February 13th, 2013
Armchair Traveler: Shah Jahan’s gift to his beloved wife, the Taj Mahal of India
On St. Valentine’s Day jewelry, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones. But who can do more than Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal as a memorial to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child?
Born as Prince Khurram in 1592, Shah Jahan was the fifth son of Mughal Emperor Jahangir and grandson of Akbar the Great. In 1607, while strolling down the Meena Bazaar, 15-year-old Prince Khurram caught a glimpse of a girl hawking silk and glass beads. It was love at first sight and the girl was Arjumand Banu Begum, the granddaughter of a Persian noble and was just 14 at that time. After they got married in 1612, Arjumand became the unquestioned love of his life.
After his father’s death in 1627, Shah Jahan won power after a struggle with his brothers, crowning himself emperor at Agra in 1628, and entrusted Arjumand Banu with the royal seal. He also bestowed her with the title of Mumtaz Mahal, meaning the “Jewel of the Palace.”
In 1631 Mumtaz Mahal died at age 40 while giving birth to their 14th child. The cause of death was post-partum hemorrhaging, which caused considerable blood-loss after a painful labor of 30 hours. The deeply-grieving emperor ordered the construction of a fitting monument six months later. It took 22,000 workers and 1,000 elephants nearly 22 years to complete this white marble monument — the Taj Mahal.
In 1657 Shah Jahan fell ill, and one of his sons, Aurangzeb, declared their father Shah Jahan incompetent to rule and put him under house arrest in Agra Fort till his death in 1666. It is said that with tears in his eyes, Shah Jahan viewed the Taj Mahal from the Agra fort during the last years of his life.
Shah Jahan sleeps next to his beloved wife, Mumtaz in the Taj Mahal.
Check out Museyon’s photographic tour of the Taj Mahal.
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