The ivory white mausoleum placed at the banks of the Yamuna River in the Indian City of Agra has long since been considered an icon of love and romance. This mausoleum has been considered a testimony to King Shah Jahan’s love to Queen Mumtaz.
According to the Official Taj Mahal webisite, this is a story, that although dates back to 1631, continues to live in the form of Taj and is considered a living example of eternal love. It’s the love story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, two people from the course of history who set an example for the people living in present and the future to come. An English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold best describes it as “Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passion of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones.” The story that follows next will prove why the statement is true.
Shah Jahan, initially named Prince Khurram, was born in the year 1592. He was the son of Jehangir, the fourth Mughal emperor of India and the grandson of Akbar the Great. In 1607 when strolling down the Meena Bazaar, accompanied by a string of fawning courtiers, Shah Jahan caught a glimpse of a girl hawking silk and glass beads. It was love at first sight and the girl was Mumtaz Mahal, who was known as Arjumand Banu Begum at that time. At that time, he was 14 years old and she, a Muslim Persian princess, was 15. After meeting her, Shah Jahan went back to his father and declared that he wanted to marry her. The match got solemnized after five years i.e., in the year 1612.
It was in the year 1628 that Shah Jahan became the Emperor and entrusted Arjumand Banu with the royal seal. He also bestowed her with the title of Mumtaz Mahal, meaning the “Jewel of the Palace”. Though Shah Jahan had other wives too, Mumtaz Mahal was his favourite and accompanied him everywhere, even on military campaigns. In the year 1631, when Mumtaz Mahal was giving birth to their 14th child, she died due to some complications. While Mumtaz was on her deathbed, Shah Jahan promised her that he would never remarry and will build the richest mausoleum over her grave.
It is said that Shah Jahan was so heartbroken after her death that he ordered the court into mourning for two years. Some time after her death, Shah Jahan undertook the task of erecting the world’s most beautiful monument in memory of his beloved. It took 22 years and the labour of 22,000 workers to construct the monument. When Shah Jahan died in 1666, his body was placed in a tomb next to the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. This magnificent monument came to be known as “Taj Mahal” and now counts amongst the Seven Wonders of the World. This is the true story of the Taj Mahal of India, which has mesmerized many people with its bewitching beauty.
However, there are a few historical facts behind the romantic gesture.
No one has ever challenged it except Prof. P. N. Oak, who believes the whole world has been duped. In his book Taj Mahal: The True Story, Oak says the Taj Mahal is not Queen Mumtaz’s tomb, but an ancient Hindu temple palace of Lord Shiva (then known as Tejo Mahalaya). In the course of his research Oak discovered that the Shiva temple palace was usurped by Shah Jahan from then Maharaja of Jaipur, Jai Singh. In his own court chronicle, Badshahnama,Shah Jahan admits that an exceptionally beautiful grand mansion in Agra was taken from Jai Singh for Mumtaz’s burial . The ex-Maharaja of Jaipur still retains in his secret collection two orders from Shah Jahan for surrendering the Taj building. Using captured temples and mansions, as a burial place for dead courtiers and royalty was a common practice among Muslim rulers.
Today, some 3 million people a year (or around 45,000 a day during peak tourist season) visit the Taj Mahal. Air pollution from nearby factories and automobiles poses a continual threat to the mausoleum’s gleaming white marble façade. In 1998, India’s Supreme Court ordered a number of anti-pollution measures to protect the building from deterioration. Some factories were closed, while vehicular traffic was banned from the immediate vicinity of the complex.
Whatever said and done, this beautiful testimony to Shah Jahan’s and Queen Mumtaz’s love still stands as a symbol of romance.