of Islam Koran Karim, Al-Imran, 3:18


In Islamic lands calligraphy symbolizes ever since the lasting relation between change and permanence that embodies creation itself. While the horizontal moves of the script represent change, the vertical moves represent permanence of the Divine essence. Thus each letter is being given its own personality and ultimately linked with Allah. Moreover, each of 28 Arabic letters (14 letters of the Sun and 14 letters of the Moon) is believed to originate from the very first (and foremost) letter of Arabic script - the letter Alif. It is the symbol of one and only God, uncompromised Unity (Tawheed) and the Divine essence in the celestial meta-version of Arabic, and thus symbol of Islamic monotheism in its strictest terms. Constant and multiform reshaping of Alif creates further all other letters of Arabic script. In its indented symbolics and semantics Alif is just beyond a mere letter of Arabic script/alphabet.

Alif reshaped as word Muhammad

Alif as single letter

Alif reshaped as word Allah

In its calligraphic or generally artistic terms of speaking, Alif represents the symbol of celestial-earthly origin of the Holy script. Thus apart from the visible - Seen Alif we see in a script, it is believed there is also another Alif, invisible to our eyes - Unseen Alif, its celestial counterpart and spiritual twin resting in the order of the aforementioned meta-language, namely the Divine Arabic spoken in Paradise. However, in its hermeneutical terms of speaking Alif is the symbol of two-bladed sword, since its visual calligraphic expression undoubtedly resembles a sword. Therefore, in its strong metaphorical sense this powerful two-bladed sword paves a path to our beliefs and course of thoughts on our way to the overall spiritual and comprehensive self-awaking. In the light of this knowledge, when we observe the Holy script of the Koranic Revelation in its original state, visually the text comes to our perception as if it was perfectly split cut horizontally by no other means but the Alif letter itself. In other words, the script we see conceivingly lacks the upper register of script, the Unseen part of the script. That invisible, Unseen part of the script is exactly the meta-language, celestial Arabic undone in earthly creation, the unwritten one, the language we cannot conceive and communicate unless we are Divine creatures residing in Paradise. Only perceived like this, highly aetheric stylized Arabic script can provide us the key to understanding Islamic text either of the book or the monument, as well as to Islamic spirituality itself. 63

The use of inscriptions presents one of the principal elements of the Islamic decoration along with floral/vegetal motifs, religious symbols and architectural setting. What is different about Islamic art is that writing is the main, if not sometimes the only, element of decoration.45 Professor Dodd established that the word actually bears a central role in expression of both Islam and Islamic art, whereas the Koran is the faithful reproduction of the original scripture in heaven, namely the words revealed to the Prophet. Thus, the written or recited Koran is identical in being and in reality with the uncreated and eternal word of God.46 The first words that Allah revealed to the Prophet were the verses of Sura 96, chapter Al -`Alaq, The Clot. These verses symbolize the central role of writing in Islamic art and culture:
Read: In the name the name of thy Lord who createth, Createth man from clot. Read: And thy Lord is the most Bounteous, Who teacheth by the pen, 47 Teacheth man that which be knew not.

In order to approach and study Koranic inscriptions either on buildings or objects, we need to understand first the structure of the Koran and arrangement of its 114 chapters. When Koran scripts are read literally it is easy to arrive at the wrong conclusion and thus distract or discourage ourselves from reaching the proper inviews into more abstract principles, namely those on universality and eternal truth. The XIIth century Islamic scholar AlGhazali stated that in order to understand the meaning of the Islamic scripts we need to know the meaning of the language, which is composed with a purpose and used for communication in society. This can be done either by trying to understand the scripts the way they are or referring to other comparable texts. Also we can use our logic and follow indications from the context, such as signs, symbols, etc.48 The Koranic verses were composed in two different sociohistoric periods, known as Makkiyah (Meccan period) and Madaniyyah (Madinah period). The Makkiyah verses were revealed and communicated while the Prophet was still in Mecca, or before his Hijran

45 46

BLAIR, Sheila, 2006, Islamic calligraphy, Edinburgh University Press, p. 4-5 DODD C. Erica, The Image of the Word, 46.p 47 Koran Karim, Al-Alaq, 96:1-5 48 AL-GHAZALI, Abu Hamid, Al-Mustasfa min IIm Al-Usul, Maktabah al-Jundi; (N.D.) p. 268.


transition to Medina, while the following group was communicated after the Prophet and his followers moved to Medina. Having identified the Surah and verse in the examined inscription, it is important to find out why a particular verse is on one particular building or place. Depending on the inscription being frequently or rarely used, we are further able to recognize or not its symbolics and meaning. More frequent the inscription is, we can better understand its message on building or object. Some Koranic verses have been popularly used for inscriptional programs ever since for they represent important aspects of the Islamic faith. While some inscriptional programs were usually devised on mosques, some were on tombs by no particular preference or traditionally established order. The most frequently cited passage of Koran is from Surah Al-Baqara, Ayat Al-Kursi (2:255) or the so-called Throne Verse. Also very popular and reverend is the Light Verse (24:35) of Surah 24 An-Nur. Surah 48 Al-Fath also enjoys a sheer reverence among Muslims and is highly regarded as a charm and sort of talisman. It bears deeply religious verses promising the victory to the believers, both in this world and beyond and thus very often is quoted in inscriptional program of the most reverend Muslim shrines as in Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Sultan Hassan mosque in Cairo, but also in Taj Mahal and tomb of Itimad ud-Daula. In 19th century Egypt a book or scroll with seven surahs particularly 6, 18, 36, 44, 55, 67, and 78 was considered a charm.49 Perhaps the most famed verse of the Koran is so-called Shahada from Surah AlImran (3:18), namely the profession of faith, very oftenly quoted throughout the Islamic world. Verse 3:185 of this touching Surah is among the selection of passages that adorn the cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal in Taj Mahal. Yet the most glamorous and most worshipped place decorated with the passages of Sura Al-Imran is the Kiswa cover of Kaaba shrine in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Embroidered in a 670kgs of massive black silk, there are over 16kg of pure solid gold threads, sixty three million dollars esteemed, enscribing the passages of this Surah all over the cover of the holiest Muslim shrine on Earth. Every year, one month prior to the Hajj, a newly hand-made Kiswa cover is ceremonially placed on the House of Kaaba stone where it remains until the next Hajj. Apart from the verses of Al-Imran, there are also verses of Surahs Al-Tawba, Ya-Sin, Al-Mulk, Al-Kahf and Ta-Ha embroidered on the Kiswa cover.

Basmallah, divine invocation - Thuluth - The most usual reverend opening in Islamic inscriptions

BLAIR, Sheila, 1998, Islamic Inscription, Edinburgh University Press, p.215; with further references


'Creation itself is the divine calligraphy with which God covered the pages of changing Time, with the black and white design of night becoming days, and days becoming night ' Qadi Ahmed


The Tomb of Itimad ud-Daula, Inscription frieze panel, Agra, Fig. 31

Kaaba shrine, Qiswa cover inscription, Mecca, Fig.32

Taj Mahal, Archway inscription, Agra, Fig. 33

The Dome of the Rock, Exterior frieze inscription, Jerusalem, Fig.34


Wazir Khan mosque, Main portal inscription, Lahore, Fig. 35

Shah mosque, Portal inscription, Isfahan, Fig. 36

Akbars tomb, Main gate archway inscription, Sikandra, Fig. 37

Bou Inania Madrasa, Courtyard inscription, Fez, Fig. 38

Lodhi park wall, High relief inscription, Fig. 39


Interaction between the inscriptions and the architectural/decorative features

According to Professor Blair who defined the types and purposes of the inscriptions, it seems possible to classify the inscriptions of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula either as endowment or funerary inscriptions, at least according to the buildings purpose. On the other hand, we may also notice at the same time the inscriptions belong to neither of these types, for there are no scripts in the form of eulogies at the tomb site praising either the builder or the deceased diginitary. To be even more conspicuous, the tomb has no existing official records of any type (at least not that I have read of) to witness about tombs endowment, dedicatory or even presumed burials themselves. Yet, it comes logical that the presence of eulogies here would be appropriate manner for they clarify to us the date of tomb construction and perhaps even more importantly, who ordered or funded the building. As we know, endowment inscriptions were usually employed at religious buildings such as a mosque, madrasa, tomb, pious foundation or similar kind of building. They are usually identified by two different verbs used: to endow (waqafa) and to tie up inalienably (habbasa).50 However, neither of this two verb marks can be found in the inscriptional program of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula. On the other hand, we may probably want to identify either the buried dignitary or the tomb inscriptions themselves according to the Professor Blairs definition of the funerary or commemorative inscriptions. The first ones were intended to show for whom a tomb was constructed and they always contain the name of the person buried there. This is usually done by introducing the name of the deceased with the following phrase this is the tomb of (hadaha qabr or hadaha maqbara), the phrase often used on tombstones.51 The second ones would often contain a religious formula, usually the Basmalla (p.65) or Shahada invocations (p.62).52 True, the inscriptional program of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula does not contain almost any of these as well, neither the names of the buried dignitaries or usual introducing funerary phrase. Yet the Basmalla invocation does appear three times at the tomb, opening each of three Koranic Surahs of the program.

