Bibi ka Maqbara is a four-story mosque in the city of Aurangabad. It was built with white marble and red sandstone. It is famous for its elegant architecture and has been compared to the Taj Mahal. In 1658, the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb commissioned architect Asad Khan to build a mausoleum for his wife Rabia-ud-Daurani.
The construction work on this project got completed within seven years and cost around 30 lakh rupees. It is the only extant example of a mausoleum built by an Indian Muslim ruler in South Asia.
Its name is derived from that of an earlier structure known as ‘Bibi ka Maqbara’. That was built by Aurangzeb in 1660 for his consort, Rabia Daurani. It is believed that later on, this monument was disfigured into a mosque through the addition of minarets.
The mausoleum, which is situated on an elevated platform, is surrounded by a carved marble screen. This screen depicts the life of Mohammed Ghori, his queens and some other important events of his life. The four storeys of the mausoleum are joined together at their corners by projecting balconies with brackets.
Also, each storey of the mausoleum is crowned by an elegant dome, which gives it more grace. At some places, arches are used in place of domes. The mausoleum has four corner towers. The building was modelled on the Taj Mahal and Jama Masjid of Delhi.
For almost three hundred years, the tomb of Bibi Ka Maqbara remained silent and forgotten by the world that is until 1818. But then it was discovered by a British Army Officer named John Malcolm in Aurangabad. Later it became a part of the British Empire in 1808 when Britishers restored it. It was designated as a national monument now (Aurangabad Circle). However, it wasn’t the time of the British Empire that Bibi ka Maqbara was first publicized throughout Europe and America. It was only then that more and more people came to know about Bibi Ka Maqbara among varying Indian people.
The mausoleum is situated in the northwest corner of the Agra fort, built-in red sandstone. It has the same architectural features as Red Fort at Agra since both were built by the same architect. Also, the mausoleum is entirely enclosed within a fortification wall with four corner towers. The main gateway, known as ‘Hathi Pol’ (elephant gate) has two minarets on either side. They are similar in size but not in shape. The humbler mosques of the fortifications have a double door. The mausoleum does not have a single central dome but has four dome-shaped arches on the four corners. These domes are not as high as those of Red Fort at Agra.
The facade is crowned by an unusual arrangement of four minarets with pyramidal tops.
The mausoleum has a huge dome in the middle. It gets support from 12 pillars in the middle of which rises a pillar in gold. Its height is capped by a golden lotus inlaid with balas rubies at the top. The main tomb is circular in plan and about 170 feet in diameter. Following, its base rests on a plinth of different kinds of marbles joined together at intervals by arches.
Originally, there were five corner towers with one on each side of the main gateway leading to the mausoleum. But today, only three remain now. A basement connects these three towers. And another gateway is meant for hajj pilgrims who pass through this gate to perform Hajj. Next to this gate is a courtyard and two staircases towards the mausoleum which leads` from this courtyard. The courtyard is fronted by a mosque.
The tomb chamber houses the sarcophagus inside which are laid out the remains of Rabia Daurani under a white marble slab.
The interior of the mausoleum is covered with inscriptions and verses from Koran. The flooring is made up of red sandstone on which are laid white marble slabs on each side of the entrance steps are laid black earthenware tiles. The ceiling’s or topmost slab over the cenotaphs is made up of white marble on which four crescent-like designs are carved out. The cenotaphs are positioned between these designs, one on every side.
The mausoleum also has four octagonal chambers, one in each corner. Another stairway leads to the roof of the mausoleum from each of these four chambers. The entire outer surface of this mausoleum is richly carved with verses from Quran, motifs and scenes from Mughal history, scenes from Akbar’s reign.