Saturday, March 28, 2015

Filipino-Americans (Fil-Ams) in the NBA

The advent of the cable TV has enabled people in every corner of the world to watch their favorite sporting events such as the NBA. Basketball is a game that is viewed and followed by millions of people. And Filipinos are people who love basketball, and watching NBA games is a favorite pastime of many of them. But no blue blooded Filipino has ever made it to the NBA as a player. However, there are few Filipino-Americans who made it to the league as players or coaches. Below are the few who have made headway to the league.

 Raymond Townsend was born in San Jose, California on December 20, 1955, to the couple Ray Sr. and Virginia Marella from Balayan, Batangas, Philippines. The 6’3”, 175 lb Raymond Jr. played college basketball at UCLA. He was a member of the 1975 UCLA National Basketball Team. Raymond was selected with the last pick in the first round (22 overall) of the 1978 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors. He concluded his career in the NBA in 1982 as a member of the Indiana Pacers. Raymond Townsend is the first Fil-Am to play in the NBA.

 Ricardo Brown was born to an American father and a Filipina named Connie Vidal of Santa Cruz, Manila. Ricardo was a third round, 59th overall pick by the Houston Rockets in 1979. In 1983 the 6’1” point guard went to the Philippines to play for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). He suited up for Great Taste from 1983 to 1987 and for San Miguel from 1988 to 1990.He was a member of the 1980 Philippine national team Northern Cement that was coached by Ron Jacobs which competed for the Jones Cup in Taiwan.  The Philippines defeated Taiwan, Sweden, Italy and the United States to win the championship. Brown is now the principal of Ross Middle School in Artesia, California.


Andray Blatche no. 11 (credit: Leo Hidalgo from Wikimedia)
Andray Blatche was born on August 22, 1986 in Syracuse, New York. He was drafted in the NBA in 2005 as a second round, 49 overall pick by the Washington Wizard. The 6’11”, 260 lbs power forward/center played for the wizards from 2005 to 2012. From 2005 to 2006 he was with the Roanoke Dazzle (D) league. In 2012-14 he was with the Brooklyn Nets. In 2014 up to the present he played for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in China. On May26, 2014, a bill granting Blatche Filipino citizenship was approved by the Philippine senate and signed by Pres. Benigno Aquino II. As a naturalized Filipino, Blatche played for the Gilas Filipinas for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain. Blatche was also selected to play in the 2014 Asian Games. However, he was disqualified to play due to eligibility issues cited by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

credit: Mark Schierbecker fro Wikimedia
Jordan Clarkson was born on June 7, 1992, in San Antonio, Texas. He was a 2014 second round, 46 overall draft by the Washington Wizard which then sent him to the LA Lakers. The 6’5”, 186 lbs Filipino-American is a current point/shooting guard of the Los Angeles Lakers. In July 2014, he joined the Lakers for the 2014 summer league, and signed with the team on August 25, 2014. On March 24, 2015, he had a season high best game with 30 points, and 7 assist in a 102-107 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Starting along with Jeremy Lin, the pair became the first Asian-American starting back court in the league’s history.

credit: Zereshk
Arthur “Chip” Engelland was born on May 9, 1961. Although he was not able to make it to the NBA as a player, he however, has found his way in the league as an assistant coach for various teams. A native of LA, he played professional basketball for 9 years. The 6’4”, 175 lbs Engelland became a naturalized Filipino citizen and spent two seasons as a member of Philippine National Basketball team under the sponsorship of Northern Cement Corporation which captured the Jones Cup title in 1985. He was known in the PBA as “the Machine Gun” for his superior shooting skills. In the United States he played for various teams in the CBA from 1986 to 1990. From 1990 to 1991 he played for Calgary 88’s in the World Basketball League.  Chip Engelland was assistant coach of the Detroit Pistons from 1999-2000, Denver Nuggets in 2003-2005 and San Antonio Spurs in 2005 up to the present. As assistant coach he won 2 NBA championships in 2007 and in 2014 for San Antonio Spurs.   
                                                                                                 

credit: Keith Allison from Wikimedia
Eric Spoelstra was born on November 1, 1970 in Evanston, Illinois. His father, John Spoelstra, is a Dutch-Irish American and former NBA executive of Buffalo Braves, Portland trailblazers, Denver Nuggets and New Jersey Nets. Eric’s mother Elisa is a Native of San Pablo, Laguna, Philippines. Eric is the first Asian-American to ever win an NBA championship as a head coach. From 1997-2008 he was an assistant coach of Miami Heat, and from 2008 up to the present he is elevated to the position as head coach of that team. As assistant coach he helped the Heat win the NBA championship in 2008. And as head coach he won two NBA championships in 2012 and 2013 for his team. He is also a four- time Eastern Conference Champion from 2011 to 2014. Eric Spoelstra was the NBA all star game head coach of 2013. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Boko Haram Kind of Marriage


