The Baby Taj in Agra is sometimes said to be the inspiration for the world famous Taj Mahal. The two buildings stand on opposite banks of the Yamuna River but you can't see one from the other because they're separated by a big bend in the river.
There are obvious similarities between the two Taj's - they're both mausoleums, both constructed of white marble, both exquisitely decorated. But if you're expecting the Baby Taj to be a miniature version of the Taj Mahal - well, it's not. You couldn't really mistake one for the other, not even if you tried very hard. The Taj Mahal is beautifully proportioned with a magnificent dome and elegant minarets. The Baby Taj is rather squat and boxy - it's sometimes called 'the jewel box'. However, the Baby Taj has far fewer visitors than the Taj Mahal, which means you're more likely to have the place (almost) to yourself.
The Baby Taj is set on a low stone platform in the middle of predominently grassy gardens. Little irrigation channels run down the middle of wide paths. Beautiful sandstone outbuildings lie at the garden perimeter. And at one end, you can see the Yamuna River.
A stocky, octagonal minaret is stuck to each corner of the Baby Taj. On the top there's a little room with windows, covered with a hat-like roof - on top of the Taj Mahal, of course, there's a great dome. Everything looks very rectangular at the Baby Taj, but there is plenty of decorative embellishment - latticed windows and arched doors. It's not exactly an elegant building and I wouldn't call it beautiful, but it's not intimidating either. Something about it makes you want to take a closer look.
Up close, it IS beautiful. It's fantastic. The outer walls are exquisite: the stonework is inlaid in gorgeous interlocking geometric shapes and patterns - triangles meet stars and lines and flowers, each element made from semi precious stones of different textures. Splash a bit of sunshine on to it and the contrasting colours - whites and greys, yellows and browns - really shine.
Inside, the quality of inlay is the same, but the subjects are different. Delicate vases hold delicate flowers inside delicate picture frames. The ceiling is a fizz of decadent decoration. The walls are crowded with different images. And the tombs of the dead, plain in comparison to their surroundings, lie quietly in their allotted places.
If the Baby Taj wasn't burdoned by the comparison with it's grander, more famous cousin, it might be more well known. It's full name is the Tomb of I'timad-ud-Daulah, but that's never going to be as easy to say as 'Baby Taj'.
After the busy, noisy streets of Agra and the crowds of visitors at the Taj Mahal, it feels like a real break to be walking round the quiet gardens at the Baby Taj. And then it feels like a real find when you get up close and discover the fabulous inlaid stonework.
Have you been to the Baby Taj in Agra? What did you think of it? What reasons would you give to someone who was undecided about whether to visit the Baby Taj?