While studying the tombs inscriptions and establishing the matterful body of historical facts that would support my further analysis on the tomb, it was of a great assistance to read Professor Begleys study on the symbolic role of calligraphy on three imperial mosques of Shah Jahan. Here Begley approached and discussed factual, political and religious instances of the inscriptions of three royal mosques: Jami Masjid (1648) and Moti Masjid (1653) in Agra and Jami Masjid (1656) in Delhi. These are the largest and

Idem, p.43 Idem, p.45 52 Idem, p.47


most important religious structures built by this most prolific Mughal emperor. In all three cases, these imperial mosques were seemingly religious in their basic function, yet enhanced with particular inscriptional eulogies praising the bulider and his kingship - the buildings were actually secular in their true essence. The imperial mosques thus displayed the political strivings and pursuits of religion in creating a particular public image of the self-absorbed emperor that would overwhelm ambassadors, diplomats and dignified visitors from abroad, but his subjects just as well.53 Even more exemplifying and clearifying for the present study of the historical inscriptions of the Itimad ud-Daulas may be the observation from another study of Begleys Amanat Khan and the Calligraphy on the Taj Mahal. Here the author, among other, examining Jami Masjid (1648) in Agra and its inscriptional program - the imperial mosque princess Jahanara built on behalf of her father the emperor Shah Jahan - establishes whether the unsigned inscriptions were indeed designed and executed by Amanat Khan. Further and more importantly for us, Begley here clearly stresses out that although left unsigned the content of the inscriptions eulogize both Jahanara and - at a very flattering tone - Shah Jahan, in effect, the builder and the endowed.54 The example of this official imperial mosque endowment which princess nobly treated her father with may serve quite well as an almost direct reflexion of the sumptuous tomb empress Nur Jahan treated her late father Itimad ud-Daula with. Therefore, we have here two influential royal daughters, one by birth and the other by marriage, and their generous treats to their powerful fathers, one by his heirship and royal inheritance and the other by his royal appointment. Thus, it comes logical that both buildings, the mosque and the tomb, considering the relations of the builders and the endowed, might (should) have had at least similarly devised inscriptional programs. Obviously, both daughters loved their fathers and held them in the great esteem. So while Jami Masjid is obviouisly an officially endowed building, the striking absence of any eulogies, dedicatory or endowment inscriptions in respect to the wazir, i.e. the empress father at the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula leaves us a room for speculations whether the tomb was constructed by abused funds of the imperial Treasury at the time of Jahangirs reign.

Undoubtedly, having read Begleys studies on three imperial mosques it becomes clear to us that in comparison with aforementioned Shahjahani mosques, the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula, although wealthy and stylish in construction and overall design, along with deeply religious selection of Koranic chapters, was not meant for show off, awe-inspiring and audience. As we just observed, Itimad ud Daulas bears

53 54

BEGLEY, Wayne, The Symbolic Role of Calligraphy on Three Imperial Mosques of Shah Jahan, p.8 BEGLEY, Wayne, 1978-79, Amanat Khan and the Calligraphy on the Taj Mahal, Kunst des Orients 12, 1-2, p. 19-20


no evidence and praise either of the builder or the endowed and with carefully selected religious script and blank untitled cenotaphs the tomb itself was obviously and most likely created as a rather private, intimate, family resting place. Yet, we may wonder why the creator of the tomb, presumably the empress Nur Jahan, devised the design of the tomb with these evident low-key features? May it be for the sake of privacy and serenity of her beloved family final resting place. Ormay it be for the notoriety, utter extravagance and obsession with power Persian family members were well-known and blamed for which thoughtful daughter obviously gave efforts to redeem in this way. However, being an influential overpowering empress provides an unobstructed access to all the tools of imperial power and so to the imperial Treasury itself which abuse of imperial funds makes rather logical. In the light of these and previous observings, there is a certainty that the tomb of the Mughal Prime Minister and highest ranking dignitary Itimad ud-Daula was indeed funded by abused means of the imperial Treasury and thus utterly unacceptable and potentially riskful either for official state records or any endowment/bestowment inscription on the monument. Even if we do not pay attention how extravagant and delicate at the same time the craftsmanship of the tomb was, we already concluded that, at the end of the day, Itimad udDaula was firstly a beloved father of the empress (whom he endowed so much in his lifetime) and then secondly, the Prime Minister, Wazir and father in law of the current Mughal emperor. Obviously, this brings us to the conclusion that the devoted daughter did put her best efforts in order to save her fathers dignity, reputation and reverence, both in this world and the one beyond even if that considered creating his grave sumptuous, yet nameless. Above all, regardless of the wazirs court and blood relations, and doubtful absence of important historical records at the tomb, highly symbolic religious inscriptions in the tombs decorative program will help us uncover soon that eventually it was Nur Jahan being most likely the driving force in the total creation of this remarkable tomb. I shall address this observation further during my interpretation of the tombs Koranic inscriptions (p. 88).


Ground floor inscription register plan, Fig. 41

Upper floor inscription register plan, Fig. 42


The inscriptional program of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula, should be treated like any other scholarly studied Islamic text, namely as an Islamic monument itself - from the expertise and description of the composition, technique and style to the interpretation of the religious text itself. Bearing in mind the granted trust and confidence my mentor Professor Koch and the Archaeological Survey of India officials had put in me and my work, I approached the tomb in July 2010 and observingly took first official photo documentation of the tombs inscriptions. The program I took record of is consisted of meaningful religious text, namely three full uninterrupted Koranic surahs executed in the two different registers, one in the ground floor exterior and other in the superstructure pavilion interior. The ground floor script is executed by carving in white marble panels of different length (size) which were obviously attached afterwards onto the building surface. Panels were further placed on the considerable height of the exterior, at walls and corner towers according to their size, i.e. corresponding to the composition and size of the exterior architectural elements below (mainly the faade openings). The composition thus creates a beautiful monochrome frieze around the whole tomb in the direction West - North - East - South, opening from far right on the ground floor West side of the tomb and closing on the South West tower right next to the opening panel on the West side (Fig.41). Unlike the ground floor, the superstructure interior script seems to be executed directly on the marble wall surfaces, framed in long rectangular cartouches right above the huge jali marble screens, running in the direction opposite from ground floor register (since devised on the inside) West - South - East - North, opening from far right on the West side (Fig.42).

The script of the tombs inscriptions was Thuluth and it was used regularly in India and Persia. Thuluth was often considered the most powerful and versatile script for calligraphic decorations. It is said that you are not a calligrapher until you can write Thuluth. It is a large and elegant, cursive script, used in mediaeval times particulary for titles and architectural inscriptions, mostly on mosques. The script was developed in 10th century A.D, then further elaborated in the 15th century A.D. and it is still being in use nowadays. The script name Thuluth derives from the Arabic word thuluth ( )meaning "one third", since one-third of each letter slopes. Mughals used the script particularly for the mosques and tombs and thus it appears at the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula. However, the most famous examples of Thuluth, and indeed some of the most majestic Koranic inscriptions ever written, were those designed for the Taj Mahal. The distinctive characteristics of Thuluth are vertical strokes with a leftward slant, horizontals with a deep curve, finishings of most descending letters appear with an elegant curved hook, the letters often interlace, and many alternate letter forms may appear in this script. When it comes to the Thuluth 73

