The Incredible Destiny Of Mirza Ghiyas Beg!

R & I have had many turning points in our lives. Those serendipitous moments when things could so easily have gone the other way.  And we have often argued over whether these were mere co-incidences or karmic interventions.

R believes in hard work and sagacity. I do too. I really do. But I am too much of a romantic to completely rule out luck….or the winds of destiny.

Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah
Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah

Take the little known but astonishing story of Mirza Ghiyas Beg…..a bankrupt Persian nobleman who joins a caravan to Agra (then Akbarabad) along with his young family in the hope of a better future. Once there, he somehow finds employment in the court of Akbar the Great.

After Akbar’s demise his son Jahangir elevates the astute Ghiyas Beg to Wazir (chief minister), and anoints him ‘Itimad-ud-Daulah’ (Pillar of the state)! By this time, his daughter Mehr-un-Nissa – who he had actually considered abandoning at birth owing to his state of acute penury – is widowed. On the emperor’s request she is summoned, along with her daughter Ladli Begum, to be maid-in-waiting to his stepmother (Akbar’s wife) Ruqaiyya Sultan Begum.

A tantalising, and I suspect not wholly accidental, glimpse of Mehr-un-Nissa’s unveiled face at a ‘Meena Bazaar‘ in the Agra fort leaves Jahangir besotted. Before long she is ‘Nur Jahan’ (Light of the world), his twentieth (and final) wife and chief consort. And owing to Jahangir’s many addictions, one of the most powerful women in Mughal history.

Soon, who do you think her stepson, Shah Jahan, (who incidentally, resents her power and is plotting to wrest the throne) falls head over heels in love with? Her niece (brother Abul Hasan Asaf Khan’s daughter) Anjumand Banu – the ‘Mumtaz Mahal’ of the Taj Mahal fame!

Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah

From pauper to ‘Pillar of the State’, and the patriarch of two extremely influential empresses! Tell me, would all his astuteness have been worth anything without the kind hand of providence?

Following is a gallery of the exquisite final abode of this remarkable man, paid for and personally supervised by Nur Jahan after she is forced into confinement by her own brother and stepson. Built between 1622 – 1628, the domeless tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah is believed to be a transition from the red sandstone Mughal monuments of the time to the white marble and Pietra Dura architecture that was to follow.

It isn’t called the ‘Jewel Box’ for nothing.

Related posts: The Simplicity Of Perfection

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

70 thoughts on “The Incredible Destiny Of Mirza Ghiyas Beg!

  1. This is exactly the kind of story I love reading, steeped in history, and, I think too, destiny. What an enjoyment to read, and the photos are superb.

    1. Me too Angeline. I am surprised by how little known this story is, and neglected the monument, compared to the tomb of his grand daughter!

  2. Oh, I love this, Madhu! And I think the trick lies in both the willingness to work hard and in being open to the magic of the universe. 😉

    1. I have to agree Riba. I am not a religious person, but I do believe in the ‘magic of the universe’ as you put it.

  3. A bit of romance, a bit of history and compelling photos what a brilliant post, thank you.

  4. Gosh what a story and what a stunning building! We also have Nur in the Turkish language – It means “light” i.e. the name ilknur means first light 🙂

    1. Fascinating isn’t it Kym?
      Yes we share a number of common words, possible because they are all rooted in Persian.

  5. I’m with you, Madhu … serendipity at it’s finest! If it was the plot of a novel, we’d say it was way too far fetched! I love those stories, and imagining the lives of these aristocratic adventurers – the giddy excitement and the deathly fear – power, wealth and success poised on a knife-edge against dismissal, disgrace or even death on a chance encounter in a Meena Bazaar!

    This glorious craftsmanship always makes me think of mehndi – which came first, do you think?

    Wonderful post.

    1. Thank you Meredith. You are right, we would certainly scoff at a novel whose story-line was this unbelievable! As for which came first, I would think Mehendi. This is after all a 17th century monument. Mehndi must have existed from antiquity.

  6. Wonderful Story! The Jewel Box and it’s myriad of intricate inlays is just wonderful Mahu!

  7. From zero to hero, or even better, to pillar of the state. What a remarkable life journey Mirza Ghiyas Beg went through! As if his hard work was not enough, there came the great monuments of India. The tomb itself is such a beautiful work of art, a true embodiment of I’timad-ud-Daulah himself.

  8. Madhu, you’ve been to some amazing places! The detail on the inlay is truly exquisite. Now, who can I get to design me something like this? 🙂

    1. You might need to visit Iran (Persia) to scout out craftsmen, if any still exist with these skill sets!! Iran is very high on my bucket list, but only after I have the US under my belt. Otherwise I will not be granted a visa I am told!! 🙂

    1. Nur Jahan was a feminist in her own right Patti. I suspect that glimpse of her hubby got, might not have been so accidental after all. She lies buried in her own mausoleum, next to her husband’s, in Lahore (Now in Pakistan)

  9. I just finished reading a book called “Twentieth Wife”, a work of fiction, based on historical fact, that tells the story of Jahangir and Nur Jahan’s union. Reminded me of your post, Madhu. The story of Mirza Ghias Beg and his family is so fascinating!

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