The history of Taj Mahal will definitely take one back to the Mughal eras of Akbar and his father Humayun. The Mughal invasion of India was nothing but an explosion of anger and conquest – a great demonstration of the powerful human instinct and aggressive urge to explore and conquer. With drawn swords and shrill battle cries, they came from harsh, dry, desert lands. Some of those who came and destroyed the land’s cultural heritage but some were peace-loving rulers. Akbar was one of them. His policies of religious tolerance made him popular with the masses. His son, Jahangir, was a connoisseur and patron of the arts and crafts. It was in such milieu that Prince Khurram, later known as Shah Jahan, was born.
It was in the festive Meena Bazaar of Agra that Prince Khurram met the14-year old Arjamand Bano selling glass beads with long tresses, deep expressive eyes and a delicate aquiline nose. Undoubtedly she was beautiful. Prince Khurram fell in love with her then and there. In fact it would not be wrong to say that the young prince was magnetically drawn to her. That timeless moment moulded their future together for posterity. She held a piece of glass in her hand and told the young prince it was a rare and precious diamond. She even succeeded in selling it for an unbelievable amount.
When Prince Khurram expressed his desire to marry Arjamand Bano the very next day after he met her, Jahangir immediately consented. However, that marriage was not to happen until five years later. Meanwhile, Shah Jahan’s first marriage was arranged with Quandari Begum, a princess from the Persian royal family. Despite this his feelings towards Arjamand Bano had not changed. He loved her just as deeply and as madly as that memorable moment when they had first met.
In 1612, the young prince was finally permitted to marry Arjamand Bano. She was given the name Mumtaz Mahal or ‘the chosen one of the palace’. In 1616 Prince Khurram who emerged victorious from the battle of Deccan, was bestowed the title of Shah Sultan Khurram. On 29th October 1627 Jehangir passed away. The 4th February of 1628, saw Shah Sultan Khurram became Shah Jahan, Emperor of the World.
For 19 long years, Mumtaz Mahal had been his constant companion accompanying him everywhere; from the prayer halls to pleasure gardens to river banks and court meetings, to the coronation and finally to the battlefields. She was his playmate, companion, confidante, friend, philosopher and guide. The two shared such a deep bond of affection, attachment and understanding; that they were nearly inseparable from one another.Mumtaz-uz-Zamani died in 1631 on the battlefields of Burhanpur. She had accompanied her husband despite his severe remonstrations not to do so. As Mumtaz Mahal lay on her deathbed she asked Shah Jahan to fulfill few promises. Amongst these one was to build a monument that would symbolize the beauty, purity and the depth of their love. That the emperor’s heart was heavy with grief is a mild way to express how her passing away so prematurely had shattered his world. The young man so fond of opulence then confined himself to a life enshrined in mere memories. Almost overnight his luxurious lifestyle underwent a complete change. Pomp and splendour now gave way to austerity. For two years the entire state observed deep mourning.