Boko Haram is a terrorist organization in North East Nigeria. It is also active in Chad, Niger and Northern Cameroon. The terror group was initially linked to Al Qaeda, but it later expressed support to ISIS. On March 15, 2015, Boko Haram formally pledged allegiance to ISIS. Like its terror counterpart, Boko Haram is also notorious for its acts of brutalities such as kidnappings, beheadings, vandalizing and raping women. Effort of the Nigerian government security forces has not been enough to destroy the terror group. The growing threat posed by Boko Haram in the African region has made the neighboring countries of Chad, Cameroon and Niger to join in a coalition with Nigeria to deal with the terrorists.

On September 2014, Boko Haram swooped down on the town of Bama in Borno State and killed people. Under duress, scores of captured women were then forced into "marriage" by the male terrorist combatants. Only the pregnant women and the elderly were spared from being “married” to the terrorists.

In the month of March 2015, government forces of Nigeria put heavy pressure on the terrorists in Bama who had to flee from the area. The terrorists thought that bringing along their “wives” in their retreat might hinder their movement as they and their “wives” might be separated during encounter with government troops.                                  
The other concern of the terrorist was that their “wives” might remarry capturing soldiers or other infidels. The terrorists then thought that killing their “wives” was a good course of action relative to their concerns. By being killed by their “husbands”, the “wives” would retain their piety by not remarrying infidels. Some of the terrorists were not sold to the idea and fled with their “wives” to the neighboring town of Yobe.
                                                                                                                                                      
With their fanatical religious view, the terrorists believe that by remaining pious their “wives” could get to heaven or paradise after they had killed them. The terrorist husbands could later reunite with their “wives” in paradise if they would subsequently die as martyrs. With these reasons the terrorist could not allow their “wives” to be retaken by male “infidels”.

In Bama, residents tell the government troops of their harrowing experience at the hands of the terrorists. Residents led the troops to a well where the dead bodies of terrorist “wives” were dumped. Other bodies were also thrown away on a River Bama bridge. The people said that the killings began 10 days before Bama was liberated by government forces.  


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Alexandria, Egypt, the Eternal City of Alexander the Great

The Lighthouse of Pharos, Alexandria
Alexander the Great was a Macedonian King who at a young age, conquered the Persian Empire and lands that included Asia Minor, the Levant, Persia and parts of India. In his conquest in military campaigns he named several places after him- Alexandria. Over time, through changes in rulers, demography, cultures and religions some of these places vanished off the maps or changed its names such as Kandahar in present day Afghanistan while others retained the name of the legendary king. One that stands out from the rest is Alexandria in Egypt which Alexander founded in 331 BC. He envisioned the place to be the finest seaport in the ancient world.                                                                                                                                                                       
statue of Alexander the Great
Cleomenes, Alexander’s viceroy in Egypt, continued the development and expansion of the city when Alexander pursued further military expeditions to the southwest. In 322 BC, in India, after a lengthy campaign, Alexander’s battle weary troops mutinied and refused to march further. Alexander acceded to his troops’ desire and returned to Babylonia where he was afflicted with a fever and died after a few days. He was just 32 years old. Alexander’s generals then fought among themselves for the division and rule of the vast empire that he had left. Ptolemy or Ptolemy I Soter, one of the generals took hold of Egypt and made himself as king or pharaoh with Alexandria as his capital.   
                    
During the funerary procession of Alexander to Macedonia, Ptolemy hijacked the remains in Damascus, Syria and brought it to Memphis in Egypt. He believed that whoever had the remains of the legendary king would become powerful. Ptolemy Philadelphus, a successor of Ptolemy I later transferred the remains from Memphis to Alexandria where later a communal mausoleum for Alexander and the members of the Ptolemaic dynasty was built. In Egypt, Ptolemy I and his descendants succeeded in firmly establishing the Greek Ptolemaic dynasty and made themselves the heirs of the original Egyptian pharaohs.                                                                                                                                                  
Because of its strategic location in the Mediterranean coast, Alexandria in ancient times was a major city of Egypt. It is situated north in the Nile River Delta. During the reign of the Ptolemies some of the significant structures and places of interest were the Brucheium or the royal Greek quarter in the east, the Jewish quarter in the northeast. There was also the Lighthouse on the island of Pharos which was considered as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. There were also the Soma or mausoleum; the emporium or the exchange; the poseidonium or the temple of Poseidon, the god of the sea; the museum; the Greek theater and the Serapheion or the temple of the Egyptian diety Serapis. The population of the city during the Ptolemaic era was about 300,000 composed of native Egyptians, Greeks and Jews as free citizens exclusive of slaves and strangers.

