Tag Archive: Shah Jahan



He is called by many titles, but one sticks out in my mind. The “King of Marvels”. Rightfully so. It would have been enough to say he founded Taj Mahal, to honor his beloved Mumtaz Mahal, his favorite wife. But there is more. Truly, his reign was marked by a golden era in arts and architecture in this exotic country. Incredible India, Incredible Shah Jahan! 

 

 

It sparkles under the sun. It glistens under a crescent moon.

It sparkles under the sun. It glistens under a crescent moon.

This is how the Taj Mahal looks when viewed from Agra Fort, just 2 kms away.

This is how the Taj Mahal looks when viewed from Agra Fort, just 2 kms away.

 

 

Besides Taj Mahal, give credit to Shah Jahan for a few more heritage sites. There’s Agra Fort, just a stone’s throw from the iconic Taj Mahal. It is also the place where Shah Jahan breathed his last. Right there in the Octagonal Tower of Agra Fort where he was imprisoned by one of his own sons following a war of succession. Sad. As cliché as it sounds, it’s where he viewed the “eternal teardrop on the cheek of time”. And while Taj Mahal sparkles, the Agra Fort is another marvel in its own right. 

 

 

Moti Masjid  (Pearl Mosque) inside Agra Fort

Hall of Private Audience (Diwan i Khas) inside Agra Fort

You get more than enough dose of those arches here. Lovely!

Diwan I Aam. Hall of Public Audience.

 

 

Once the capital of India before Shah Jahan moved it to Delhi, Agra is never short on monuments and forts. Most people just visit the Taj Mahal. Well, it is certainly worth seeing, and I perfectly understand if tourists spend more time there or wish to simply have their “moments” by not adding more sites to their list after seeing the Taj. But the Agra Fort sort of completes the journey to Agra. Shah Jahan is an absolute builder of marvels and his preference for buildings made of white marble shows in this addition to the red sandstone fort started by his grandfather. The Moti (meaning pearl) Masjid is a fine example of Mughal architecture.

 

 

The 16th century Mughal monument known as Agra Fort

The 16th century Mughal monument known as Agra Fort

Agra has lots to offer beside the Taj Mahal.

Agra has lots to offer beside the Taj Mahal.

 

 

There are more. But Shah Jahan’s final masterpiece is the Jama Masjid, touted as the largest mosque in India. Amidst the chaos of the bazaar just across it, this “Friday Mosque” can hold as many 25,000 devotees. Like many other temples, we left our footwear just outside the mosque to walk on tiles dating from the 17th century. Towering over Old Delhi, the mosque is an aberration in this otherwise chaotic world of rickshaws and narrow alleys. A ride in one of these rickshaws past many open-fronted stalls, many spilling into the alleys, breaks all tranquility gained from a few minutes inside the Mosque courtyard. Incredible!

 
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He was 14 at the time. The grandson of Akbar the Great, famous for his empire marked by war victories, grand fortress palaces, flourishing arts and culture,  and a royal  harem   consort of 300+ wives and concubines. Then named Prince Khurram, he was the 5th Mughal Emperor of India, likewise destined for greatness and touted as a favorite of his grandfather Akbar. She was known then as Arjumand Banu Begam, a Muslim Persian Princess, hawking glass and silk beads in Meena Bazaar.  It was LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT. Yet the wedding took place only after 5 years and 2 wives.  

 

 

Photo Credit: Ernie Albano

Photo Credit: Ernie Albano

 

 

Five years later and after 2 wives. But she was his greatest love. His favorite. So she was renamed Mumtaz Mahal meaning “Jewel of the Palace”. Yet she was hardly at the Palace, accompanying the Emperor, then bearing the name “Shah Jahan” — meaning “King of the World” — in his military adventures while bearing his 14 children. Such devotion. Such love. I could almost hear the royal “gossip” about this great love affair.

 

 

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Blue-eyed Shah Jahan and Lovely Mumtaz Mahal. Theirs is the best, hauntingly heart-rending love story of all time. The 15th century Pearl Mosque in Agra bears a grand exterior that glistens, sparkles, and glows as the sun passes overhead. It must look magical under a crescent moon. But for now, we stand in awe just viewing it, nearly dancing in sunlight and shade, dazzlingly white.

 

 

You ride this rickshaw on your way to Taj Mahal.

You ride this rickshaw on your way to Taj Mahal.

The "Teardrop" hides behind this fort-like gate.

The “Teardrop” hides behind this fort-like gate.

 

 

Shah Jahan’s reign is the Golden Era for Mughal art and architecture. Yet he is undoubtedly made most famous by this single feat — the builder of Taj Mahal to honor his favorite wife. The story goes that Shah Jahan was so heartbroken that he mourned Mumtaz’ death so bad that his hair all turned gray overnight when he emerged from mourning in one of the royal rooms. The Pearl Mosque is now an Indian icon and no visit to India is ever complete without visiting this royal tomb.

 

 

A glimpse of the royal tomb as one enters the gate.

A glimpse of the royal tomb as one enters the gate.

Jimi Hendrix was here!

Jimi Hendrix was here!

 

 

Truly, the Taj Mahal remains unsurpassed in its beauty. Shining marble with inlaid precious stones that glows under the glare of the sun as much as it glistens when darkness sets in. You feel Shah Jahn’s love and devotion just looking at it. Heartbroken, yet he lived and had a long reign till he fell seriously ill that it triggered a war of succession among his sons. The nearby Agra Fort is from where Shah Jahan, in his last days, viewed his Taj Mahal across the river. Deposed and imprisoned by his own son for the rest of his life. He intended to build a Black Mosque as his resting place, but he was destined to lie side by side with his beloved Mumtaz inside this magnificent royal tomb instead. A teardrop on the face of eternity. A monument to love.

 

 

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The octagonal porch where Shah Jahan died, pining for his beloved Mumtaz.

 

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(Don’t you just love this selfie photo by Ernie Albano? Thanks, Ernie!)