The Mughal Ladies influencing architecture: Nurjahan Begam

Nurjahan Begam, wife of Jahangir, contributed a lot in the field of Mughal Art and Architecture. She designed and supervised three Sepulchral edifices which are tombs of her father Itimad-ud-Daula, of her husband, and that of her own. Her real name was Mehr-un-Nisaa, and she was born in 1597 in Kandahar, Afghanishtan, into a noble family from Persia, her grandfather serving the Shah Tahmasp I.

The tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula at Agra took six years to get completed i.e. from 1622 to 1628 A.D and is situated on the left bank of the river Yamuna in Agra. It is often said the design of the tomb is intensely feminine. It is built entirely made of white marble and covered throughout with inlay work called ‘Pietradura’.

Percy Brown speaks highly of the monument: “There is no building like it in the entire range of Mughal architecture, the delicacy of treatment and the chaste quality of its decoration placing it in a class by itself. The tomb of Itimad-ud-Daula was an innovation in many ways. It marked a transition between the Indianized red Sandstone and marble constructions of Akbar and Jahangir and the Persianized pure marble creations of Shahjahan.”

Nurjahan Begam also supervised the construction of Jahangir’s tomb at Shahadara. It is situated six miles north-west of Lahore in Pakistan. The building is made of red Sandstone with  inlay work. Besides this, Nurjahan Begam also designed her own tomb in Lahore.

The tomb is very simple and humble compared to the other rich and lofty buildings of this age. It was square in shape, one story with seven arches, opening out the corridors on each of the four sides. Topping these,  Nurjahan also built one sarai in Jalandhar and another in Agra. So we can well imagine why she is such a prominent figure in Mughal architectural arena!

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