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Taj Mahal: The tale behind this symbol of love

The Taj Mahal celebrates the great love of India's Mughal ruler Shah Jahan for his beloved wife Arjumand Banu Begum, better known to history as Mumtaz Mahal or “jewel of the palace.” Jahan first spotted Mumtaz in the bazaar at Agra, selling silks and beads, and the young prince fell madly in love at first sight.

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Shah Jahan, named after his wife Mumtaz Mahal, which is synonymous with the existence and ever-growing popularity of the Taj Mahal, was the fifth Mughal emperor of South Asia who ruled from 1628 to 1658. Born as Prince Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram Lahore, Pakistan in 1592, Shah Jahan was the son of Nur-ud-din Muhammad Salim, known by his imperial name, Jahangir. His name Khurram, which means “happiness” in Persian, was given to him by his grandfather Akbar the Great.

Showing incredible military abilities at an early age against various foes including Mewar, the Lodi in the Deccan, and Kangra, impressed his father such a lot that Shah Jahan got the title “Shah Jahan Bahadur” from him. He was not only a sharp military leader, but he also had the architectural ability and he proved it by redesigning the buildings inside the Agra Fort. Out of all the titles, he won, “The Builder of the Marvels” was one of the most deserving ones to come.

Read more: India bars Sikh pilgrims from Kartarpur even as it opens Taj Mahal for tourists

How did this love story begin?

The most important part of the history of Shah Jahan’s life began in 1607 when he was 15 years old and he got engaged to Arjumand Banu Begum (Mumtaz Mahal), the granddaughter of a Persian noble who was only 14 years old at that time. In 1612 they both got married, Arjumand became the undisputed love of her life. Khurram selected her form and character among all the women of the time and bestowed upon her the title of Mumtaz Mahal, meaning “Jewel of the Palace”.

In the 19 years of their marriage, they had 14 children together (eight sons and six daughters), seven of whom died at birth or at a very young age. He also married two other ladies to be specific Akbarabadi Mahal and Muti Begum, however, it is said that these relationships were for political reasons and the ladies he married for such reasons were thought of as considered as “royal wives”. The closeness, profound love, consideration and favor which His Majesty had for the Cradle of Excellence (Mumtaz) surpassed by multiple times what he felt for some other”. She was his indivisible companion, going with him even on military endeavors, a believed partner and their relationship were extreme.

After she died in 1631, giving birth to her 14th child, Shah Jahan began work on the world’s most beautiful monument in her memory. The monument, which includes Mumtaz Mahal as well as Shah Jahan, became known as the “Taj Mahal”, which took 22 years and 22,000 workers to build. It was in 1657 that Shah Jahan fell ill, and Dara, the eldest son of Mumtaz Mahal, took over his father’s throne. His other son Aurangzeb marched to Agra with his younger brothers Shuja and Murad to claim his share. They crushed Dara’s militaries and proclaimed their father Shah Jahan disqualified to run and place him under house capture in Agra Fort. After Shah Jahan died in captivity in 1666, his body was quietly taken away by two men and placed with Mumtaz.

The Taj Mahal was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the world’s most acclaimed masterpieces of world cultural heritage”. Many consider it to be the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India’s rich history.

Read more: Taj Mahal reopens even as India coronavirus cases soar

The Taj Mahal is located on the right bank of the Yamuna River in a vast Mughal Garden of about 17 hectares in the Agra district of Uttar Pradesh.  Construction began in 1631 AD and was completed in 1648 AD, with the mosque, the guest house, and the main gateway on the south, the outer courtyard, and its cloisters were added subsequently and completed in 1653 AD. The presence of numerous historical and Qur’anic inscriptions in the Arabic script has facilitated the chronology of the Taj Mahal. Architects, stonemasons, layers, sculptors, painters, calligraphers, dome makers, and other artisans were called in to build it, as well as from Central Asia and Iran. Ustad Ahmad Lahori was the original architect of the Taj Mahal.

Air pollution is a major problem in India due to heavy traffic, so to protect the Taj Mahal from the harmful effects of pollution, no car or bus can run more than 500 meters from the entrance.

Here, let’s highlight a few surprising facts about the Taj Mahal:

ü  An estimated 22,000 workers and 1000 elephants worked on the construction project.

ü  Both Mumtaz and the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan are buried inside the basement.

ü  It is closed every Friday, and only Muslims are allowed to attend the afternoon prayers.

ü  The minarets were built with slight learning to create a visual illusion. However, the minarets not only lean outwards to show off their splendor, but the architectural calculation also derives from the logic that if they lean outwards, they would fall and destroy the central dome of the crown. Will prevent from happening, if an earthquake occurs.

ü  Tradition has it that Emperor Shah Jahan had planned to build another Taj Mahal out of black marble across the river but a war with his sons thwarted these plans.

ü  One of the attractions of the Taj Mahal is its ever-changing color. From morning till evening, the sun changes the shrine. The pearly gray and light pink at sunrise, bright white at noon, and orange bronze at sunset. In the evening, the Taj Mahal may appear translucent blue. Special tickets are even sold for the full moon and lunar eclipses.

The rumor that Shah Jahan wanted the Taj Mahal to be irreplaceable, and so he cut off the hands of artisans to make sure they would never replicate such a feat, is more than a myth because there is no evidence to support this claim.

Taj Mahal proceeds to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Read more: Taj Mahal closed down as India suffers brunt of virus

The following monuments were likewise built by Shah Jahan during his rule:

  • Red Fort or Lal Quila (Delhi)
  • Sections of the Agra Fort
  • Jama Masjid (Delhi)
  • Moti Masjid or Pearl Mosque (Lahore)
  • Shalimar Gardens (Lahore)
  • Sections of the Lahore Fort (Lahore)
  • Jahangir Mausoleum
  • Takht-e-Taus
  • Shahjahan Mosque (Thatta) are some of the finest structures signifying the name of Shah Jahan, which means “King of the World” in Persian.

 

The writer is Currently doing working as an Administrator at the Federal Board of Revenue, Islamabad. She can be reached at canwal.22@gmail.com The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy.

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