Alexander’s conquest of the Persian Empire and its vast territory paved the way for the introduction of Hellenism or Greek culture to the people of the lands that were east of Europe and south of Greece. The Greco-Macedonian rule and the settlement of the Greeks to the empire made Greek became the lingua franca of the ancient world. During the rule of the Ptolemies Alexandria was the center of Hellenism and the literary center of the ancient world. It was also the center of commerce and science. There was the famous library of Alexandria and influential schools of philosophy, rhetoric and other branch of learning were established. In its heyday, Alexandria rivaled or even surpassed Athens as the ancient world’s center of culture and learning.  Overtime, the Greeks’ contact with the Jews influenced their religious thought which would then eventually replace their polytheistic belief into a monotheistic one. There was a translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek before AD 100.

During the rise of Rome, Cleopatra the queen of Egypt and a descendant of Ptolemy I allied herself with the Roman Mark Anthony, her lover, who was an adversary of Octavian, a legal heir of Julius Caesar. Octavian defeated the forces of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony in the battle of Actium in 31 BC. She and Mark Anthony then committed suicide and Octavian who later became Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar made Egypt as a Roman province and assigned a prefect under him.

The Romans quelled a Jewish revolt and annihilated the Jewish population and destroyed a large portion of Alexandria in 116 AD. In 215 AD, the Roman emperor Caracalla ordered his troops to massacre male inhabitants of the city with age that was already capable of bearing arms over an insulting satire directed at him. On the other side of those brutalities, the reign of the Romans made Alexandria the second most powerful city after Rome. The position of the city made it a center of trade and commerce between east and west and fleets of grain ships sailed from Alexandria to Italy year after year.

The rise and fall of empires and military and economic fortunes of other nations affected the significance of Alexandria as a city that resulted to its decline. Constantinople was founded and became the seat of the Byzantine Empire thus diminishing the importance of Alexandria as a major city in the Roman Empire. In 638 AD Muslims under Amr Ibn-al-as sacked the city after a siege lasting 14 months. The rule of the Arabs and the making of Cairo as the capital of Egypt contributed more to Alexandria’s decline. The rise of the Ottoman Empire was not any better. In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte held and captured the city and remained there until the arrival of the British expedition in 1801. Europeans began leaving the city following the Suez Canal Crisis in 1956 that led to the outburst of Arab nationalism.

Modern Alexandria is a major and second largest city of Egypt with a 2013 population of 4,546,231 of diverse ethnicity and religion such as Judaism, Islam and Christianity. As the country’s main port city, Alexandria handles about 80% of the imports and exports of Egypt such as cottons, grains, sugar and other goods. The city also boasts of modern amenities in airports, highways, railways, buses, taxis, ports, theaters and museums to cater to its local residents and visitors. Those infrastructures and facilities benefit the city being an important tourist resort of the country.

The rise and fall of world empires, the wars, the change of culture and the change in demographic composition of Alexandria have had little effect to its splendor as one of the world’s most historic and greatest cities of all time. The name of the city is a fitting tribute to its founder, Alexander the Great, who in life and in death, was admired by people around the world for his strong leadership, military genius and exceptional exploits that made him establish the largest empire the ancient world had ever known.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Secular Education, Different Culture and Civilization Are ISIS' Enemies Too

human-headed winged bull (photo credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen)
ISIS is not only intolerant of people who do not conform to its extreme religious belief; it is also averse to things that they deem idolatrous. The latest victims of its atrocities are the Mosul Public Library and the Mosul Museum which housed precious books and priceless artifacts and other things of historic value.                                                                                                                                                                    
On February 25, 2015, ISIS forces broke into the Mosul Museum which housed several statues and artifacts that date back to the ancient Assyrian, Akkadian, Greco-Roman and Islamic empires around Mesopotamia. That region which is identified with the Fertile Crescent is considered one of the cradles of civilization on which agriculture, writing and other fields of human endeavor developed. Members of the ISIS used sledge hammers and electric drills to pound and smash artifacts and other properties inside the museum.   
Also on the last week of February 2015, ISIS bombed the Mosul Public Library and burned about 8,000 rare books and manuscripts. ISIS considers those reading materials as promoting infidelity and disobedience to Allah. Efforts by some local residents to persuade the ISIS members not to destroy the library failed.                                                                                                                                          
People around the world were horrified with the incidents considering that the books are there to promote knowledge, and the artifacts and other historical items are not objects of worship in the modern time. Those objects are there as legacy of the past and lesson to link us to our world’s history. The loss of the books and artifacts such as the gigantic human-headed winged bull because of intentional destruction is a loss not only to the Iraqi people but also to other people of the world.

