The Taj Mahal: Monument to a 17th Century Love Story
Emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, after she died giving birth to their 14th child. The white marble palace is known around the globe as a symbol of love. Just before leaving India, I managed to visit this must-see together with two colleagues from Metrohm India’s New Deli office, Regional Service Manager Krishan and Delhi Branch Manager Rajiv.
Agra is about three hours drive from Delhi. I had only two days to visit the area, but missing Taj Mahal wasn’t an option! So Krishan, Rajiv, and I left the capital early in the morning to see India’s most famous landmark.
The Love Story
Shah Jahan ruled the Mughal Empire between 1628 and 1658. The Mughals ruled parts of India between 1526 and 1857. At its peak, the empire covered almost the entire Indian subcontinent. Shah Jahan was the fith Mughal emperor. His reign is said to have been the zenith of Mughal architecture, not least thanks to Taj Mahal.
Shah Jahan had three wives. However, according to official court historians, the Persian princess Mumtaz Mahal was the one he really loved—the other two marriages were pure political alliances. When Mumtaz died in 1631 after giving birth to their 14th child, Shah Jahan commissioned the Taj Mahal as her mausoleum. Today the Taj is considered to be the «jewel of Muslim art in India».
Love for Details
Taj Mahal translates to «Crown Palace». The perfectly symmetrical palace made from white marble houses the tombs of Emperor Shah Jahan and Empress Mumtaz. Except for the tombs, the palace is empty. But the walls are richly decorated with stone carvings and colorful stone inlays. The inlays are made from precious and semiprecious stones, some of which sparkle when light shines on them.
I’m sure everyone reading this blog post has seen pictures of the Taj before, but seeing it in real life really is a different experience. There are so many small details to find in the ornaments, and the Taj is full of optical illusions. For example, some pillars appear to be star-shaped even though they are round. The white pillars are decorated with a white zigzag pattern with varying angles, which creates the optical illusion.
A Son’s Love …
A legend says that Shah Jahan wanted to build a second mausoleum for himself, on the opposite bank of the Yamuna River. But his son was displeased with Shah Jahan’s wastefulness, so he put his father under house arrest in Agra Fort. Shah Jahan lived here until his death in 1666. After seeing Agra Fort, I think worse things could happen than being held in this luxurious palace. Besides, Shah Jahan had full view of the Taj from his gilded cage—and the company of his two remaining wives.