Panel sizes and layouts - Style and technique of calligraphic carving - Layout of opening & closing verse, Plate 3


script at the tomb program, its course and layout of verses throughout the panels of both register slightly change periodically in the terms of dynamics and density of the script. Smaller the panel - more legible and clearer the verse outlook. Larger the panel - more tensed and dense the verses outlook. The upper register is way more intense and intricate for reading, even watching. The thirty lengthy verses of the Surah Al-Mulk are devised on only eleven long rectangular cartouches above jails. Their letters constantly intertwine and overlap among each other, even flexibly changing at times throughout the whole upper register. Very often, regardless of the size (length) of the panels, verses run alternately in one or two rows at the same time, e.g. while in the lower row previous verse is coming to its end, the following verse already runs in the top row. Seemingly, both programs look like an endless flow of abstract embroidery work on the marble, yet special manneristic features engaged in the calligraphic carving like flower blossom (), slanted comma-like strokes, delicate descending letter curves, highly elongated letters like Ya ( ) or Fi ( ( ) Plate 3) conjoining some verses or sections of the script composition, etc. make it accessible to the reader. Some of these features like elongated letters and comma-like strokes appear at the Taj program as well, but it is rather a matter of then fashionable Thuluth manner than a conceptual closeness of the monuments. Along with these specific features, chapters are separated by divine invocations, namely, each of three chapters of the religious program opens with Basmallah divine invocation (p.65). In this way, having these features incorporated the script becomes better composed, legible and playful. The flower blossom mark (Plate3) is very characteristic feature although not particularly apparent in the program, for it may be mistaken for one of short vowels which are also very attentively carved out throughout the panels. Yet, the flower blossom marks are rather helpful and not negligible at all in the script, for they facilitate the reading and comprehension of the revered text. The mark is thus being placed after each verse in order to separate them, namely, it marks the end of one and the beginning of the other verse. Also, the blossom mark appears as well after each of three Basmallah invocations. Sometimes but seldom, the script is so dense so the mark does not appear, that is, the calligrapher obviously did not have enough space for its carving. Also, once in the entire composition the blossom mark is doubled (Plate3)at the panel No.40 on the East side. double separates larger script units, i.e. marks the end of first surah and the beginning of the second surah in the ground floor register. However,the whole program is almost perfectly preserved on the monochrome marble panels with barely few damages in the form of cracklings or broken letters and thus any scholar with proficient reading skills in Arabic inscriptions may read it well. Visible only at the second look, the inscription carvings appears aetheric as a halo, as if the creator consciously employed aforementioned characteristics in order to enhance the otherworldly impression of the script. 75

Technical proportions of the Thuluth calligraphic script, Fig. 42

It comes highly curious and interesting to observe at the Itimad ud-Daulas the fine interaction between architectural, decorative and religious program of the tomb; to be precise, the correspondence between architectural elements of the tomb, the four cardinal directions and composition of the religious script across the panels. As we observed earlier, panels of the lower register were placed in balanced order onto the wall and tower surfaces of the exterior. Namely, the panels are placed according to their size corresponding to the composition and size of the exterior architectural elements, e.g. larger inscription panels surmounting the archways and recessed niches; smaller inscription panels at the towers and over the blind niches. Reading the script from the walls it becomes obvious that the course and placement of Koranic passages (ayats) of surahs across the panels were not composed befittingly according to the size and length of the marble panels. However, just a mere watching of the script almost convincingly gives us an impression that the script composition runs highly balanced, masterfully befitting the panels, i.e. as if the length of each ayat fitted the size (length) of each panel. Or, to put it in simpler terms, length of ayats does not necessarily fit the length of panels; thus the ayats run uninterruptedly from one panel to another around the building, sometimes ending in the middle of one and sometimes ending befittingly at the end of another. Meanwhile, the scheme in the upper register is rather uniform and repeated since each of 12 panels of the program is of same size and corresponds to the composition and uniform size of large marble latticed screens they surmount. Unlike the lower register script, as mentioned before, the upper register script is being quite densely carved out, highly intricately stylized and almost impossible to follow at some points, with words and ayats of surah constantly intertwining and overlapping, thus bringing even more dramatic feel to the already striking Surah Al-Mulk that adorns the upper register. Obviously, the intensity of the upper register 76

calligraphy texture is most certainly due to the placement of this lengthy surah within the limited wall space of the superstructure pavilion. In a view how masterful and refined artists calligraphic skills were in creation of the demanding upper register of Itimad ud-Daulas in scale and atmosphere rather intimate superstructure pavilion, it should be solely stated here that the same Koranic chapter was executed in Taj Mahal by calligrapher Amanat Khan, that is, in the far more monumental lower dome drum (18.55m in diameter) of the tomb chamber55. Furthermore, regarding the interaction of the programs of the tomb, we have already contemplated before the employment of the four cardinal directions in the placement of particular religious script on particular place on the tomb. During my earlier and current observations upon the inscriptions of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula, in this matter I was mainly inspired with Professor Begleys approach in his profound study on Calligraphy of Taj Mahal and its chief calligrapher Amanat Khans work. There Begley indicated, among other, that the meaning of the Koranic inscriptions is affected by their placement on a particular part of the architectural program and thus the inscriptions must be contemplated on many different levels.56

In the light of this knowledge, we may return to the conspicuous South side of the tomb of Itimad udDaula and more easily try comprehending the reasons of symbolic placement of the Surah AlMuzzammil across this side of the tomb. As we know from before, the main tomb chamber with cenotaphs of wazir and his consort is exclusively accessed from the South in accordance to well-known and regularly applied Islamic funeral rite. Thus, entering the chamber from the South and approaching the cenotaphs we leave one world and transcend to another, that is, we leave the earthly light of this world in the garden behind and embrace the gloom and resting peace of those whose cenotaphs we are visiting. Furthermore, as we observed earlier, the South side of the tomb is also being the side where exclusively and unlike in the other sides (coincidentally?) the regular recessed screened niches that flank the central archways of the tomb are replaced with unique semi-closed blind niches (Fig.20-21). These two flanking niches being semi-closed reduce the sunlight on this side and additionally make the interior scene more somber, mournful and resembling death. Thus, matching this architectural feature on the South side with Sura Al-Muzzammil, whose content is about the Day of Judgment and services and devoted prayers offered throughout the night, additionally and strongly enhances the gloom and melancholy of this side of the tomb while also indicating the departing from this earthly life (by entering the tomb) and resurrection itself.
55 56

idem p. 259 BEGLEY, Wayne, Amanat Khan and the Calligraphy on the Taj Mahal, p. 7-8


Both inscriptional registers, ground floor and upper floor, are finished with historical inscriptions carved out in the last marble panel of closing surah of the each register, that is, in the ground floor at the last panel of the S-W corner tower, in the upper floor at the last (12th) cartouche of the North wall. Each historical inscription contain the year of completion of each register with the name of their creator within the regular inscriptional form Written by(Katibuhu). The years of completion of each register are different and for two reasons: the first reason comes rather logical - one register was done after another, that is, according to official records and interpretation the upper register was completed first in 1036 A.H. (1626/27 A.D.), while the ground floor register was completed in 1037 A.H. (1627/28 A.D.). The second reason is that the year of the ground floor register is abbreviated (year and decade) - 37, while the upper register year is regularly carved out with four numerals (year, decade an millennium) 1036. Here remains unknown who was originally responsible for establishing these dates of the inscriptions (or tomb) completion and whether the interpretations were trustworthy, but what stands for certain is that these key inscriptions of the program are most likely misinterpreted.57

When it comes to the calligraphers signature it appears twice, namely, one signature is at the end of each register and they are identical in style. In other words, both inscription registers were created and signed by Abd Al-Nabi Al-Qureyshi. Both Al-Qureyshis signatures and the years of completion are written together, yet separated from the rest of the script thus creating a distinct inscriptional unit of its own. Namely, in the ground floor the calligrapher composed the script so that at the last panel of the register it closes with his signature and the year, while in the upper floor, due to the limited space of writing and length of the selected surah, year of the completion of the upper register was inscribed vertically (Figs. 46-47), that is, opposite of horizontal course of the script while the calligraphers seignature remains aligned with the text. Obviously, the calligrapher was well-respected and held in a great esteem according to the fashion of his signature and since he was allowed to sign his creations. Whoever he was, we cannot assert with confidence whether Al-Qureyshi was either court-established artist or related in any way to the workshops of well-known calligraphers at the time like Amanat Khan of the Shahjahani court or Mir Abd Allah of Jahangiri court. However, certain peculiarity strongly draws the attention while observing the closing panel of the ground floor. Apart from the calligraphers signature and the year of completion, the panel also contains two last words of the highly religious Surah Al-Muzzammil that closes the ground floor register. One gets the impression here that dropping the last two words out of their context from the previous panel may seem as an accidental omission.

The inscription dates controversy will be treated separately, in detail in the end of this chapter


However, these two closing words are not just any words of the chapter and thus they may have a rather symbolic significance to our knowledge considering their special placement, that is, immediately close to the calligraphers name. In effect, the inscription panel (No.63) before the last one (No.64, with Al-Qureyshis name and year) contains the last two ayats (verses) of the Surah Al-Muzzammil saying And ask forgiveness of Allah. Indeed, Allah is. However, the remaining half of the last ayat Forgiving and Merciful continues onto the closing panel where the calligraphers signature and year of completion are written (Figs.43). Thus, to any mindful epigraphic reader a new concealed synthetically created inscription will emerge on the last panel, as if it was meant to be read separately as Forgiven and Merciful Abd Al-Nabi Al-Qureyshi.

