In the heart of India stands one of the most famous monuments in today’s world. Holding the proud title as one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal is a sight to see. Behind its glistening walls, it holds a beautiful yet tragic love story of a righteous king and his queen. This story dates back to the early 1600s, amidst the great Mughal empire, and is a tale that has inspired many young lovers to seek the true meaning of love. According to the English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold, the Taj Mahal is best described as “Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passion of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones”.

Emperor Badshah Jahangir and Nur Jahan

There was once a great emperor known as Badshah Jahangir.He was the 4th Mughal emperor and son of Akbar the great who was the third Mughal emperor. The story of Akbar the Great was depicted in the famous Bollywood movie, Jodha Akbar, starring Hrithik Roshan and Aishwariya rai. Badshah Jahangir had many wives but his favourite was a beautiful woman named Nur Jahan. In the year 1592, Nur jahan gave birth to Shihab al-Din Muhammad Khurram who was the third and favourite son of emperor Badshah Jahangir. He was known as prince Khurram and later as Shah Jahan. As a child, Shah Jahan was a bright and intelligent boy with a building passion for architecture. He received training in various fields such as martial training and cultural arts.

Love at first sight

One day, 14-year-old Shah Jahan was leisurely strolling down the streets, through the Meena Bazaar along with his trusted courtiers when he caught the glimpse of a beautiful young girl surrounded by colourful silks and glass beads. This 15-year-old girl was Arjumand Banu Begum, later known as Mumtaz Mahal. She was a Muslim, Persian princess and was the daughter of a relative of Nur Jahan, Shah Jahan’s mother. Hypnotised by her beauty, the young prince followed her around the bazaar. Later that day, he declared to his father that he would like to marry the girl. The emperor agreed with his favourite son but as they were not yet in the proper age of marriage, they tied the know only 5 years later in the year 1612. Shah jahan became the 5th Mughal emperor after the death of his father. He inherited great power and wealth and during his reign, it was said to be the golden age for the Mughal empire. Arjumand Banu was not the only wife that Shah Jahan had but she was his most beloved, taking her everywhere he went even to the military campaigns. Every passing second made him fall in love with his beautiful wife even more and he bestowed upon her, the title as the ‘Jewel of the Palace’ which translates to Mumtaz Mahal. She was also known to be his personal adviser since she was a very educated woman, well-versed in many subjects including politics and economy.

The dark phase

Mumtaz Mahal gave birth to 14 children out of which only seven survived. Bearing 14 children was not an easy task at the time and it took a toll on her body. In 1631, sadly she died during the child birth of her 14th child. Before taking her last breath, Mumtaz Mahal whispered her wishes to Shah Jahan to build a beautiful memorial in the name of their love. The emperor was shattered. The love of his life, whom had followed him everywhere, every minute, was now suddenly gone, disappeared from his world just like that. He ordered his court into two years of mourning and vowed to build the most beautiful memorial in the name of his passed wife.

Hence began the construction of the magnificent mausoleum. For 22 years, with the help of nearly 22 thousand workers, Shah Jahan focused on nothing else but the Taj Mahal until he was over thrown by his son Aurangzab. Shah Jahan was imprisoned in Agra fort, but it was said that he was provided with the luxury of being able to see the Taj Mahal through reflecting crystals that were placed in every corner of his room. Everywhere he turned, he would see the Taj Mahal in loving memory of his beloved wife. Shah Jahan passed away in the year 1666 and his body was placed in a tomb right next to that of Mumtaz Mahal where they laid together for all eternity.

By Kawmudi Debnath