Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal
Grieving emperor who built the Taj Mahal for his late wife
by David Johnson
In 1612, a teenage girl, Arjumand Banu, married 15-year-old Shah Jahan, ruler of the Mughal Empire. Renamed Mumtaz Mahal, she bore Shah Jahan 14 children and became his favorite wife. After Mumtaz died in 1629, the grieving emperor resolved to create a fitting monument.
It took 20,000 workers and 1,000 elephants nearly 20 years to complete this monument-the Taj Mahal.
Built of white marble, the Taj sits on a sandstone platform. A 137-foot high dome tops the mausoleum. The interior is lavishly decorated in lapis lazuli, turquoise, agate, jasper, and colored marble. The exterior is paved with semiprecious stones that sparkle in the sun. The surrounding garden contains four water channels representing the four rivers of Islamic paradise.
Shah Jahan was never able to complete a black marble mausoleum he planned for himself. Deposed by his son, Shah Jahan was imprisoned in the Red Fort of Agra, and spent lonely hours staring across the Jamuna River at the monument to his beloved queen. He was eventually buried beside her in the Taj Mahal.