News that the Taj Mahal is in danger of collapsing ‘within five years’ provides a good reason for visiting this monument-to-love as soon as you can. Learning the inspiring story of why this wonder of the world was built provides another…
It is sad to hear news that the Taj Mahal, India’s most historic building, is in danger of collapsing.
It is feared that the wooden foundations of the marble tomb may be rotting due to lack of water.
Ramshankar Katheria, the MP for Agra, the city which is home to the beautiful mausoleum, said: “If the crisis is not tackled on a war-footing, the Taj Mahal will cave in between two and five years.”
Hope exists that the Taj Mahal will survive – since construction on the building finished 358 years ago it has survived the threat of air attacks from the Luftwaffe and the Japanese Army and the attempted discrediting of the man whose heartbroken obsession was responsible for building it.
Erected as a monument to love, this monument is loved enough to give hope that it will endure a little while longer at least.
The King who had the vision to commission such a stunning piece of architecture was well-aware that nothing lasts forever; the loss of the love of his life was the reason that Shah Jahan ordered the Taj Mahal to be built…
Shah Jahan (the name means King of the World) was born in 1592 AD, and was a direct descendant of Genghis Khan. When aged 14 he went shopping in a bazaar and caught sight of an older girl selling silk and glass beads.
The girl was Mrjumand Banu Begum, though she became more commonly known as Mumtaz Mahal (meaning jewel in the crown); the name Shah Jahan bestowed on her after she married him five years after their fateful encounter.
The Muslim princess became a queen after Shah Jahan ascended to the throne in 1627. She was in fact Shah Jahan’s third wife but was by far his favourite; a position she achieved as a result of a lack of ambition which contrasted favourably with the barely-concealed scheming displayed by other female members of the royal court.
According to the official court chronicler Qazwini, the relationship with his other wives “had nothing more than the status of marriage”.
Quazwini added: “The intimacy, deep affection, attention and favour which His Majesty had for the Cradle of Excellence [Mumtaz Mahal] exceeded by a thousand times what he felt for any other.”
Proof of this could be found by the fact that Mumtaz Mahal accompanied Shah Jahan on the frequent military campaigns which consolidated his power – the title ‘King of the World’ was one her husband took extremely seriously.
Mumtaz Mahal was to die as she supported her husband on one of these campaigns – killed not in battle but because of complications suffered while giving birth to their 14th child in 1631. She breathed her last to the sound of her distraught husband vowing that he would never remarry and would rebuild the richest mausoleum over her grave.
The promise seemed an idle one as Shah Jahan entered an aimless two-year period of mourning. But when work began on the Taj Mahal it did so at a furious pace.
Shah Jahan closely supervised the building; sometimes aggressively berating the workers tasked with undertaking his elaborate plans, sometimes gently encouraging greater efforts. Shah Jahan’s labour of love took 22,000 workers, 22 years to complete.
It truly did resemble a palace fit for a king – but by 1657, four years after the project had ended, Shah Jahan was a king no more. This was because his third eldest son had taken advantage of a brief illness to wrest power from him.
Shah Jahan’s other sons tried to block the coup – but only so that they could seize the throne for themselves. They failed and Aurangzeb, the new king, imprisoned Shah Jahan in Agra Fort.
Today you can visit the fort and stand at the window which for the last ten years of Shah Jahan’s life provided the deposed king with a view of the city he once ruled.
There, just underneath the window, you can see the holy river which Shah Jahan must sadly have gazed upon. And there, following the line of the river, you can still see – for now at least – the beautiful monument to love which the lovelorn captive had built during his time as a free man.
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