Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal’s Agra: the Taj Mahal and Mehtab Bagh

1 - Taj Mahal Front

The Taj Mahal (1632 – 1643), Monument to Love and a stunning work of art, even with one of its minarets being restored.

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.

2 - Emperor_Shah_Jahan,_1628

Emperor Shah Jahan with his three sons and father-in-law, c. 1628. [Public Domain.]

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.

29 - Bird's_Eye_View_of_the_Taj_Mahal_at_Agra

Bird’s Eye view of the Taj Mahal and the Mehtab Bagh (across the Yamuna River), 1790 – 1810. [Public Domain.]

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

3 - Entrance to Taj

The Main Gateway, or Darwaza-i-rauza.

4 - Taj Silhouette

View of the Taj.

5 - Approaching the Taj

Approaching the Taj, set in Persian-style gardens.

6 - Taj from the LAwns

Taj from the lawns

7 - Taj and the Sky

Taj and sky…

8 - Taj Close-up

At the foot of the Taj…

9 - Taj Entrance

The entrance to the marble mausoleum. Note the band of Arabic in thuluth script.

10 - Taj Entrance

Close-up of the entrance to the cenotaph.

11 - Walls

Tourists resting by the entrance. The ornate decoration on the walls derive from Persian antecedents.

12 - Detail of Taj

Detail of floral relief, and inlaid floral band.

13 - Detail of Entrance

View upwards of the entrance alcove.

14 - Persian_prince_tomb_taj_mahal

The cenotaphs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. These aren’t the actual tombs – the actual ones are at a lower level.

15 - Side view

Emerging from the mausoleum.

16 - side View

Side view of the Taj…

17 - Memankhana or Guest House

The Mosque, mirrored with the memankhana (or Guest House) on the other side of the Taj.

18 - Corner Chhatri

19 - Detail of ceiling memankhana

Ceiling, mosque.

20 - Detail memankhana

Detail of floral relief, mosque.

21 - Museum

Museum on the grounds of the Taj.

Mehtab Bagh

22 - MEhtab Bagh chhatri

Corner chhatri, Mehtab Bagh.

23 - Mehtab Bagh

Approaching the Taj…

24 - Mehtabh Bagh view

Panoramic view of the Taj and its two accompanying buildings, across the Yamuna River.

25 - Taj from Across River

The Taj from the Mehtab Bagh.

The Old City

26 - Delhi Gate Old Town

Delhi Gate, Old City.

27 - Chhatri Old Town

Chhatri, Jami Masjid, Old City.

28 - Jami Masjid by Jahanara

The Jami Masij (1648) was commissioned by Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal’s loving daughter, Jahanara.

30 - Taj goodbye

And finally, a backward glance at the Taj…

Essential Reference:

  • Agra – The Architectural Heritage. An INTACH Roli Guide. By Lucy Peck, 2008.  New Delhi: Lotus Collection – Roli Books.

About Kennie Ting

I am a wandering cityophile and pattern-finder who is pathologically incapable of staying in one place for any long period of time. When I do, I see the place from different perspectives, obsessive-compulsively.
This entry was posted in Art & Architecture, Cities & Regions, Culture & Lifestyle, Heritage, India, Landmarks & History, Museums, Photography, Travel & Mobility and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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