Shah Jahan, a love story

Shah Jahan, born in 1592 was the emperor of the Mughal empire from 1628 to 1658, after his father’s death.  His “complete” title was: His Imperial Majesty Al-Sultan al-‘Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram, Malik-ul-Sultanat, Ala Hazrat Abu’l-Muzaffar Shahab ud-din Muhammad Shah Jahan I, Sahib-i-Qiran-i-Sani, Padshah Ghazi Zillu’llah, Firdaus-Ashiyani, Shahanshah—E–Sultanant Ul Hindiya Wal Mughaliya, Emperor of India.

When Mark was applying to go to India and we were waiting for the results of the scholarship we read lots of books about India.  To learn about the history and the culture.  We wanted to learn about places we might want to see if we were to go there.  We watched videos, and searched online ideas and questions that came up from our conversations, prior to any decisions.

Siena fell in love with Shah Jahan’s story before we left to India.  I think it was this book. Taj Mahal by Caroline Arnold.

We read about how Arjumand, not from a royal family, became the one Shah Jahan, Khurram, married with his father’s consent. He met her at a Bazaar, and said about her to his friends “her face is more beautiful than the full moon.”  He told her that “he would keep the gem (he bought from her) close to his heart until they met again.” And that he was going to see her again the day their hearts join.  And that “he was going to shower her with real diamonds more brilliant than the stars”

The words used, the illustrations, the story itself, I don’t know what moved Siena about this book.  She loved it so much, we added it to our library at home.  And we have it right now on our coffee table with books about India with beautiful photographs, and a special book I made for Siena, with photos of our own, from both of our visits to the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort.  To complete the story for us.

The book says that the wedding’s feast was glorious and had five hundred delicacies. There were musicians and dancers, poets, and a beautiful night.  The emperor said “From this day on you shall be known as Mumtaz Mahal, Jewel of the Palace.”

Photo by Siena

Prince Khurram and Mumtaz loved each other so dearly, they devoted to each other, as they were inseparable.  She went with him to the battles.  He was so powerful and seemed invincible when she was with him.  The Emperor Jahangir, rewarded his son for his power and his strength and gave him the title of Shah Jahan, “King of the World”.

After his father died, he became the new ruler, the Emperor.  He and his wife, Mumtaz cared for the people in their empire.  Every year he gave away his weigh in gold, silver and precious stones and spices, medicine and foods to those in need.  Siena remembers this part of the story and always asked why he did that.  I think she really likes the idea of fairness and being nice to each other and especially those who need help.

One day, when Mumtaz had gone with his husband to accompany him in the battles, she gave birth to a daughter, her fourteenth child. But she was not well and all night Shah Jahan was by her side.  He asked her not to leave him.  She shared her love for him and asked for one wish as the morning reached “that the whole world know of our love”, she said.

They said that it seemed as if the whole empire was sadden with the news of her death.  Shah Jahan did not drink or eat for many days, and did not care to be the ruler anymore.  He only could think of his promise.  One morning he woke up after a dream of seeing Mumtaz in a beautiful palace with white walls.   He requested the best architects, calligraphers and artists of the world to design the most magnificent tomb, garden and palace they could imagine.

Shah Jahan spent all he wanted in getting the white marble from Jodhpur, jade and crystal from China, coral from Arabia, lapiz lazuli from Afghanistan, mother of pearl from the Indian Ocean. Emeralds from Colombia, as well as topaz, garnets, onyx, rubies and so much more.  He asked the artists to create the most beautiful place, “as if heaven on earth are joined.”

Having been next to the Taj Mahal, right there, touching this beautiful place, it is all that. It is the most beautiful palace, garden, tomb, it is as if heaven and earth have joined to create this spectacular site.  The calligraphy written along the walls, the inlaid gems, the symmetry, the white-ness of it, the sight. All breathes beauty and love.

Many years went by before walls began to rise in Agra.  Many more took to finish it, and at the end was called the Taj Mahal.  “Almost as perfect as their love.”  They then brought her coffin to this final resting place, covered by pearls and the biggest diamond laid on top.   We could see it when you walk inside.  The tomb coffin is right there. Isn’t it incredible?

As Shah Jahan sat there, watching the reflection of this beautiful palace in the water of the pool, he envisioned a tomb for himself on the other side of the river, mirroring the Taj Mahal, made out of black marble. Both reflections would unite in the Yamuna River, to become one, he thought then, they would be together once again.

Few years had passed from the Taj Mahal’s completion when Shah Jahan became ill.  His son, Aurangzeb, their sixth child, took power and mad that his father was spending so much of his fortune, he decided to lock him up in the Red Fort of Agra.

On our second visit to the Taj Mahal last November, we visited the Red Fort in Agra with Glendie.  We visited most of the corners including the room where Shah Jahan was locked.

This is the room where he spent his last years, in prison.

From this room he could see the Yamuna River and in the distance the Taj Mahal and its reflection, probably as we see it today, and we saw it that day last November.

It was so inspiring and so powerful to see this place.  Both places.  But seeing The Fort, and this room especially, in my mind, it felt like the story of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal was closing to an end.  It felt like I could close the chapter, close our book of this love story.

Shah Jahan lived enclosed in these walls for eight years.  I am sure he thought of all the moments together with the love of his life, his promise becoming reality, reflecting in the river, in a palace, a place, full of story and incredible beauty.  A Monument to Love, where the whole world can see the love two people had for each other, and never forgotten.


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