Closing panels of the ground floor register (green) with calligraphers signature and year (yellow) and synthetic verse (green/red) Fig. 43 Fig. 44


And ask forgiveness of Allah. Indeed, Allah (is) Forgiving and Merciful (Written by) Abd A-Nabi Al-Qureyshi 37

The creation obviously combined with last words of the closing ayat (that are closely attributed to Allah both in the present epigraphic context and that of the divine virtues) with calligraphers signature may not mean anything at all, for the previous panel indeed appears to be filled up with carvings of previous verse(Fig.44). Yet once uncovered and pronounced, the newly created synthetic inscription brightly resonates in the mind of the reader leaving the impression about the calligrapher as a deeply religious subject creating in the awe the reverend task he was entrusted to while claiming forgiveness and mercy for himself. That this may not be just an accidental omission by masterful calligrapher and that inscriptions in the Mughal architecture may conceal the message of the aforementioned meta-language, the divine Unwritten one encrypted in the earthly monument, we also have other striking examples of

Kuran Karim, Al-Muzzammil, 73:20


this kind. Thus, in the same manner Professor Begley indicates and discusses highly conspicuous phrase created by synthesizing two different Koranic verses inscribed at the South end (foot) of the Mumtaz Mahals cenotaph at the tomb chamber of Taj Mahal.59

Namely, in his study The Myth of the Taj Mahal and a New Theory of its Symbolic Meaning, Begley examines and interprets the composition of the mausoleums highly venerated religious inscriptional program giving a special emphasis to the paradisiacal concept of the mausoleum and its mesmerizing calligraphic adornments. In the part where Begley studies the cenotaph of the untimely passed away empress he closely observes its decorative features and inscriptional program. Defining the concealed symbolism in the Tajs overall program, Begley approaches Mumtaz Mahals cenotaph with the same assessments attributing to it an allegorical meaning that transcends its literal function. Further depicting empress cenotaph Begley recalls that grave marks (cenotaphs) of Muslim women are usually flat, often decorated with a writing tablet on top - just as empress Mumtaz Mahal appears to be. As we know, a writing tablet on the female cenotaph in the Islamic world symbolizes the celestial Guarded Tablet (Lawf Al-Mahfuz) upon which God inscribed the destiny of the world. In this respect, Begley suggests an analogy to which Mumtaz Mahals cenotaph concealingly resembles the celestial Guarded Tablet in the overall image of the Taj Mahal as the Throne of God on Earth on the Day of Judgment. According to traditional Islamic cosmology, the Guarded Tablet is actually the Inscribed Register treasured in the celestial realm of Illyun which is in immediate closeness to the Throne of God, and accordingly, visible only to those who stand nearest to God. Begley thus gives substance to his assumption about empress cenotaph and the Guarded Tablet of Illyun indicating the inscriptional program composed on her cenotaph. Namely, the Surah Al-Mutaffifin whose verses (83:22-28) adorn the empress cenotaph (East side and part of the South end) is coincidentally the only place in Koran where the reference to this mysterious celestial realm of Illyun can be found. Additionally, the expression those Nearest unto God happens to appear twice in this surah, in the verses 21 and 28. Furthermore, the aforementioned verses 22-28 of this surah are coincidentally inscribed at Mumtaz Mahals cenotaph - as we already observed, at East side and part of the South end where they meet the verse of following Sura Fussilat (41:30) and suggest a very indicative new concealed phrase. In other words, when taken together, independently and separated from the verses they belong to, the words of the ending verse of Al-Mutaffifin - Those Nearest unto God! and words of the continuing verse of Fussilat - Verily those who say, Our lord is God!match on the South end of cenotaph creating a phrase with an utterly different meaning (Fig.45).

BEGLEY, Wayne, The Myth of the Taj Mahal and a New Theory of its Symbolic Meaning, p. 28-29


South end (foot) of the Mumtaz Mahals upper cenotaph, Taj Mahal, Fig. 45



Those Nearest unto God! (are) Verily those who say, Our lord is God!

Although, both observations Begleys and mine may only imply the synthesized phrase and its own independent context created by two inscriptions accidentally matched at one place, precisely these arrangements at both tombs must have had a symbolic purpose, either in eulogizing the humbleness and benevolence of the calligrapher of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula or in embodying the allegory of the highly revered inscriptions that adorn the resting place of the untimely passed away empress who, by her profession of faith, had settled in Paradise among those nearest unto God.

There is another example of similar symbolic reading of the architectural or decorative features referring to the paradisiacal concept in Mughal architecture we were also introduced by Begley. It concerns the Akbars tomb in Sikandra, that is, the decorative couplet inscriptions on monumental gateway on the South side of the tomb complex that the author examined in his study Taj Mahal: The Illumined Tomb: An anthology of Seventeenth-Century Mughal and European Documentary Sources.62 Here Begley discusses the Persian inscriptions in the form of three couplets at the gateway within the context of the

60 61

idem, Al-Mutaffifin, 83:28 idem, Fussilat, Ha-Mim, 41:30 62 BEGLEY E. W./DESAI A.Z, Taj Mahal: The Illumined Tomb: An anthology of Seventeenth-Century Mughal and European Documentary Sources, p. xxxix (Introduction)


paradisiacal outlook of garden of the Akbars monumental tomb complex. Begley further suggests that behind the idea of placement of the three Persian couplets, inscribed on both sides of the entrance, actually stands a deliberately devised concept, most likely by the calligrapher Amanat Khan, that immediately right before entering the garden complex passing through the gateway a visitor should be strongly suggested and taken over by enchanting Persian lines introducing him to the otherworldly atmosphere of the garden:
Hail, blessed space happier than the garden of Paradise! Hail, lofty building higher than the Divine Throne! A Paradise, the garden of which has thousands of Rizwans as it servants, A Garden, the terrain of which contains thousands of celestial Paradises. The pen of the mason of the Divine Decree has written upon its threshold: These are the gardens of Eden, enter them to live forever!

The date controversy

The trustworthiness of the date, i.e. year of completion of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula that once had been officially interpreted as 1037A.H. (1627/28 A.D.) emerged during my research as one of the most prominent key points in the present study. Namely, apart from the inscriptional program that has been fully analyzed and taken the most of our attention here, a new equally important question upon the tomb raised during the research, if not the most important one. The question we open here concerns two historical inscriptions at the tombs epigraphic program that contain years of completion of the down floor register and the upper floor register. Having already given a brief mention about the matter (p. 78), we know that the ground floor inscriptions close with the signature of the calligrapher Abd AlNabi Al-Qureyshi and the year of 1037 A.H. (1627/28 A.D.), while the upper floor inscriptions inside the superstructure pavilion close with the same calligraphers signature and the year of 1036 A.H. (1626/27 A.D.). However, if we do acknowledge this order of the dates inscribed on the tomb, how is it possible that the superstructure (or the upper floor inscriptonal register) was completed earlier than the ground floor structure (or the ground floor inscriptional register)? In support of this key question, let us fully examine both inscribed dates and according to findings and arguments establish the accuracy of their current official interpretation. Here I believe the right and trustful interpretation (of the year of the tombs final completion) is yet to be established, so I am dedicating this part of the study to the evidence standing in favor of it. 82

As we know, both inscriptional registers, ground floor and upper floor, are finished with historical inscriptions carved out in the last marble panel of closing surah of the each register, that is, in the ground floor at the last panel of the S-W corner tower, in the upper floor at the last (12th) cartouche of the North wall. Each historical inscription contains the year of completion of each register with the name of their creator within the regular inscriptional form Written by(Katibuhu). The dates of completion of each register are different and for two reasons: the first reason comes rather logical - one register was done after another, that is, according to official records and interpretation the upper register was completed first in 1036 A.H. (1626/27 A.D.), while the ground floor register was completed in 1037 A.H. (1627/28 A.D.). The second reason is that the date of the ground floor register is abbreviated (year and decade) - 37, while the upper register year is regularly carved out with four numerals (year, decade and millennium) - 1036. When it comes to the calligraphers signature it appears twice, namely, one signature is at the end of each register and they are identical in style. In other words, both inscription registers were created and signed by Abd Al-Nabi Al-Qureyshi. Both Al-Qureyshis signatures and the years of completion are written together, yet separated from the rest of the script thus creating a distinct inscriptional unit of its own. Namely, in the ground floor the calligrapher composed the script so that the last panel of the register contains no verses but only his signature and the date (except the two words of the last verse) , while in the upper floor, due to the limited space for writing and length of the selected surah, date of the completion of the upper register was inscribed vertically (Figs. 46-47), that is, opposite of the script and the calligraphers signature that remain in the same alignment.

