|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.