During the US-led invasion of 2003, there were looting of books and artifacts. But there were people who were able to save some of them by hiding them in their homes. However, at present, the ISIS warned people that such acts are now punishable by death.

The ISIS is notorious for its brutality to people who do not share their views. And places that are deemed sacred to others such as churches and mosques are not spared. Among those destroyed last year were the church of the Virgin Mary, and the mosques at the tombs of prophet Younis or Jonah, Prophet Jirjis or George and Prophet Seth.                                                                                                                                           
In the religious traditions of Muslims, Christians and Jews Seth was the third son of Adam and Eve. Jonah in the tradition was swallowed by a whale because of his defiance to God’s order to go to Nineveh and prophesy against it. Inside the fish belly, Jonah repented and pleaded to God to save him. After three days the fish spewed Jonah out, and he then proceeded to follow God’s order. In the Christian tradition, the story of Jonah relates to the death and resurrection of Christ.

The Mosque which was a site of an ancient church that contained the tomb of Jonah as well as the other mosques at the tomb of the prophets was destroyed because people made them as shrines and places for pilgrimage. ISIS considers the practice as idolatry because people divert their worship from Allah who is the only one who deserves it. The ISIS considers the shrines as sites of apostasy instead of places for prayer.  

ISIS' aim is to establish an Islamic caliphate and impose Sharia law. In consonance to those objectives it has to purge all practices and relics which do not conform to their radical religious views. Many people around the world have condemned the acts of the terrorist group, and Muslim religious and political leaders have disowned it. Some of the Muslim nations even joined forces with the western world to fight and eliminate the ISIS in Syria and Iraq.  


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Janissaries


The word “janissary” comes from the Turkish “yeni cheri” or new troops. The janissaries were the elite troops and the first standing army of the Ottoman Empire. They were also the sultan’s household troops and bodyguards.

In 1380 Sultan Murad I organized the first janissary army to replace Ottoman troops derived from different Turkish tribes. These troops fought for war booty, and their loyalty belonged to their tribal leaders. Their divergent loyalties and cultural differences might turn one tribe against another. This attitude was not conducive to a stable and reliable army which the sultan could rely to protect his throne and his empire. He needed disciplined, well trained and loyal troops. And he could only attain that desire by enlisting soldiers from his non-Muslim subjects from such places as Greece, Albania, Serbia and other territories of the empire.

The first janissaries were those captured in battle. Later on as the power of the Ottoman Empire grew, the recruits were taken from the sultan’s Christian subjects who paid levies to the empire. The devsirme system of the empire was a form of levy on which Christian families would send some of their sons to serve the sultan. And the boys were then conscripted as janissaries.

Boys with ages 14 to 18 were preferred but sometimes those with ages 18 to 20 were also accepted. For practical reason these boys were then converted to Islam and given the finest military training. The boys were isolated from their families and from the rest of the society. Their barracks were their home, the corps was their family and the sultan was their father. They couldn’t marry until their retirement. They were not allowed to grow beard, but only a moustache because beard signified a freeman. Only the best could become a janissary at age 24 to 25.

The janissaries developed into disciplined and skilled troops that the sultan could rely to depend his person and his empire. They became fearsome soldiers of Europe. In recognition of their valuable services, the sultan rewarded them benefits and privileges. The janissaries were paid salaries not only in war but also in peace. They were also entitled to war booty. They were given pension upon retirement and their children were well taken care of. They also enjoyed a high standard of living and social status. A janissary had a big opportunity to become a civil or military official. He could even become a grand vizier of the sultan. Because of their power and influence the janissaries later become a powerful political and military force in the Ottoman Empire.

In the 15th century the devsirme system of recruiting janissaries was relaxed. A Muslim could be enrolled as a janissary. Some of janissaries were enrolled into the corps even if they were born as Muslims. In the 17th century the devsirme system was totally abolished. After this period volunteers who came mostly from Muslim families were enrolled. This changed system of recruiting janissaries started their decline as potent fighting force.

