Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal

Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal
One of the greatest Indian love stories is of Shah Jahan’s love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The emperor erected the Taj Mahal in the memory of his dead wife while grieving for her. About 20,000 workers toiled day and night to create this masterpiece, which is today one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The daughter of Shah Jahan’s father’s Prime Minister, Arjumand Banu Begum became Mumtaz Mahal when she was christened as the ‘jewel of the palace’ by Shah Jahan after their marriage. His inseparable companion till her end, she enjoyed the goodwill of the people for all her charitable work and just decisions. The king was never the same without her and was eventually captured and imprisoned by his own son Aurangzeb. He spent his last days looking at the monument he erected in her loving memory.

Today, there are few lovers like Shah Jahan and fewer like Mumtaz Mahal. If Shah Jahan was born today, he would definitely buy Mumtaz Mahal a garden of red roses, a store full of Swiss chocolates, personalized jewelry from Tanishq and have composers from across the world create music and write lyrics dedicated to her. No demonstration of devotion compares to the building of the Taj Mahal but in 2008 he might build a shopping mall with every other shop named after Mumtaz. Movies, plays, theater and drama try and capture the timeless essence of these immortal love stories in ways they decipher it, but nothing comes close to the simplicity of their love and dedication for each other.

Today, people seem to think love cannot be expressed with an empty wallet. Roses, chocolates, gifts, music and lyrics all cost money and love has become more an expression of the rich and famous rather than an emotion to cherish and reciprocate. Switch on your television and all the channels will showcase some advertisement selling gift ideas to express love. Gone are the eras of great love stories when love was expressed by a hesitant look and a simple glance.

The Origin of Tajmahal
The origin of the name the "Taj Mahal" is not clear. Court histories from Shah Jehan's reign only call it the rauza (tomb) of Mumtaz Mahal. It is generally believed that "Taj Mahal" (usually translated as either "Crown Palace" or "Crown of the Palace") is an abbreviated version of her name, Mumtaz Mahal (Exalted One of the Palace). 

The Taj Mahal is a deserving resting palace for an Emperor's Empress. It stands on the banks of the river Yamuna, which otherwise serves as a wide moat defending the Great Red Fort of Agra, the center of the Mughal emperors until they moved their capital to Delhi in 1637. It was built by the fifth Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan in 1631 in memory of his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, a Muslim Persian princess. She died while accompanying her husband in Burhanpur in a campaign to crush a rebellion after giving birth to their 14th child.

Mumtaj Mahal - "Build me a Taj"
As Mumtaz Mahal lay dying, she asked four promises from the emperor: first, that he build the Taj; second, that he should marry again; third, that he be kind to their children; and fourth, that he visit the tomb on her death anniversary. He kept the first and second promises. Construction began in 1631 and was completed in 22 years. Twenty thousand people were deployed to work on it. The principal architect was the Iranian architect Istad Usa; it is possible that the pietra dura work was coordinated by an Italian artist. 

Taj Mahal - Wonder of the World
To people the world over, the Taj Mahal, mausoleum of Mughal Emperor shah Jana's chief wife, Mumtaz Mahal, is synonymous with India. Its curving, gently swelling dome and the square base upon which its rests so lightly is a familiar image from hundreds of brochures and travel books. The Taj is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular buildings of the world. Renowned for its architectural magnificence and aesthetic beauty, it counts among man's proudest creations and is invariably included in the list of the world's foremost wonders. As a tomb, it has no match upon earth, for mortal remains have never been housed in greater grandeur.

Architecture of the TajMahal
Construction began in 1631, and over 20,000 workmen and master craftsmen worked laboriously for 22 years to give shape to the emperor's passionate dream! The material was brought in from all over India and central Asia and it took a fleet of 1,000 elephants to transport it to the site. The complex was finally completed in 1653 at a cost of 32 Million Rupees (approx USD 68000) on the banks of river Yamuna in Agra, the capital of the Mughal monarchs.

But the beauty of Taj Mahal is also tainted by the gory fact that the hands of some of the master craftsmen were amputated, to ensure that the perfection of the Taj could never be repeated ever again!