Musamman Burj in Agra Fort

A staircase from the Diwan-i-Khas leads to the octagonal Mussaman Burj tower. Its name refers to the muezzin's call to prayer which could be heard from it. There are, however, alternative appellations: Jessamine (Jasmin) Burj, and its abbreviations, Saman Burj.

Shah Jahan began rebuilding the palaces of Agra in 1628. It is believed that he intended the Musamman Burj to be the private apartments of his adored Mumtaz. But she died shortly before it was ready for occupation. Shah Jahan left Agra for his new fort (Red Fort Delhi) at Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi) in 1648 and probably spent little further time at Agra until his enforced return 10 years later, when, by tradition, he was imprisoned in this tower by Aurangzeb until his death in 1666. Jahanara, who had become 'first lady' on the death of Mumtaz Mahal, cared for her father here throughout his exile but Roshanara, his other daughter, abandoned him and supported her unscrupulous brother. Aurangzeb never met his father again after imprisoning him at Agra. Shah Jahan was permitted a harem but few clothes or writing materials.

If the Mussaman Burj were indeed Shah Jahan's place of exile, it must have been the most splendid prison of all time. The carving of the marble, the pietra dura work and the pierced screens are unmatched elsewhere in either Agra Fort or the Red Fort at Delhi. The row of niches probably supported lamps and scent bottles and a pool is carved in the pavements of an outer room. Views from the octagonal gazebo are superb. It is said that Shah Jahan used to gaze sorrowfully for hours at the distant Taj Mahal where his beloved Mumtaz lay. Beside the tower, the tiny mosque, known as the Mina Masjid, was allegedly built by Aurangzeb for the exclusive use of his imprisoned father, in order to restrict his movements within the fort. Marble slabs on the floor of the terrace that faces the tower are laid out to resemble the board of a game known as 'pachisi'. The surrounding screens show signs of damage from cannon fire, probably dating from the Mutiny.

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