Taj Mahal – A Love Story

The Love Story

It was in 1607 that Shah Jahan, grandson of Akbar the Great, first met his beloved. At the time, he was not yet the fifth emperor of the Mughal Empire. Sixteen-year-old Prince Khurram, as he was then called, flitted around the royal bazaar, flirting with the girls from high-ranking families that staffed the booths. 

At one of these booths, Prince Khurram met Arjumand Banu Begum, the 15-year-old young woman whose father was soon to be the prime minister and whose aunt was married to Prince Khurram’s father. Although it was love at first sight, the two were not allowed to marry right away. Prince Khurram first had to marry Kandahari Begum. He later took a third wife as well.

On March 27, 1612, Prince Khurram and his beloved, to whom he gave the name Mumtaz Mahal (“chosen one of the palace”), were married. Mumtaz Mahal was beautiful as well as smart and tender-hearted. The public was enamored with her, in no small part because she cared for the people. She diligently made lists of widows and orphans to ensure that they were given food and money. The couple had 14 children together but only seven lived past infancy. It was the birth of the 14th child that would kill Mumtaz Mahal.


The Death of Mumtaz Mahal

In 1631, three years into Shah Jahan’s reign, a rebellion led by Khan Jahan Lodi was underway. Shah Jahan took his military out to the Deccan, about 400 miles from Agra, in order to crush the usurper.

As usual, Mumtaz Mahal accompanied Shah Jahan’s side despite being heavily pregnant. On June 16, 1631, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl in an elaborately decorated tent in the middle of the encampment. At first, all seemed to be well, but Mumtaz Mahal was soon dying.

The moment Shah Jahan received word of his wife’s condition, he rushed to her side. Early in the morning on June 17, just one day after the birth of their daughter, Mumtaz Mahal died in her husband’s arms. She was buried right away according to Islamic tradition near the encampment at Burbanpur. Her body would not stay there long.

Reports say that in Shah Jahan’s anguish, he went to his own tent and cried for eight days without ceasing. When he emerged, he was said to have aged considerably, sporting white hair and glasses.


Bringing Mumtaz Mahal Home

In December 1631, with the feud against Khan Jahan Lodi won, Shah Jahan asked that Mumtaz Mahal’s body be dug up and brought 435 miles or 700 kilometers to Agra. Her return was a grand procession with thousands of soldiers accompanying her body and mourners lining the route.

When the remains of Mumtaz Mahal reached Agra on January 8, 1632, they were temporarily buried on land donated by nobleman Raja Jai Singh. This was near where the Taj Mahal would be built.

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