The only surviving Mughal-era mausoleum, with artwork resembling the Taj Mahal, has been found in ruins on the banks of the Jhelum river in Kashmir.
The architecture has ayina kari or mirror mosaic work, and green marble tombs with floral imprints inlaid with semi-precious stones as on the Taj Mahal in Agra.
But following decades, perhaps centuries, of neglect, the mausoleum in Srinagar lies dilapidated, its walls cracking and the carved surface material wearing off.
The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, or Intach, stumbled upon the abandoned structure earlier this year while indexing sites on the banks of Jhelum.
“It seems that this lone surviving Mughal mausoleum in Kashmir was built during Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s reign,” said Sameer Hamdani, senior architect with Intach. “It has two green marble graves, which belong to a male and a female, given the size and obvious from cenotaphs,” he said.
Some local residents said they consider it to be the tomb of Sheikh Ibrahim alias Thug baba, a Mughal-era saint.
According to 19th century historian Peer Hassan Shah, this mausoleum was constructed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb for Akhund Mulla Taeeb, who was a religious scholar, in the year 1734.
“Yet from the dates given, it is quite clear that Aurangzeb had predeceased Akhund by more than 27 years,” Hamdani said.
The artwork, he added, “is too flamboyant for Aurangzeb’s austere taste”.
“The important indicator is the limited use of pietra dura (art of inlay work) in the interiors, a technique which was first employed in the surface decoration of Itmad-ud-Daula’s tomb (1628) at Agra during Jehangir’s reign,” the architect said.
“Thereafter, this technique was employed more elaborately by Shah Jahan in many of his buildings, the most famous example being Taj Mahal.”
Intach recently started conservation work on the mausoleum, though some local residents have encroached upon its premises and its entrance has been blocked by a mosque.