From a distance, Aurangabad’s Bibi Ka Maqbara bears a striking resemblance to the Taj Mahal. Besides the superficial similarities, it was also build in memoriam to the wife of an important Muslim leader. However, according to my guide, the Bibi Ka Maqbara is only about 60% the height of the Taj Mahal (I suspect its width is an even smaller proportion, as it looks “skinny” in comparison to my memory of the Taj Mahal.) Also, while the Taj is done entirely in white marble, only the dome and pedestal of the Bibi Ka Maqbara are white marble. The rest is plaster. Whereas the Taj has a great many floral scenes that are formed by inlaid semi-precious stones, at the Bibi Ka Maqbara similar scenes are painted onto the plaster in colorful paint. Aurangabad’s mini-Taj opened a mere 13 years after the Taj Mahal.
There are a couple of ways in which the Bibi Ka Maqbara surpasses the Taj. Most notably, the view from the back is much better. Aurangabad’s site has a garden at the back that rivals the front garden in size, and there are beautiful mountains in the background. (The rear of the Taj overlooks the Yamuna river bed and beyond that is not much impressive.) Second, no craftsmen were intentionally injured in the making of this monument. (There is a tale–treated as suspect by many historians–that the Taj craftsman were crippled in various ways after the completion of work so that they would never again produce something as lovely.)