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Mughal painting depicting Mumtaz Mahal, 17 - 18 century.
Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.

 

 

Arjumand Banu Begum, more popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal (“the chosen one of the palace”), was Shah Jahan’s third wife. The Emperors of ancient India had many wives, and marriages usually happened for political reasons, but there was one based on pure love. Legends say that they met while shopping in a private bazaar. Her unrivalled beauty and his great personality brought both together. After a five year long period of struggle over family feuds, during which Shah Jahan married twice for political reasons, they got married. He was twenty and she was nineteen at the start of their 19 year-long marriage. Together they had 14 children, and despite frequent pregnancies Mumtaz Mahal was Shah Jahan's trusted companion, travelling with him all over the Mughal Empire. Though she had no aspirations to political power, she often guided Shah Jahan in many decisions and intervened on behalf of the poor and destitute.
Before she died during the birth of their fourteenth child, she asked the Emperor to build a monument that would reflect their love to the world. After her death, Shah Jahan went into secluded mourning for a year. When he appeared again his hair had turned white, his back was bent and his face worn. Shah Jahan's eldest daughter gradually brought him out of his grief, and he began planning the design and construction of a suitable mausoleum and funerary garden for his wife. He chose a place in his wife’s town of birth, Agra, and it took him more than 22 years to complete the memorial which symbolizes their love and their life – the Taj Mahal. The Emperor was also buried there after his death and even now, the Taj Mahal stands as a symbol of love, telling the tale of the king and a queen buried within it.