Whatever the date of the ground floor (Fig.48) referred to, either the completion of the ground floor construction or the inscription register, it is as much as clear that the inscription says -- (37) which is actually 1037 - the year according to Hijri Islamic calendar. Using the particular historic scientific formula which considers adding 600, then subtracting 10 to the Hijri year, we convert the year to the Christian calendar, that is Anno Domini year which in this case is 1627. Yet, it is most likely that this year referred to the time of completion of the ground floor inscriptions, since it was inscribed immediately next to the name signature which obviuously belongs to the calligrapher of the tomb. But what comes here as the most important finding for our further analysis is that both numerals of the abbreviated date - 3 and 7 - in the ground floor register were inscribed independently from the rest of the script on the panel (Fig.48). In other words, the numerals are not integral part of the rest of the panel carvings, that 83

is, they were not tied (inscribed together) to the calligraphy script, as the calligrpahers sometimes do this in order to make the carving process easier and faster.

Unlike the numerals of the ground floor date, the superstructure date (Figs. 47) is inscribed fully, with four numerals - - (1036) and they make an integral part of the carvings, that is, thay are not independent from the rest of the panel script for the calligrapher technically tied the numerals carvings with that of his signature (Fig.51). Other than that, the date and the signature of the upper floor register come together more dense which makes them thus more intricate for reading. For these two reasons exactly, I believe the date of completion of the upper floor - 1036 - was misinterpreted in the first place and that the actual and original inscribed date is 1039 which (bearing in mind the year of 1037 in the ground floor) eventually may come as logical and definitive date of completion of the whole tomb. Therefore, I would like to draw our attention closely here, for I have solid findings to present in order to dismiss the year of 1036 AH (1626/27 AD) as the officially recorded date of completion of the superstructure inscriptions and establish the year of 1039 AH (1629/30 AD) as original and credible date.

The closing panel of the upper floor register - Signature and year of completion, Fig. 46

The signature and the year of completion - Close up, Fig. 47 - The closing panel of the ground floor, Signature and year of completion, Fig.48


Disputed numerals, the language distinction in writing, Fig.49

The outlook of the dates, difference between right and false, Fig.50

In regard to my conclusion, I should first mention the facts that support my findings concerning the date misinterpretation: high similiarity of Arabic numerals engaged in the script mismatch between the dates of the ground floor and the upper floor dirt stains over the script consultations with university lecturers from Egypt and Iraq

What may seem first as a misguide for reading the controversial date at the tomb is that some Arabic numerals engaged at the tomb inscriptions are very similar in writing. To be more precise, two key numerals of the disputed date - 6 and 9 - are almost the same either in random writing or calligraphy writing (Fig. 49). The only distinction between the numerals is that upper section of 9 has fully closed curvature (obviously just like standard numeral 9) while 6 has its upper section just slightly curved, concave and without curvature. The distinction likely comes barely visible in the calligraphy of the closing verse for the numerals carvings are attached to the carvings of calligraphers signature. On the other hand, we may also believe that the date was probably inscribed with Persian numerals, since 6 and 9 are almost identical in Persian and thus easy to be misread. Yet, this assumption can also be easily abandoned since there is no logical reason why the calligrapher would sign himself and complete his work entirely in Arabic and then for some reason dated it in Persian.

The second reason to take the date inscription into further consideration is the obvious mismatch between the dates of the ground floor and the upper floor that blurrs the order of completion for the inscriptions on the tomb. As we know, the date in the ground floor is 1037 and in the upper floor is 1036 - so how is it possible that the upper floor register (or the upper floor constructiion) was completed


before the groud floor one? One of the rare scholars that raised the same question before was Professor Nath who at the same time may have misinterpreted as well the date in the upper floor.63 In this respect, Nath skeptically interpreted the date of the superstructure as the date of the completion of inscriptions alone, while the date of the ground floor he interpreted as the date of completion of the whole tomb. I believe this interpretation cannot be taken as trustful since both the dates and the calligraphers signatures were inscribed in the same manner and next to one another which obviously implies that they were done by the same artisan. After all, we are already familiar with the layout of the inscriptional programs of other structures like Taj Mahal, Akbars gate and Shahjahani imperial mosques where only signatures of the calligraphy creators were found. Therefore, if the constructors signatures or marks were not a regular practice in the Mughal architecture, then why the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula and its inscriptions would be an exception? In addition to the matter, one wonders who was the first scholar or curator who approached the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula and first read the inscriptions? Apart from Nath, Professor Brown, whose study is being considered as one of the pioneer academic works in the field of Indo-islamic architecture of the Subcontinent may be the first scholar who misinterpreted the date of completion of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula stating it as 1626.64

The close up of the superstructure date, Fig. 51

The superstructure date with dirt marks, Fig.52

63 64

History of Mughal architecture, vol. 3, The Transitional Phase of Colour and Design: Jehangir 1605-1658 AD, p 420 BROWN, Percy, 1943, Indian architecture (Islamic period), Taraporevala, p. 100


The third reason may seem negligible, yet it may be rather helpful and clearifying in the process of correct calligraphy reading. It concerns the state of preservation of the tombs inscriptional program. While the ground floor register is very well conditioned, the superstructure register was, due to obscurity and sheltered position, obviously under reastauration for many dust/dirt marks still can be found throughout the program. Thus, the dirt was not thoroughly removed from the most intricate carvings like curvilinear letter forms and it can still be seen. The date (containing the curvilinear numeral) is among the inscription sections that were affected with this dirt where it is particularly visible within the curvilinear section of the disputed numeral 6 (od 9). The same dirt marks can be found on the other similar curvilinear forms of the script (Fig 52). Logically, if the disputed numeral was 6 the dirt would not have remained within, but since the numeral is actually 9 which clearly has curvilinear form, the dust obviously remained within the numerals curve.

The last reason to keep me firm in my new findings is that during the analysis of the dates I advised with the university lecturers at the Faculty of Philology I graduated from. Before being assured myself into my new finding I presented my observations to Iman Al-Habashi, lecturer from Egypt, Bashar Ibrahim AlHadla, lecturer from Iraq and Dragana Djordjevic, assistant to professor, at the University of Belgrade. All three scholars were uniform in their own finding, that is, they acknowledged my finding that the date of the superstructure inscriptions was 1039.

This means that the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula (both the inscriptions and the construction) was most likely completed more than one year after the officially recorded date of its completion, i.e. in 1039/40AH (1629/30AD) which may bring a completely new light to our current and future knowledge about this Mughal monument.


Surahs - Tafsir [Exegesis]

The Koranic surahs that were selected for the tomb decorative program are chapters No. 48, No. 73 and No. 67, namely the Surahs Al-Fath (the Victory), Al-Muzzammil (the Enshrouded) and AlMulk (The Dominion). While Surahs Al-Fath and Al-Muzzammil adorn the ground floor, Surah Al-Mulk adorns the superstructure pavilion. The ground floor register is composed on nine panels per each side of the tomb and seven panels per each octagonal tower - making in total a composition of 64 panels for 29 verses of Al-Fath chapter and 20 verses of Al-Muzzammil chapter. Yet again, we may notice here a numerical reflexion of Islamic paradisiacal concept at Itimad ud-Daulas. Namely, the ground floor section of towers is symbolically octagonal in shape just as it is said shape of the Divine throne itself is, with eight pillars of the tower kiosks recalling eight pillars (angels) of the Divine throne bearing it on the Day of Judgment. Moreover, 9+7 composition of the ground floor register has strong numerical symbolic associating to Hasht bihisht nine-fold plan (eight paradises in Islam) and seven Heavens of the Paradise repeatedly mentioned in Koran and also in Surah Al-Mulk present in the tomb program. Furthermore, the superstructure register of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula is composed on the interior surface - three uniform panels per each wall - making in total composition of 12 panels for 30 verses of Al-Mulk chapter. As we observed earlier, both inscriptional registers have blank central panel on the South side of the tomb, right above the entrances to the chamber interiors. These panels were left intact due to the reverence of the Koranic script since the panels are in the exact direction of feet of the buried dignitaries.