With their power, the janissaries interfered in the affairs of the empire. They exerted their influence in policy making to suit their interest. They engaged in palace coups and changed leaders they did not want. When Sultan Osman II wanted to curb their excesses after the Ottoman defeat in Poland, they arrested him, had him imprisoned and later murdered him.

The janissaries wanted more privileges and higher pay which the sultan granted lest they turn against him. They could marry while still in the service, and they could live outside the barracks. They also engaged themselves in business and dealt directly with society.

The essence which the janissaries were originally organized was completely gone. Instead of being a protector of the sultan, they become a threat to him. The original hallmarks of discipline, loyalty and courage of a janissary were no more. He became corrupt, undisciplined and ineffective soldier. The janissaries’ failure to crush a Greek rebellion that resulted to the independence of Greece totally discredited them as a dependable fighting force.


The cost of paying 350,000 men many of them not actually serving as soldiers and the janissaries’ abuse of power, military ineffectiveness and resistance to reform were too much for the empire to bear. In 1826 Sultan Mahmud II plotted against the janissaries to replace them with a force along western European lines. Upon knowing the plot, the janissaries revolted. Then the sultan waged a war against them. The janissaries marched to the palace, but Sultan Mahmud with the help to the loyal troops contained them. The loyal troops blew up the janissaries barracks in Constantinople with artillery fires that resulted to 4,000 deaths. Captured janissaries were either exiled or executed. Following its defeat, the janissary corps was disbanded.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

Some Facts on Joyful Christmas


Christmas is the merriest season of the year. However, people differed in their views about Christmas and some of the practices related to it. Some people accept Christmas as part of their religious or social traditions. Others do not celebrate it at all because of their religious or other beliefs. But the fact is that Christmas is an occasion that is widely celebrated all over the world and has affected the lives of many people in some ways. Christmas is just around the corner. And it is worthwhile to make this year’s celebration as joyous and memorable as ever. We could start entertaining ourselves in connection with the celebration of Christmas with a small discussion of some facts that follow:

December 25 as Christmas Day. Although December 25 is the day that is traditionally celebrated as Christmas, the Bible did not specify the exact date of Jesus’ birth. And religious scholars have not established the date of his birth either. A clue to the question is the book of Luke 2:8-14 which stated that during Jesus’ birth the shepherds were watching their flocks at night. Considering that it is usually a winter season in Palestine in December, Biblical scholars contend that Jesus could not have been born during that month because shepherds most probably would not go to their field in a wintry evening. It is said that early Christians did not celebrate the birth of Jesus. It was also said that pagans celebrate their festivity called Saturnalia during the winter solstice which may occur from December 21-22 to honor the sun god. At about 440 A.D. Christian converted Roman officials made December 25 as the date of Jesus’ birth to make Christianity acceptable to the pagans.

The three kings. It was never mentioned in the Bible that there were three kings who visited the infant Jesus to pay homage to him. It was mentioned that he was given gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh by the magi from the east. Although there were only three gifts that were presented to Jesus, the givers who were called magi might be a group of people composing more than three persons.

The date of Christmas of Eastern Orthodox Churches. Some Eastern Christian Orthodox Churches celebrate their Christmas on January 7 rather than on December 25. The reason of it is that most Christian Orthodox Churches especially the Russian and Serbian use the old Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar.

Not all Christians celebrate Christmas. Jehovah’s witnesses, a Christian denomination do not celebrate Christmas. They consider Christmas as pagan in origin and therefore not a Christian holiday. They also believe that Jesus Christ and some known Biblical personalities did not celebrate birthdays. And that Biblical accounts related to birthdays were mostly associated with unpleasant events.

 “Happy Holidays” Greetings. Generally, people associate Christmas with the Christian religion. But some people are non-Christians, others do not profess to belong to any religious group while still others do not celebrate Christmas at all. Greeting them with “Merry Christmas” is some sort distasteful to them.  “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas!” is a more acceptable way of greeting them during the celebration.  Those people also prefer to call the occasion “the holidays” instead of Christmas.

The longest Christmas celebration in the world. The Philippines is a country with the longest Christmas celebration. The merriment starts as early as late September with the playing of Christmas carols over the radio and some business establishments, and ends at the feast day of Epiphany on January 6. The official celebration however starts at the ”Misa de Gallo” or the evening mass that starts on December 16 and culminates in the Christmas  Eve. The New Year and the Epiphany are considered by many Filipinos as part of their Christmas celebration.

