India's Fake Taj Mahal

Bibi Ka Maqbara is the poor man's Taj Mahal – literally

Bibi Ka Maqbara – Fake Taj Mahal
Aur Rang Abad (via Wikimedia Commons)

The Taj Mahal is without a doubt India's most recognized symbol, but did you know that it's not the only such mausoleum in India? Case in point: Bibi Ka Maqbara, located about 200 miles east of Mumbai in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, not only resembles the real Taj Mahal a great deal, but also shares a similar backstory.

History of Bibi Ka Maqbara

Known colloquially as both the "Fake Taj Mahal" and the "Poor Man's Taj Mahal," Biki Ka Maqbara was built in the late 17th century by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, in memory of his first wife, Dilras Banu Begum. The Taj Mahal, as you might remember from history class, was also built by an Mughal emperor as a memorial to one of his wives – Shah Jahan is the man who built Taj Mahal for Mumtaz Mahal (his second).

This might all seem purely coincidental (I mean, what more could Mughal emperors have to do back then than build monuments to their dead wives?) until you consider the fact that Shah Jahan (the man who built Taj Mahal) was Aurangzeb's father. The phrase "like father, like son" seems pretty appropriate here.

Fake Taj Mahal Architecture

Although Bibi Ka Maqbara seems a mediocre counterfeit of the Taj Mahal, its construction began with the idea that it would actually be superior, both historically and from a prestige standpoint, to the actual Taj. The subtle differences between the Taj Mahal and Bibi Ka Maqbara stem from several causes. 

The first reason the former is so much grander than the latter is that Aurangzeb imposed harsh budgetary restrictions on construction shortly after it began. Secondly, the importance of architecture generally waned during the reigns of the later Mughals, which resulted in structures that were less creative and elaborate, both in design and execution.

Over time, perceived inferiority of Bibi Ka Maqbara has also resulted in less meticulous maintenance and upkeep, whose current dilapidation reinforces its inferiority compared to the actual Taj Mahal.

How to Visit the Fake Taj Mahal

Whether you prefer to call it the "Fake Taj Mahal," "Poor Man's Taj Mahal" or by its proper name, Bibi Ka Maqbara is relatively easy to visit. From Mumbai, fly (55 minutes), drive (3-5 hours) or take an express train (7 hours) to Aurangabad, then hire a taxi or tuk-tuk to the mausoleum.

I suggest you arrive to the fake Taj Mahal as early in the morning as you can. As is the case in Agra, home to the real Taj Mahal, there isn't a whole lot to see in Aurangbad, the mausoleum notwithstanding. The man who built Taj Mahal (the real one) probably never imagined its fake cousin becoming a tourist attraction!

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