The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan is probably the best known of the Emperors. He reigned from 1628 – 1658, a short 30-year reign. But during his reign he would also commission a grand number of buildings across the capitals of the Mughal Empire; during his reign, Mughal architecture reached its zenith.
His most important architectural legacy is also one of the famous buildings of all time – the Taj Mahal. The building is so well-known not just because it is simply breathtaking in its beauty, but also because it was and still is the world’s greatest Monument to Love.
Betrothed from birth to Shah Jahan, Arjumand Banu Megum was finally married to him in 1612. She was his second wife, though they were very much in love. She hailed from the same Persian family as Nur Jahan, her aunt and the Emperor Jahangir’s beloved wife.
Upon being married, she was conferred the title “Mumtaz Mahal” – “Chosen One of the Palace”. Shah Jahan’s name itself was a regnal title which (fittingly) meant “King of the World.” His own name was Prince Khurram.When Shah Jahan ascended the throne as Mughal Emperor, he designated Mumtaz Mahal his Empress Consort. But she would occupy the position for three years. In 1631, she died from complications at birth, after having borne 14 children for the Emperor.
Shah Jahan would never recover from his grief. In 1632, he commissioned the building of the Taj Mahal on the banks of the Yamuna River. It would only be completed in 1643, and it would be the grandest of all Mughal structures, the pinnacle of Mughal Architecture.
The Taj Mahal is one of the few great Monuments of World Heritage that truly lives up to expectations. Even though it is one of the most regularly-represented monuments in the media, nothing quite prepares one for a visit in person.
The gleaming white marble, seen from afar, takes one’s breath away. And as one approaches the structure, the details of the ornamentation – particularly the Mughal predilection for flora – begin to emerge from the marblework, such that one is quite overwhelmed by beauty.There is no view by which the Taj can’t be taken in. But perhaps the least foot-trafficked vantage point is that from the Mehtab Bagh, across the Yamuna River, where one may admire the Taj Mahal as Shah Jahan intended it, in its full, panoramic splendour from across the river.
The Mehtab Bagh (Gardens of Moonlight) is a Persian-style garden laid between 1631-1635 by Shah Jahan (around the same time as he had commissioned the Taj) on a site that had been earlier made into a garden by the Mughal Emperor Babur. As the name suggests, this is the place to view the Taj Mahal by moonlight, and one can only imagine…on clear, starry nights with a full moon, the etheral white form of the Taj Mahal, reflected in the still waters of the Yamuna River.
Quelle belle rêve!
The Taj Mahal
The Old City
- Agra – The Architectural Heritage. An INTACH Roli Guide. By Lucy Peck, 2008. New Delhi: Lotus Collection – Roli Books.