Mumtaz Mahal (1593-1631) was the beloved wife of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, in whose fond memory and tribute to her beauty was the grand monument of the Taj Mahal
built. Mumtaz's maiden name was Arjumand Banu Begum, and she was born in April, 1593 in Agra, Uttar Pradesh
. She was the daughter of a Persian nobleman named Abdul Hasan Asaf Khan, who served the great Mughal emperor Jahangir as the grand vizier, and whose sister was coincidently Noor Jehan, wife of the emperor himself.
As history and legend relates, Arjumand Banu was by nature a pious muslim girl who grew up to be a woman of legendary beauty and virtue. She sold silks and glass beads at her shop in the famed Meena Bazar, the private market attached to the harem, where perchance, the emperor's eldest son, Prince Khurram, (the future Shah Jahan), would meet her in 1607 and fall madly in love with her since then. After seeking his father's approval, the auspicious royal wedding then took place in May 1612, amidst grand pomp and gaiety. Married at the age of 19, she became his second wife and his most beloved.
After ascending his father's Peacock Throne, Prince Khurram was then known by his regal name of 'Shah Jahan'. Such was his love for her that he named her Mumtaz Mahal, which means ('beloved ornament of the palace'). A perfect match who were inseparable, Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal both shared a very intense and loving marriage relationship which is legendary throughout history. Known for her exquisite beauty and grace throught the kingdom, she even inspired poets to pen down verses in admiration of their queen's beauty. Mumtaj Mahal was a compassionate queen who looked over administration and to the needs of the women and the destitutes in her kingdom. She would even accompany her husband all across his dominion. Honouring her as his trusted companion, Shah Jahan gave her his imperial seal, the Muhr Uzah, and went on to build stunning palaces, such as the Khas Mahal in the Agra Fort in her name. Mumtaz Mahal bore fourteen children, seven of whom died in infancy. Her children included the future imperial rulers in Shahzada Dara Shikoh, who was defeated by his brother, and next Emperor to the Mughal Dynasty, Aurangzeb.
Mumtaz Mahal died in June 1631 in Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh
, after giving birth to her fourteenth child, Shahzadi Gauhara Begum, and whilst on her deathbed, made her last wishes to her husband to erect a monument that would symbolize their love. The grief-stricken emperor went into secluded mourning along with the entire kingdom mourning the death of their beloved queen.
He fulfilled her wishes though by constructing one of the Seven Wonders of the World - the magnificent Taj Mahal, whose grand splendor remains a memorable symbol of love and purity in the history of human civilization. The white-marble masterpiece monument in Agra took over 20 years to complete, and houses the remains of Mumtaz Mahal as her mausoleum, and more importantly, a tribute to their love.
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