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17 June 2010

On this day in history: Mumtaz Muhal died, 1631

On 17th June 1631, the third wife of the Islamic ruler of India, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, died during childbirth. Mumtaz would probably have been lost to posterity had it not been for the mausoleum that the Emperor had built in her honour. One of the greatest buildings of the world and a testament to love: the Taj Mahal.

Mumtaz Muhal was born Arjumand Banu Begum in April 1593. Her father was a Persian noble and brother of the wife of the Emperor Jahangir. At the age of fourteen she was betrothed to marry Prince Khurram Shihab-ud-din Muhammad, but the court astrologers delayed their marriage for five years until the most conducive date for a happy marriage in 1612.

Whether by craft or coincidence the astrologers were proven right: the couple were inseparable. Arjumand - now renamed Mumtaz Muhal ('Chosen One of the Palace') - accompanied Khurram on his travels across the Mughal Empire even travelling with his entourage on some of his military campaigns. After ascending to the Peacock Throne in 1628, Prince Khurram - now Shah Jahan ('King of the World') - gave Mumtaz his imperial seal, because he loved and trusted her so.

Three years later, while accompanying her husband on a campaign in the Deccan Plateau, Mumtaz went into labour in the town of Burhanpur but died during the birth of their fourteenth child, a daughter called Gauhara Behum. According to contemporary accounts Shah Jahan was heartbroken: he mourned in solitude for a year after which he emerged a broken man. He set about having a tomb built that would be a suitable memorial to their love. The result was the Taj Mahal in Agra.

The plinth and tomb took twelve years to build, and further buildings were added over the next ten years. Following the completion of the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan's third son by Mumtaz, Aurangzeb, seized power and confined him to the nearby Agra Fort. When Jahan died, eight years later he was interred alongside his beloved Mumtaz.

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Stephanie Barr said...

I love this story.

And the gorgeous building that stands as testament to it.

Debbie said...

OK, so I am way behind on reading things around here. Did you happen to know that the picture of the Taj that you have on the blog is from the side of the building that is not usually seen. The Taj Mahal looks the same from all sides. The view most people know is the one with the reflecting pool. The view that you have used is from the back and looks out onto a river bed that is usually dry. I should know because I have the exact same picture, taken when we went to visit the Taj on a Friday, not realizing that it isn't open on Friday's as it is a Muslim holy shrine. Still beautiful though.

Stepterix said...

Thank you for the kind words.

D: I did not know that about the picture. Thank you for sharing.