Itmad-ud-Daulah is the tomb of Mirza Ghyas Beg, Jahangir's prime minister and the father of his wife, Noorjahan. Jahangir had honoured his father-in-law with the title of It-Mad-ud-Daula (Pillar of the State), and his tomb is known by that name even today. Mirza Ghyas Beg, a Persian who came to seek his fortune at the court of Akbar, rose steadily to become Prime Minister under Jahangir, who honoured him with the title of It-Mad-ud-Daula. On his death his daughter, Noorjahan, who had by then charmed her way to becoming the Empress of Hindustan and the most powerful lady in the realm, built for him an intricately decorated tomb. Just as Akbar's tomb was started by him and completed by his son Jahangir, so also the garden, the riverside pavilion and the festival hall of Itmad-ud-Daulah were built by Mirza Ghyas Beg and the mausoleum by his daughter. In its extensive use of white marble and delicacy of inlay work, the tomb of It-Mad-ud-Daula prefigures the Taj Mahal.
The Tomb of It-Mad-ud-Daula is also known as 'Baby Taj'. The complete facing with marble and the extensive pietra dura work of It-Mad-ud-Daula mausoleum's exterior presaged the Taj Mahal. In form, however, it is very dissimilar to Taj Mahal. The Tomb of It-Mad-ud-Daula' corner minarets relatively are mere stumps, compared with the high, slender examples of the Taj Mahal or the gateway to Akbar's Tomb. The minarets of the Tomb of It-Mad-ud-Daula rise from the tomb itself, not from its plinth, thus competing with the flat dome for visual priority. For these reasons, it hardly seems necessary to make an effort to visit this tomb before the Taj Mahal is seen, as some purists recommend. It will be noted that, unusually, the entrance is from the east rather than the south side, presumably to give the building a river backdrop. Unlike the Taj Mahal, this tomb stands in the centre of, not at one end of, its Charbagh garden. The tomb was built between 1622 and 1628 for her parents by Nur Jahan, the most favored and influential wife of Emperor Jahangir.
Mirza Ghiyas Beg, a Persian nobleman fled with his family from Tehran and proceeded to India via Kandahar where he had been robbed of all his possessions apart from two mules. Employed at Akbar's court, he eventually became Jahangir's chief minister, gaining the title It-Mad-ud-Daula (Pillar of the State). His second daughter, initially called Mehr-un-Nissa, wedded an Afghan noble, who died campaigning for Jahangir. A disputed tradition is that the Emperor had already fallen in love with the young girl and arranged that her husband should be put in a dangerous position on the battlefield where he was almost certain to be killed. Initially, so it is said, the recently-widowed Mehr-un-Nissa rejected Jahangir's advances but eventually married him in 1611. As Jahangir became increasingly dependent on opium and alcohol, his wife assumed great power. She was renamed Nur Mahal (Light of the Palace) and later Nur Jahan (Light of World). Eventually, together with her father Itimad-ud-Daulah and her brother Asaf Khan (father of Mumtaz Mahal), she effectively administered her husband's empire and became the most powerful woman in Mughal history. It-Mad-ud-Daula's death at Agra in 1622, closely followed that of his wife, and Jahangir recorded that he believed grief to be the cause.
Whatever view is held on the quality of the architectural assembly, Tomb of It-Mad-ud-Daula is undoubtedly one of the finest and most extensive examples of inlay works in India. It was not, however, the first, as the gateway to Akbar's Tomb at Sikandra precedes it by 14 years. The inlay techniques employed show a great advance on previous work but, although the geometric and floral patterns are exuberant, the colors are muted; nowhere here are to be found the vibrant hues of the Taj Mahal's pietra dura.
Internally, above dado level, the walls and ceilings were plastered and gilded, but deterioration has been extensive. A section of the vestibule was restored by Lord Curzon artound 1905. The tombs of It-Mad-ud-Daula and his wife are of yellow marble, probably from quarries near Jaisalmer. They are matched by cenotaphs in the pavilion with the Bengali-style rooftop which is set on the terrace directly above. It will be noted that only the upper sections of the domes escape the filigree decoration of the rest of the building's surface.
The Tomb of It-Mad-ud-Daula was the first example of a building entirely clad with marble to be commissioned in India (1622) but the Chaunsath Khamba necropolis at Nizamuddin ( south Delhi), although not begun until 1623, was also finished that year, 5 years before Itimad-ud-Daulah's tomb. Jahangir soon tired of Agra and spent most of his remaining years in Kashmir. He died at Lahore in 1627 and Nur Jahan commissioned a similar tomb to that of her parents for him at Shahadara. It is the only other example of this type to have been built.