Shahi Qila – Burhanpur, India - Atlas Obscura
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Burhanpur, India

Shahi Qila

A fresco in this magnificent palace is said to have been the first depiction of the Taj Mahal's design.  

This fort’s ceilings and walls are adorned with paintings, some of which were renovated in a crude manner in the early 2000s. The frescoes, although flaked and fading, reveal an exquisite palette, and one of these images depicting a domed structure with minarets is said to have been an architectural inspiration for the Taj Mahal, the mausoleum an emperor famously built for his favorite wife.

Originally built by rulers of the Farooqi Dynasty on the banks of the Tapti River around 1500 A.D., this fort in central India’s Burhanpur is famed for housing Mughal emperor Shah Jahan during his two-year stay in the city to quell a revolt among kingdoms in southern India. It’s also where the emperor’s beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died while giving birth to her 14th child in June 1631.

Shah Jahan is said to have embellished the Farooqi fort by building what is now a well-preserved relic known as the Hammam—a royal bath for Mumtaz—which is now the palace’s most popular attraction. Designed in Mughal Iranian style with domed roofs, the Hammam is a rectangular hall made of marble. An octagonal bathing pool stands in the middle and would be filled with perfumed water and saffron for Mumtaz’s royal bath.

A seven-storied monument, the fort itself is often called Bhoolbhoolaiya (“labyrinth”) because of its vast, confusing architecture. It’s largely in ruins today but is reasonably well-maintained. The palace’s erstwhile opulence still shines through, along with its connection to the country’s most celebrated monument.

Know Before You Go

Shahi Qila is in the city of Burhanpur, in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, about 112 miles away from Indore—a five-hour journey by road. There is bus service between the cities.

The monument is available to the public from sunrise to sunset and is most popular in the early morning and at dusk. It’s a ticketed monument, priced at INR 15 ($0.22) for Indians and INR 200 ($2.94) for foreigners.