Lure of the Taj

“Love is not finding someone to live with; its finding someone you cannot live without”

Love is immeasurable…undefined….limitless…boundless…we seek to be loved forever, remembered forever…..

One man who has been able to let his love for his wife known to the world was the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan….His undying love survives even today in lore and is proclaimed in the mausoleum the TAJ MAHAL

The TAJ MAHAL....symbol of love
The TAJ MAHAL….symbol of love
One of the four entrance archway with side galleries
One of the four entrance archway with side galleries

I have seen the Taj umpteen times…really! And every time I see it I feel as if it was the first time.

I have sat in the red sandstone side galleries of the entrance archway, gazing at it, thronged by those thousand visitors vying to take pictures from every angle and obstructing my view yet felt calm and serene…

I have spent time marvelling at its beauty from the Mehtab Bagh…the moonlit garden, across the River Yamuna and felt its cooling charm brighten up in the full moon night…its beauty never diminishes.

The lure of Taj and its admiration transcends the confines of ages, continents,  languages and cultures…

During one of my visits, I met an old European couple…their faces like a wrinkled map of their journey together through all peaks and troughs of life. Both wobbled with their walking sticks, leaned on their younger relatives, used hearing aids, their hands quivered but the Taj had lured them all the way to India to celebrate 60 years of married life. The couple held each other, sat on the marble bench with Taj in background and amidst claps by onlookers and family kissed passionately posing for the camera.

Never had I seen such earnest love…as if the emperor and his queen were reborn in a new era, in new continent, in new avatar….. Their love was as true and as immortal as Shah Jahan and Mumtaz….

Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh across River Yamuna
Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh across River Yamuna

Shah Jahan married Arujmand bano, his fourth wife, and gave her the title of “Mumtaz Mahal”…..the chosen one of the palace. He was besotted with her beauty. Mumtaz, an ambitious woman had a say in all royal court matters and accompanied Shah Jahan everywhere… in war or peace. She bore him 14 children of which 7 survived. During the birth of her 14th child, Mumtaz died at Burhanpur where the Mughals had pitched royal tents while Shah Jahan went on for expedition.

The king was inconsolable, lovelorn and totally helpless. He gave up food, confined himself to his bedroom drinking and wasting away his life.

Order were issued for the construction of most beautiful mausoleum incomparable to anything in world. The land where the Taj stands was acquired from the Rajputs, artisans from far off places summoned, elephants loaded with whitest marble, yellow sandstone, black slate, red sandstone thumped their way in the Mughal capital Agra, huge labor force was gathered from all over the empire, calligraphers rode in from Iran, the Rajput allies sent their best craftsmen, precious and semi precious stones like Lapis lazuli, agate, turquoise, magnet stone, jade, bloodstone, onyx, corals were brought from far off lands like Africa, Ceylon(Sri Lanka), Tibet, Yemen etc…and thus began the saga of  the greatest symbol of love!!

After the construction of the mausoleum, Shah Jahan had still not shown interest in running the empire and his son Aurangzeb taking the advantage of his grieving father’s condition, usurped the throne and put Shah Jahan in house-arrest at Agra Fort. Aurangzeb shifted the capital back to Delhi. The dethroned emperor spent time gazing at his beloved wife’s resting place from his ‘Khwabgah’, the royal couple’s bedroom or from the terrace outside the bedroom.

Taj Mahal from the Bedroom Terrace at Agra Fort
Taj Mahal by the Yamuna River as seen from the Bedroom Terrace at Agra Fort

The amalgamation of persian and hindu architecture in large 115ft high white onion dome, inverted lotus finial, the char bagh or four gardens, the domed kiosks on the minarets and near the main dome, the floral motifs on the plinth walls, the Pietra dura inlay work, the intricate stone jalis, the painted ceilings in the adjacent buildings, the four working minarets… all make this big white structure a sight to behold.

In our times, we might not be able to proclaim our love with such grandoise but may be we can each say to our love:

“Grow old with me; the best is yet to be”

 

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