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Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal

Quick Facts

Him: Shah Jahan, Mughal Emperor

Her: Mumtaz Mahal, Muslim Persian Princess

Setting: India, late 16th and early 17th centuries AD



Background

After crossing paths in a market, a young Mughal prince vows to his father he will marry a beautiful Muslim Persian princess. Shah Jahan, when he grew to assume the role of emperor, Mumtaz Mahal was by his side, the favorite of his many wives. After her untimely death, Shah Jahan went on one of the most ambitious building projects ever undertaken, resulting in one of the world’s greatest landmarks.


Story

At the tender age of 14, Shah Jahan, was passing through the Meena Bazaar when his eyes settled on a stunning girl selling glass beads and luxurious silks. After speaking with her, he returned home and informed his father he wished to marry Mumtaz Mahal (“Jewel of the Palace,” a name he would give to her later), who he had learned was a Muslim Persian princess. Though it would take five years to work out the particulars, the two were joined as husband and wife in 1612.

As was custom at the time, Shah Jahan had several wives, yet Mumtaz Mahal was by far his favorite. When he ascended to the throne in 1628, she alone was given the royal seal. Throughout their life together, she rarely left his side, accompanying him on his many travels – including on far-flung military expeditions.


In 1631, while giving birth to their 14th child, Mumtaz Mahal suffered from complications that ended up taking her life. Kneeling at her bedside, Shah Jahan pledged to honor her by never marrying again and constructing a magnificent mausoleum over her tomb – the building we know today as the Taj Mahal.

Heartbroken, legend says Shah Jahan ordered his court into mourning for two years. Sometime later, he set in motion plans to build the structure he promised Mumtaz Mahal, a process that would take 22,000 workers more than 22 years to complete. More than three decades after his beloved wife had passed away, Shah Jahan finally joined her in death, his body placed at her side for all eternity.


Reputation

Few could argue the monumental nature of the love story told about Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal – and not just because a world-renowned monument is part of it! Sir Edwin Arnold, the English poet, referred to the Taj Mahal as “the proud passion of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones,” a mere symbol of a deep connection between two human beings so massive it could never be contained by any building.

From the standpoint of romance, the idea of multiple wives is rather foreign to modern societies, yet the devotion displayed by Shah Jahan is what makes this tale so famous. It goes beyond him granting her the royal seal or renaming her “Jewel of the Palace” as a sign of his affection. His actions during and after her life are those of a fairy tale – except we can witness the proof of their existence with our own eyes.



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