Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani

Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani

mausoleum in Agra, India


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The Tomb of Mariam-uz-Zamani is the mausoleum of Mariam-uz-Zamani, the Hindu consort of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. She was the mother of next Mughal Emperor Jahangir. The tomb is located in Sikandra, a suburb of Agra.


Tomb of Akbar the Great

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Heer Kunwari was born a Rajput princess and was the eldest daughter of Raja Bharmal of Amer. She was married to Emperor Akbar in 1562 CE. She was honoured with the title Mariam-uz-Zamani after she gave birth to Jahangir. She died in Agra in 1623 and her tomb was built by her son Jahangir between 1623 and 1627 CE. She is the only wife of Akbar buried close to him, as per her wish. The tomb is only a kilometre from the Tomb of Akbar the Great.


The structure was originally an open baradari (pleasure pavilion) under Sikander Lodi who built it in 1495 AD. It was adopted by the Mughals in 1623 AD and converted into a tomb by making a crypt below the central compartment. They remodelled it substantially. The ground floor consists of some forty chambers built by Sikander Lodi, which bear faint traces of paintings on plastered walls. The centre of the ground floor houses the cenotaph of Mariam.
The mausoleum contains three tombstones: one in the underground mortuary chamber, which is the grave itself; the cenotaph above it on the ground floor and another cenotaph on the terrace.
This square tomb stands in the centre of a sprawling Mughal garden. The square building of the tomb of Mariam Zamani is built on a raised platform with stairs on its northern and southern sides. The two corridors running from east-west and north-south divide the structure into nine sections that are further subdivided into smaller compartments. The largest one is at the centre, four small square ones at the corners and four oblong ones in the middle of four sides. Massive piers have been used to support the broad arches and vaulted ceilings. The building material is brick and mortar, with the finishing done in stucco.
The four facades of the building were reconstructed with red sandstone panels and a chhajja with addition of duchhati (mezzanine floors) at the corners by the Mughals. On each facade is an arch in the centre, set in a rectangular frame which projects forward. It is flanked on each side by a wing which consists of three arches and a set of double arches, one over the other, thus accommodating a duchhatti at each corner of the building. The arches are pointed. The wings are protected by chhajjas. The duchhatti are accessible by stairways.
The superstructure was also remodelled by Mughals by addition of chhatris and chhaparkhats. The superstructure has four massive octagonal chhatris on its four corners, and four oblong chhaparkhats on the middle of the four sides. Each chhatri is made out of red sandstone and stands on a square platform. Brackets have been used to support the internal lintels and external chhajja, five on each pillar, making a total of 40 brackets in one chhatri. Each chhaparkhat is rectangular and has eight pillars with a similar cluster of brackets. While the chhatris are made out of red sandstone, their domes are white. The roof of each chhaparkhats is white. Their domes are crowned by an inverted lotus or 'padma kosha'. These chhatris and chhaparkhats constitute the most important ornament of the whole composition. The rectangular chhaparkhats with eight pillars and a cluster of brackets resemble the corner cupolas. They dominate as much on façade as on superstructure. The building is complete in itself even without a dome. The mausoleum is of architectural importance in the category of Mughal tombs without a dome.
Another important aspect of the tomb is that the building looks identical from the front and back. Unlike other Mughal era structures, the back entrance is not a dummy but can actually be used.


The red sandstone façade and panels with variety of decorative designs, such as floral patterns, tell a lot about the former splendor of this tomb. There are chevron patterns in the nook shafts, wine-vases within sunk niches and geometrical floral designs gracing the piers between the arches. The chhatris have beautiful carved columns with hexagonal base. The stone brackets occupy the spaces just below the chajja, while beautifully carved friezes are above it and underneath the drum of the dome of chhatri is inlaid with white marble. The friezes of the chhaparkhats were originally covered with glazed tiles and have pyramidal roof. One can still see the traces of floral paintings in the corners that speak volumes of the former beauty of the decaying building.



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