32 million rupees, 20000 talented workers, 1000 transportation elephants, 17 years of making, two souls and one monument; the Taj Mahal.
The beauty, grandeur and magnificence of the 17th century mausoleum continues to attract tourist from round the globe and leave them mesmerized. But, it is not just about the white marble fortress, the eye catching Minars, the gigantic dome and enchanting garden. Taj, is a gift of affection, it is a structure strengthened with Love, which has stood unaffected throughout and is a challenge to Eternity. What the world sees is the white marble, the Pietra Dura calligraphy and the tombs of two lovers; but what remain invisible are the tears that were shed in that very platform and the groans that echoed in the very same sepulchre.
1607 AD, Prince Khurram was betrothed to a beautiful girl, Arjumand Banu. In 1612 AD, they got married. It was soon when she became his Mumtaz Mahal, ‘the chosen one of the palace’. That was not just a relationship but a friendship of childhood. When Prince Khurram ascended the throne as Shah Jahan,’ the ruler of the world’, it was with her, as a lover, adviser and friend. Their bond was never weakened; be it rebel, expeditions or wars, Mumtaz always accompanied Shah Jahan everywhere.
It was during one such expedition that Mumtaz suffered from postpartum hemorrhage and that was when the ruler of India had to witness something which is the worst in the world. That feeling when your loved one is dying and you stand helpless; when every bit of authority, power and esteem bestowed at your feet is useless. Such was the day, 17th June 1631, when Mumtaz died.
What followed is an exemplar for ages to follow. Although she died, she left behind her endless love for Shah Jahan, which was then a wound and it’s medicine too. For around a week he was nowhere to be seen, all shattered from inside-out, he locked himself in a room, too broken to accept the reality. What history records is that the Shah Jahan who came out of that room was older, weaker and emotionally collapsed. All that he had was the grim determination to fulfill the last wish of his beloved.
Shah Jahan gave up on music, jewellery and rich clothes, he squandered all possible things and completely devoted himself to the project. He had already been praised for his architectural skills in his teens. In addition to this all visitors were welcomed in Agra with the aim of collecting diverse ideas for the dream tomb. For the idea of the site for this grand mausoleum, Shah Jahan rewarded the King of Amber with four mansions.
With many men and years of hardwork, the Taj Mahal was completed in 1648 AD. The name itself is a tribute to his beloved, ‘the Crown of all the palaces’, Taj Mahal.
It’s really beautiful that even Mumtaz’s death could not alter their love and even decades of separation could not bias his zest to build something magnificent. Such was the depth of the affection between Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal.
It’s one monument which continues to sing the tale of eternal love to the generation of the visitors.
It’s when you feel the cold grief buried inside the warmth of white marble, the promise of love echoing in the empty halls and the solemn peace in which Mumtaz and Shah Jahan finally rest together, that you understand why Rabindranath Tagore called Taj Mahal,
‘A teardrop on the cheek of eternity’.