Christmas tree. Christmas tree has its origin in the pagan traditions of having tree as decoration during the winter festivity. The evergreen boughs, mistletoe and holy were regarded as the hope for life in the wintertime when trees had no leaves. Early Christians prohibited the tradition because of its pagan origin. The Germans however revived the tradition in the 16th century by using tree as a decoration during the festivity of “The Feast of Adam and Eve” which was celebrated on December 24. The German brought the Christmas tree tradition in the 17th century to the United States.  The Americans in turn spread the use of Christmas tree as decoration throughout the world.

White Christmas. The song “White Christmas” was the best-selling Christmas single of all time. It has sold more than 50 million copies. The song was composed by Irving Berlin and popularized by Bing Crosby at Decca Records which released it in 1942.

Santa Claus. The figure of a red- suited Santa that is chubby, bearded and round bellied who is on a sleigh drawn by reindeers  was taken from the poem  “A Visit to Saint Nicholas” which is better known today as “The Night before Christmas“. The poem was attributed to Clement Clarke Moore. One of the first artist to define Santa’s modern image was Thomas Nast an American cartoonist of the 19th century who made a picture of Santa in the “Harper’s Weekly” in 1863.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Taj Mahal, a Magnificent Monument to a Man's Undying Love and Devotion to a Woman

Photo by Jankit (Wikimedia Commons)
Shah Jahan (1592-1666) was originally known as Prince Khurran. At his father’s death in 1627, he became the 5th mogul of the Muslim Mugol dynasty that ruled India from 1628 to to 1658. As an emperor he was called Shah Jahan. He later married a young woman who was betrothed to him. Her name was Arjumand Banu Begum, a daughter of a Persian noble family. After the marriage she was given the name Mumtaz Mahal.

Mumtaz was a woman who possessed admirable grace and beauty. Although she was only the third wife of Shah Jahan, she was the favorite among his wives.  Their loving relationship was intense. He was deeply in love and devoted to her. He wanted her to be always by his side so that she was with him even in his military campaigns.

On Shah Jahan ventures at Ber Hampur, Mumtaz died while giving birth to her 14th child. This ended the couple’s 19 years of loving companionship that blessed them with 14 offspring, seven of which died at a very young age. 

The unexpected loss of his beloved wife gravely saddened Shah Jahan, and he was inconsolable in his bereavement. He was in secluded mourning, and it took him long to get over his sorrows. Her loss adversely affected him emotionally and physically so that it made him look grayer and older.

Mumtaz was buried in Berhampur. A year later, in 1631, her remains was disinterred and placed in a golden casket and carried back to Agra, Shah Jahan’s capital, for final interment.

To honor the memory of his wife that he loved very much, Shah Jahan built a mausoleum the beauty of which the world had never seen before. When completed, it was called Taj Mahal which means “crown palace”. The mosque-like mausoleum stands at a raised platform of 186x186 square feet. It is made of white marble. The inside and outside are decorated with inlaid design of flowers and calligraphy. It has a bulbous central dome which is 58 feet in diameter and 213 feet in height. At the corners of the raised platform are four minarets with a height of 162 feet each. Surrounding the mausoleum are gardens, walkways and fountains. The mausoleum took 21 years to finish, from 1632 to 1653, and employed about twenty thousand artisans and craftsmen.

In 1657 when Shah Jahan became ill, one of his sons, Aurangzeb, took advantage of the situation by grabbing power and imprisoning him. Shah Jahan spent the rest of his life in prison. When he died, he was also laid to rest in the Taj Mahal.

The magnificence of Taj Mahal is a description of Shah Jahan’s deep and undying love to his departed wife. The monument is an awesome beauty so that many people consider it as the eight wonders of the world.
Indeed, the beauty of the Taj Mahal is a source of awe and admiration of many people. For example, it was mentioned in an old song written by Frankie Laine and Fred Karger. The title of the song was “Magnificent Obsession” which was popularized by Nat King Cole. The opening of its lyrics goes as follows:

“You’re my magnificent obsession
The greatest wonder of this earth
The Taj Mahal and other splendors
To me have really no worth . . . .”


The mausoleum that Shah Jahan built is indeed a splendid architectural beauty in the world. But, perhaps, to him, it was nothing compared to the life of Mumtaz, his wife and eternal love. It goes without saying that for a man, the woman that he truly loves is more precious and more beautiful than any of the greatest work of art.