The tour starts with a visit to Itmad-ud-daulah, the tomb of Mirza Ghiyas Beg, an important official of the Mughal empire and grandfather of Mumtaz Mahal, for whom the Taj Mahal was built. When Ghiyas Beg’s daughter Nur Jahan commissioned her father’s tomb, it was the first in Mughal India to be constructed of pure marble rather than sandstone and to feature the pietra dura inlay later used on the Taj walls. It is thus often called the “Baby Taj.”
At sunset, we move on to Mehtab Bagh (Moonlight Garden), on the flood plains across the Yamuna River from the Taj. Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who created both the Taj Mahal and the garden, felt that the best view of his wife’s mausoleum was from here. Once surrounded by sandstone-clad walls, crisscrossed by white stone walkways, and planted with fruit trees and narcissus, the bagh was nearly ruined by floods and neglect, but is today being restored, including replanting to match the original Mughal horticulture. Some of these plants produce bright flowers that shine in the moonlight. In these splendid surroundings, as you feast your eyes on the golden hues washing the Taj across the river, perhaps you, too, will feel Shah Jahan’s pride and undying love for his queen.