Speaking of the reflexions of Islamic paradisiacal concept at the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula, Professor Begley also referred to this concept observing the octagonal architectural, spatial and decorative elements of the Taj Mahal (e.g. tomb chamber, radial ambulatory chambers, marble screen-formerly golden grill encircling the imperial cenotaphs, 8-pointed star design in the overall building plan, the aforementioned inscriptional program etc.) as he established his theory of the Taj Mahal and its garden as a symbolical replica of the Throne of God on Earth on the Day of Judgment.65 Professor Koch also elaborated the paradisiacal concept in her studies; at the Taj, Koch indicated the eschatological concept of the mausoleum through its eight-sidedness, otherworldly lavish floral ornament depictions, to the slightest details like indicating 8-pointed star design in the pavement inlay of the tomb chamber ground


BEGLEY, E. Wayne, 1979, The Myth of the Taj Mahal and a New Theory of its Symbolic Meaning, The Art Bulletin, 61, p. 25-27


floor.66 As I stressed out at the beginning, I have been determined to focus my attention fully on the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula in the present study, for the building was neither properly studied nor systematically analyzed in the studies of Mughal architecture so far. Yet, the comparisons with way more celebrated and overexposed Taj Mahal at times seem obviously inevitable, even utile, for the monuments were built immediately one after another. Moreover, the level of the tombs innovations for the period in the terms of principles, techniques and features of their architectural and decorative elements is rather striking and ubiquitous. But what emerges as the most curious common feature by far between these two is their highly conspicuous congruence in the selection of the some Koranic chapters and their placement on the nearly same architectural elements. Namely, both buildings are adorned with the highly venerated Koranic chapters Al-Mulk and Al-Fath. As a matter of fact, these two surahs are among the most prominent Koranic chapters at the Taj. Thus, Surah Al-Mulk adorns the dome drum and S-E arch of the Taj Mahal tomb interior as well as the superstructure pavilion interior (newly introduced Mughal alternative feature for the dome) of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula. Meanwhile, Al-Fath adorns the walls of both structures. To be precise, this surah runs around S-E, E, NE, N, N-W and W interior arches (in this order) of the Taj main chamber, while at the tomb of Itimad udDaula it runs around all four exterior walls surmounting archway and niche openings, in the direction WN-E-S. It is not possible to say precisely whether the selection of Koranic passages at the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula that were completed just few years before the Taj Mahal construction began may have influenced that of the Taj Mahal. Nevertheless, my comparative reading of the inscriptional programs of these two visually and closely related tombs might suggest that, yet chapter Al-Mulk also happens to adorn the vestibule to the main chamber of Akbars tomb in near-by Sikandra. So far, I have not found whether there was any artistic or social relation and influence between the calligraphers who signed their artistic works - Abd Al-Nabi Al-Qureyshi in charge of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula and at the time celebrated and well-established Amanat Khan and his workshop in charge of the Taj Mahal, or even Mir Abd Allah Mushkin Qalam, the chief calligrapher of Jahangirs court during whose reign the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula was constructed.67 It is more likely that the selection of the Koranic chapters was rather a matter of deeply respected tradition of funeral rites, as well as of their reverence and popularity among local people.68

66 67

KOCH, Ebba, The Complete Taj Mahal, p. 158-170, 215-224 ASHER, Catherine, The New Cambridge History of India I/4, p. 104-105 68 I shall address content and meaning of this and other two Surahs of the Itimad ud-Dauas program in detail in the following chapter of the study


Surah 'Al-Fath' Chapter No. 48 The Victory It was in Medina where the content of this surah was published. First 27 verses (ayats) of this chapter were published in Medina. The publishing coincided with the Prophet Muhammads return from Mecca, and the same year when the great battle at Houdeybiya took place. By publishing of this Quran chapter, the Prophet was, in fact, previously notified, by virtue of merry news, about the soon-to-come Glorious Victory. The symbolic context of the Glorious Victory is, however, much comprehensive than of a single historical battle. The Glorious Victory was actually a prologue of the triumph of Islam at the entire Arabian Peninsula in the near future. By recognizing of the merry news on the soon-to-come Glorious Victory, the Prophet has also had the clear Prophecy which in detail depicts a definite entry of the Muslims to Mecca. The content of this chapter had primarily predicted the soon settling of the process of a thorough inner purification of Muslims, who have actually dwelt the years of intensive challenges and struggles. The merry news on the soon-to-come Glorious Victory, inscribed at Houdeybiya, renders both the symbol of comfort and additional self-esteem in terms of the correct choice of ones own religious views; the first seven verses clearly indicate this. By highlighting, at two points, the facts that Allahs army is the one of the Heaven and the Earth, was a clear sign that the Muslim warriors are granted, in this or in other battle, this support unseen tby humans sight, but so important for the final outcome of the ultimate battle. The last, twenty ninth verse, declares the legitimacy of the Prophets haven and thus reveals the earlier, ancient Prophecy on the arrival of the Prophet, and the foreheads of its pilgrims are marked by special sign, the sign of Sajjda (the prostration) which is a sign of those, who by inclining the faces to the ground in front of the Lord, witness the generous service to God by the power of purified, obedient and prudent mind. The content of this chapter suggests again to the Prophet that He is a witness for all the words of God that have, before him, pounded thought the wholly past. The Prophet was also suggested that He is the one who brings the merry news at the traces of earlier holy messengers who have been spreading the alike news to their people. Finally, the Prophet is being suggested that He is the Exhorter (the Warner) as the purpose of his mission is to exhort, and the privilege of God is the initial knowledge on which soil the words will settle, and what the outcome of hence extortion will be. The frequently used inscriptions of this surah in the calligraphic decoration aims at granting for the future ever-lasting existence of a descended person who changes the mode of existence and transcends to an etheric, otherworldly form, which is a kind of a sophisticated entity, the entity of accession which is ultimately different to corruptible body of this world. Surah 48 enjoys a sheer reverence among 90

Muslims and is highly regarded as a charm and sort of talisman. Its deeply religious verses adorn the most reverend Muslim shrines as Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Sultan Hassan mosque in Cairo, as well as Taj Mahal and here by the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula. The content of this Sura selected to adorn the tomb of the highly esteemed noble man Itimad ud-Daula presents the wazir (himself) as a true follower of the Prophet of Islam, and who is accordingly granted all those spiritual credits which God promises to its true believers, and those credits are listed in the content of this chapter, i.e. tomb panels. However, the importance of the credits earned by the descended wazir on the Earth will be enforced by their personification in etheric afterlife as the fair or terrifying creatures who would use their subtle or cruel relation to their Creator to guarantee for an eternal life of the descended, in condemnation or in heaven. Thus, it may come logical to us that Nur Jahan, wazirs daughter was responsible for selecting the surahs for the tomb program, since the lines of this chapter in many ways pledge for the redemption of the descended (the wazir). It is known that both wazir and empress family were notorious for their court influences and affairs, thus, having in mind all the circumstances or not, the empress choice of Koranic lines (see below) at her fathers tomb may clearly imply her own pledge to God to repent in her fathers name and to redeem his soul to dwell in peace in the afterlife by employing the verses of the highly revered surah whose engagement is believed to provide straight access to the Heavenly Abode.
48:2 (That Allah may forgive thee of thy sin that which is past and that which is to come ) 48:4 (and Allah is Knowing and Wise)

48:11 (Allah is ever Aware of what ye do) 48:24 (Allah is Seer of what ye do) 48:26 (Allah is Aware of all things) 48:28 (Allah is a Witness)

48:29 (Allah has promised those who believe and do righteous deeds among them forgiveness and a Great Reward)


Surah 'Al-Muzzammil' Chapter No. 73 The Enshrouded This chapter of Koran elaborates a characteristic situation that the Prophet Muhammad experienced. Further to Prophets reception of chapterd of the Revelation in the deep silence of the Hyra cave, He was first terrified, deranged and stuck. Soon upon arrival home to his wife Hatidje, He asked her to cover him with a cloth. Surely, the Prophets fear did not affected the perfection of his personality, for He was a human being afterall. As angel Gabirel soon appeared and continued with the Revelation, the Prophet considered the coming events seriously so that He himself is ruling over Invisible. And fighting Invisible is vain, be it even from the great human fear or confusion. Here Gabriel teaches the Prophet on the future protocol and prepares him to ultimate Obedience. He was instructed to a long night wake, so that He, while reading Quran, hears but also thinks well about every single word, for the words to come were weighty indeed. The Prophets symbolic gesture of wrapping himself in the cloth was to remind that no other cover or gown is good enough as a good gown of Devotion or the gown of keeping the eternal union with God. The gesture was also to remind that it is difficult to maintain oneself in reality if there is no deep and reliable recognition the recognition that He was warned to by the words of the Revelation:
Learn, read in the name of your Master...!

