Mariam’s tomb is located on the left side of NH19 (Agra-Mathura road), less than 1 km west of Akbar’s tomb in Sikandara.
Mariam Zamani was a rajput princess (named Jodha Bai), the daughter of Raja Bharmal Kachhwaha of Amer (Jaipur), and was married to Akbar in 1562. She gave birth to Salim (Jahangir) in 1569 at Fatehpur Sikri, when the title Mariam Zamani (‘Mary of the Age’) was conferred upon her by Akbar. She died at Agra in 1623, and this tomb was built by her son Jahangir between 1623 and 1627.
It was once a firmly held belief that Akbar had a Christian wife by the name of Mary (or Mariam) of Portuguese or Armenian parentage, but there is no historical basis for this belief.
Some scholars believe this structure was originally a pleasure pavilion built by Sikander Lodi around 1495, with additions and renovations made in 1623 when it was converted into a tomb. Others however believe this is unlikely as Mughals did not typically modify existing structures for such purposes. An interesting aspect to this tomb is that the front and rear are both identical. This is unlike most other Mughal era structures, where the back entrance is usually a dummy and not an actual entrance at all.
The tomb sits on a square platform with open arcades on each side giving access to a labyrinth of corridors surrounding a relatively small central chamber. The monument is not in the best of conditions, much of the paint work that was applied to the interior has disappeared, and the sandstone decoration that adorned the exterior has mostly been lost, leaving just exposed brickwork.
The tomb building has three tombstones; one in the dimly lit underground mortuary chamber, ostensibly on the grave; one cenotaph above it on the ground floor and one cenotaph on the terrace.
Mariam’s tomb used to stand in the middle of a much larger enclosure, which was used as a school and orphanage during the colonial period. Christian missionaries started the orphanage following the famine in the newly established North-Western Provinces India in 1838. The site was purchased in 1912 by the government as a protected monument.
Mariam’s tomb is so close to Akbar’s tomb that combining the two in a single day visit makes perfect sense. You can leave the car parked at Akbar’s tomb, brave the traffic and cross the road, and then head west (away from Agra) for no more than 15 minutes.
Compared to other monuments in Agra, I would suggest that the entrance fee for foreign tourists is perhaps a little on the expensive side, but hopefully the images above will help you decide if you want to pay it a visit or not.
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