Shah Jahan or the ‘King of the world’ was a ruler of the Mughal descend, grandson of Akbar the Great, perhaps his favorite grandson. Today, the name Shah Jahan is synonymous with the Taj Mahal, and why wouldn’t it be, the monument he built for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal has immortalized him. Though his life had all the essences of being a Mughal royal, his love for constructing architectural wonders has separated him from the rest of his kind. The edifice he built symbolizing unconditional love has given him a soft spot to travel between times.
Shah Jahan was born as Shihab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram in the year 1592. He was Jahangir’s third son and his most beloved. It was almost inevitable that he would succeed his father because he was responsible for many a political gains for the Mughal Empire. His bravery made him one of the most righteous heirs to the throne. Apart from being an accomplished warrior, he also had the talents of an architect. He impressed Jahangir by constructing his quarters in Babur’s Kabul fort and redesigning the buildings in the Agra fort at the tender age of 16. He was fondly called as the ‘builder of marvels’ because of his knack to build amazing structures. His role in building architectural wonders across his empire is exceptional.
Shah Jahan was a great patron of arts. He valued the aesthetics of art the most and let nothing come in between his passion for perfection in achieving them, be it in architecture or artistic accomplishments. The construction of majestic buildings like- the Taj Mahal in Agra, Jama Masjid and Red Fort in Delhi, the Shalimar Gardens of Lahore and his father’s mausoleum were done under his supervision.
The most remarkable structure to Shah Jahan’s credit is the Taj Mahal. The mausoleum was built for Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan’s twentieth wife. She married Shah Jahan at the age of 19, on a date selected by the astrologers, which they thought would be most auspicious for their marriage. It is said that she was Shah Jahan’s most beloved wife and companion. Her incomparable beauty and dedication was what made her special. She accompanied Shah Jahan on most of his military campaigns and supported him in every possible way. Shah Jahan on the other hand regarded her as his most precious belonging and loved and respected her all his life.
On an eventful day, while traveling with Shah Jahan, she died giving birth to their 14th child. It is said that Shah Jahan was by her side when she breathed her last, and she asked him to build a mausoleum for her. To fulfill her last wish, he commenced the construction of the Taj Mahal, a building that was an extra ordinary gift to her memory. Expert designers and architects were summoned; a force of thousands of workers was put to work and the entire structure, glistening in sunshine was completed in twenty two years.
As days passed, Shah Jahan fell ill and his son Aurangzeb declared him incapable of ruling and took over the reins of the Mughal Empire. Shah Jahan was then one of the most powerful rulers on earth and his empire spanned a whopping 750,000,000 acres of land. Though Shah Jahan wanted his son Dara Shikoh to take over, Aurangzeb cunningly did not let that happen. He imprisoned Shah Jahan at the Agra Fort. He remained in confinement for eight long years, his daughter Jahanara Begum nursed him through his illness until one day after reading some verses of the Quran and reciting the Kalima, he died. Aurangzeb had Shah Jahan buried beside his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal in the Taj Mahal. Another phenomenal ruler of the Mughal Empire had seen his dusk.
Today Shah Jahan remains alive through his architectural masterpieces. To every person who gazes at the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan is a person who was born to create magnificent structures and greatly succeeded at it.