The Prophet was particularly warned by Gabriels words that the Prophecy will be composed of difficult words that will require long night wakes. Thus, knowledge is, undoubtedly, a single true power that grants the human being to rule over and be self-confident in every situation. Its pearls are so precious that the Prophet himself was advising His followers to search for knowledge, no matter how far the journey takes. And what shall be, on the top, about inner, initiating, arch-knowledge (Al-'Ilm AlAkhirawi)? The power of this knowledge enhances the mind, heart and soul, it provides us light even in the deepest tomb darkness, but also the indispensable soundness necessary for approaching face to Face to God, somewhere beyond the stars. Maybe that is why empress Nur Jahan, like many subjects of Islamic faith in their familys funeral rites in general, placed exactly this chapter at (very particular (South) side of) her fathers tomb. Having known that the South side of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula provides the only access to the tomb chamber where empress parents lay in rest, we may imagine the verses of Al-Mulk symbolically adorning the spot (South side of the tomb) where the wazir and his wife (or the visitor) depart the terrestrial world entering into a transcending wrapping darkness of the tomb interior on their way to the otherworldly 92

spheres where in the bliss of their knowledge, wisdom, humbleness and indispendsable soundness will meet the face of God. It is strongly believed that this chapter being delivered in the funeral rites provides a good will and high esteem to the descended upon his arrival to the Paradise. Also, this surah calls for the abandonment, addressing all the subjects who are in possession of all kinds of good and wealth in this life, otherwise will certainly face a very tragic ending. This may be yet another verse in the tombs program indicating the daughters obvious concern over her fathers earthly legacy. We have already analyzed the symbolical selection of this surah and its conspicuous placement on the South side of the wazirs tomb (p. 41-44). Well composed and thoughtful balance between the selected surah with the tombs architectural and decorative elements on the South side powerfully depicts the devoted nocturnal prayers and worship, for prayers at night are very important in the religious rites of the Muslim.

Sura 'Al-Mulk' Chapter No. 67 The Dominion Surah Al-Mulk is among the first three Revelations delivered to the Prophet. The content of this chapter was published in Mecca. Primarily, its content renders a prologue to God as a sole Holder of the True Power that covers all the Universes, being they visible to humans sight or not. Moreover, its power spreads over the mystery of life and death that were, as gifts, given only as coordinates that shall link our lives and discover the values values that design our lives and the modes of our behaviours so we can walk either in the course of our condemnation or to Heaven. So to witness this ultimate power, the God himself attracts our attention towards Heavens and, by means of challenges, demands from us to look for the disbalance. Seeking for possible disbalance shall lead us either to apostasy from God as absolute Master, or to the enlightenment by perfect waves of beauty and balance of His constructive power. The eschatological images of this surah are almost filmic. It is God himself who stresses out that we are well known to Him so that He can read our minds before the thoughts themselves are conceived in our hearts, so no other intermediary witness is required, not even our own witnessing, because it is secondary to His true insight in our inner state of being. Finally, the questions that God passes to each living soul, until the end of this Koranic chapter, reach the absurd, so that they themselves deprive us from craving for any answer. Abstracting the fundamental message of this Koranic chapter, it should be noted that its content spark with recognition of God as a single Truth, a single unconditional owner of the Battle, of all the power. Finally, by conceiving a human with its own Names and Attributes, the crown creature in the entire 93

Genesis order is actually being positioned as its own apotheosis - the Apotheosis with immeasurable existential profundity, apotheosis of the Divine microcosmos. This surah usually adorns highly symbolic and conspicuous places in the Islamic architecture. It has always been considered a charm - recited, inscribed or given mention of in the Islamic texts. According to Hadith the Prophet said that Surah Al-Mulk should be in the heart of every Muslim and if being regularly recited, the reciter shall be then protected from the tortures of the grave and ascended straight to Paradise. This chapte is usually found inscribed under the domes or higher sections of the particular structure. Although it may be strong and warning in its eschatological tone, it may also adorn the grave as the superstructure pavilion of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula and also the interior of the Taj Mahal dome. Since higher sections in the architecture usually embody otherworldy spheres, the employment of Surah Al-Mulk comes very appropriate since its verses say about the Ulitmate Dominion of Gods Kingdom. Thus, some of its verses additionally enhance the celestial context their placement:

(Who hath created seven heavens in harmony?)


(And verily We have beautified the world's heaven with lamps)

While some of the verses obviously question the subjects (or that of the descended wazir) virtues:

(He who created death and life to test you which of you is best in deed)


The interpretation of the Kor'an is an interpretation that includes, apart from the readers authentic conception, an attribution of esoteric or mystic meanings that one can perceive only upon the experienced and skilled, taught or self-concieved contemplations of the Holy script. Apart from that, before giving an interpretation of the Holy script in the particular historic, architectural and aesthetic context, one should always bear in mind the cognitive differences which undoubtedly emerge between the conception and interpretation of the Koran in the contemporary context and the context of the era when the inscriptions were created.

This last chapter was strongly inspired by the contemplations I had had with distinguished scholars in Islamic theology, philosophy and Persian language, whose transcending wisdom in contemplating and interpreting Koran were my substantial support, without whom my approach to the tombs inscriptions would not have been fruitful and successfully completed. The conversations were conducted throughout my research in India and Balkans in 2010/11.

This is my special mention of endless gratitude and indebtedness for Dr Yunus Jaffery, retired Professor of Persian language at University of Delhi Dr Reshid Hafizovich, Professor at the Faculty of Islamic Sciences in Sarajevo Suleiman Bugari, Imam of the White mosque in Sarajevo Dr Efendi-Muhamed Jusufspahic The Mufty of Belgrade



Itimad ud-Daula of the Seen & the Unseen

Looking at the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula, here, at the conclusion of this hopefully contributing study, I cannot abandon the feel that, eventually, a justice has been done to this remarkable key monument of the Mughal architecture. Having been given the privilege and the trust by the Archaeological Survey of India to approach and study the tomb myself, I did not fail to notice its position, almost misplaced, yet extraordinaire, in the thread of Mughal imperial tombs, although not being one itself. The tomb of Itimad ud-Daula definitely is not just another Mughal tomb in another Mughal garden. It is a monument in its own right, with all its innovations, influences, and above all, its makeover in the history of Mughal architecture. Advising with my mentor, prior to my fieldwork in India, I considered the study plan consisted of first official systematic photo-documenting, analyzing and translating the tombs epigraphic program composed from religious verses of Koran. Ultimately, the tombs encaptivating aura had me taking the photographs of its entirety, namely, its outstanding decorative and architectural program that became, too, integral part of my research and attention. After all, this tomb did deserve a close eye after ages of being underrated and shadowed by the other Mughal monuments. In my introduction chapter, I drew our attention to and discussed the negligent scholarly treatment of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula, although it represents an immediate forerunner to the Taj Mahal, not just chronologically, but also in the terms of striking unequivocal similiarities in decorative and architectural outlook. The tomb, dedicated to the high Iranian dignitary and Mughal courtier of the highest ranks in the empire, the minister of Treasury and prime minister of the State, Mirza Ghiyas Beg Tehrani entitled Itimad ud-Daula, is a keystone of the transitional phase in the Mughal architecture and represents a pioneer example in abandoning traditional royally attributed red sandstone building for building in graceful radiant white marble. This crucial architectural phase also introduced a wholly new statement in the monumental decoration, that is, engagement of semi-precious stones, vibrant painting, stucco and mosaic work on the buildings, strongly inspired by paternal Persian heritage of the Mughal


emperors, in particular emperor Jahangirs devotion to his ancestors during whose reign was the tomb erected. Apart from that, the newly introduced features also include the domeless body, adjoined towers and in the Subcontinent, very rarely engaged Arabic script in the tombs epigraphic program. But what is it that brings the tomb Itimad ud-Daula to us in a new light and knowledge after this study is being completed? Having known all the aforementioned from other contemporary sources, the present study however was supposed to bring us an utterly different experience of the tomb, new knowledge and new perception of the Seen and the Unseen tomb symbols that were kept waiting for our recognition until now. This study brings us first official introduction to the tombs inscriptional program that has never been observed, examined and interpreted so far. Having translated the pious and delicately composed Koranic passages that run cross the tomb, we now may conclude that it was Itimad ud-Daulas daughter, empress Nur Jahan that was most likely responsible for the selection of the religious verses created from the calligraphic pen of the Abd Al-Nabi Al-Qureyshi. It was the empress herself that choosing and designing three highly revered chapters of Koran for adorning her parents tomb, in immaculately white marble frieze against tombs vibrant polychrome surface, actually created a halo of redemption and protection hovering symbolically above the ground floor architectural elements and supposed graves in order to embrace and save her beloved family in this world and beyond. Empress love, faith and devotion for her family was not obviously demonstrated only in selection and design of the decorative religious verses, but also in the whole luxurious outlook of the tomb. Being an empress, ruling behind the purda and beyond the weakened powers of her husband the emperor, most likely provided Nur Jahan all the keys to the imperial treasury she needed for constructing the tomb of the timeless grace and sumptuousness. Is this why then on the entire surface of the tomb, which was obviously endowed by the grateful devoted daughter, we could not find any evidence of this expensive endowment? Most likely yes. Furthermore, the present study brings us to the fuller understanding of the tombs architectural and decorative vocabulary, unspoken and encrypted into its surface so far. To be precise, we now have the answers to some conspicuous and paradisiacally reflected architectural features of the tomb: like why the access to the tomb chamber was on the South side while the main axial entrance to the garden and tomb complex is set on the East side of the tomb; or why the adjoined towers are octagonal in shape and topped with eight pillared chhattris; even more, we can now understand why the composition of 97

the inscriptional program is devised on 9 (per each tomb side) x 7 (per tower) panels. Also, we now efortlessly do reading and interpretation of the tombs decorative program rich in floral, geometric and abstract patterns each one of them strong and symbolical in its expression.

Above all, what may rise as the focal point of this study is the establishment of original date of the tomb completion. The trustworthiness of the date, namely, the year of completion of the tomb of Itimad udDaula that first had been officially interpreted as 1037A.H. (1627/28 A.D.) emerged during the research as one of the most prominent key points in the present study. Here, according to number of aforementioned findings and assessments regarding style of the script and technique of calligraphy in the upper register of the inscriptions, we came to conclusion that the date of the definite completion of the tomb was not 1036 A.H. (1626/27 A.D.), but most likely 1039 AH (1629/30 AD). The date misinterpretation came from several factors (like high similiarity between Arabic numerals engaged in the script, mismatch between the dates of the inscription registers, dust damages in the script) that most probably made the epigrapher mistaken in his original findings. This may also open some additional questions in our future research in the Mughal architecture, regarding the preservation of the monuments of the Mughal India, for they not will only last longer, but also they will provide In addition to the reading and the interpretation of the tombs epigraphic program, what emerged, to my opinion, as a very important observation for the future research in the Mughal architecture is the scholarly necessity of both translation and transcription of Arabic and Persian scripts in the study work. Particularly, when it comes to the religious scripts, Koranic chapters, etc. the epigraphist is presumably familiar with Arabic or Persian alphabet, if not with the languages themselves, so according to principles of Islamic faith, every word of the Book of the Holy Revelation is considered just a mere translation and not the Holy Word itself if it is not written in Arabic or Persian language. Apart from that, every epigraphic script, either in Arabic or Persian, when scholarly examined in the study should be also presented with its transcription available for further reading. Although not as significant and monumental as the imperial dynastic Mughal tombs where the emperors and members of their families were laid to rest, the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula remains to date unique and crucial structure in the history of the Mughal architecture. Only when perceived immediately through its three decorative programs - floral, geometrical and calligraphic the tomb unfolds in front of the viewer with both its Seen and Unseen symbols of this world and one beyond. Unlike the Mughals which during their six consequent family successions to the throne did not erect neither a common dynastic mausoleum nor


were buried in the same city, the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula in Agra is said to be the final resting place of all Persian members of the Mughal court. Being united, influential and powerful at the Mughal court where they dominated behind the curtain, they kept the same attributes resting in this tomb, that is in the world beyond. Although they resided in India and rised to the top of the Mughal empire, Itimad udDaula and members of his Persian family remained devoted to themselves, their faith and their heritage.

The newly gained experience and knowledge throughout research and work on this Mughal monument, based on the grounds of multidisciplinary approach through art history, historiography, epigraphy and philology, provides incomparable and outstanding possibility to the Historian of the Islamic art and architecture and Oriental philologist like myself to be encouraged and profoundly inspired by current work to explore and study further in the broader context of Mughal architecture.



In the following pages the complete photographic documentation, transcriptions and translations of the inscriptional program of the tomb of Itimad ud-Daula in Agra are being presented for the first time.

The translations are largely completed by Sahih International translation at with complementary translations by that of Yusuf Ali regarding more refined understanding of the script. The Arabic transcription is completed by Standard Arabic with Tashkeel (vowel marks).

The photographic documentation introduces, firstly the ground floor register (Surah Al-Fath and Surah Al-Muzzammil), secondly the upper floor register (Al-Mulk).


Surah 48 Al Fath










































Surah 73 Al Muzzammil


























Surah 67 Al Mulk
















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15. FAIRCHILD, R.D, 1997, Humayuns Tomb and Garden: Typology and Visual Order In Attilio Petruccioli, Gardens in the Time of the Great Muslim Empires: Theory and Design. Studies in Islamic Art and Architecture: Supplements to Muqarnas VII, BRILL 16. FERGUSSON, 1876, History of Indian and Islamic Architecture, London 17. FINDLEY B. Ellison, 1993, Nur Jahan: Empress of Mughal India, Oxford University Press 18. GRABAR, Oleg and HILL, Derek, 1967, Islamic Architecture and Its Decoration AD 800-1500, Faber and Faber 19. History of Mughal architecture, vol. 2, Akbar (1556-1605): The Age of Personality Architecture (New Delhi, 1985) 20. History of Mughal architecture, vol. 3, The Transitional Phase of Colour and Design: Jehangir 1605-1658 AD, (New Delhi 1994) 21. History of Mughal architecture, vol. 4, pt 1, The Age of Architectural Aestheticism, Shah Jehan 1628-1658 AD (New Delhi 2005) 22. KABBANI, Shaykh Muhammad Hisham, 2009, The Nine-Fold Ascent, Islamic Supreme Council of America 23. KOCH, Ebba, 1991, Mughal Architecture, Prestel-Verlag, Munich 24. KOCH, Ebba, 2006, The Complete Taj Mahal, Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 25. Koran Karim 26. LOWRY, Glen Humayuns Tomb Form, Function and Meaning in Early Mughal Architecture, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution 27. OKADA, Amina and NOU, Jean-Louis, 2003, Un Joyau de lInde Moghole: Le Mausolee d Itimad ud-Daulah, Cinq Continents



Pages 51 to 55 graphics by Brian Wichmann at, photo fragments by Aleksandar Stefanovic Pages 58 to 59 photos by Amina Okada and Jean-Louis Nou

PLATE 1 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 5 PLATE 2 illustration courtesy of A. Okada and J.L. Nou, with further references, p. 22 PLATE 3 photos by A. Stefanovic, p. 74

Figures 1a, 1b and 1c illustrations at, p. 18 Figure 2a plan courtesy of Ebba Koch, p. 20 Figure 2b plan by A. Stefanovic, p. 20 Figure 2c plan by Wikipedia, p. 20 Figure 3 illustration courtesy of Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, p. 24 Figure 4 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 28 Figure 5 plan courtesy of Prof Dr E. Koch, p. 30 Figure 6 photo by Google Earth p. 30 Figure 7 photo by Mahavir Yadav, p. 32 Figure 8 photo by Omprakash Maurya, p. 32 Figure 9 photo at, p. 32 Figure 10 photo at, p. 32 Figure 11 photo by P. Bubalo, p. 34 Figure 12 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 34 Figure 13 photo by P. Bubalo, p. 35 Figure 14 plan by A. Stefanovic, p. 36 183

Figure 15 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 38 Figure 16 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 40 Figure 17 photo at, p. 40 Figure 18 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 40 Figure 19 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 41 Figure 20 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 42 Figure 21 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 42 Figure 22 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 42 Figure 23 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 48 Figure 24 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 48 Figure 25 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 48 Figure 26 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 56 Figure 27 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 56 Figure 28 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 56 Figure 29 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 57 Figure 30 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 57 Figure 31 photo by A. Stefanovic, 67 Figure 32 photo by Wikipedia, p. 67 Figure 33 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 67 Figure 34 photo by by Wayne McLean, p. 67 Figure 35 photo by Wikipedia, p. 68 Figure 36 photo by Flickr, p. 68 Figure 37 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 68 Figure 38 photo by Flickr, p. 68 Figure 39 photo by Unknown source, p. 68


Figure 40 plan by A. Stefanovic, p. 72 Figure 41 plan by A. Stefanovic, p. 72 Figure 42 illustration at Arabic language textbook by Bashar Al-Hadla, p. 76 Figure 43 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 79 Figure 44 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 79 Figure 45 photo by Best of Rob, Flickr, p. 81 Figure 46 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 84 Figure 47 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 84 Figure 48 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 84 Figure 49 illustration by A. Stefanovic, p. 85 Figure 50 illustration by A. Stefanovic, p. 85 Figure 51 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 86 Figure 52 photo by A. Stefanovic, p. 86 Figure 53 photo Samuel Bourne, p. 186


The tomb of the Itimad ud-Daula, East gate view, 1860, Fig. 53