"Only let this one teardrop, this Taj Mahal, glisten spotlessly bright on the cheek of time, forever and ever."
These great words of Rabindranath Tagore evoke two magical words that are related to Taj Mahal, ‘Eternal Love.’ The name of this wonder of the world carries the weight of fantasy, the dream of a love which is alive after several centuries. The white marble tomb defines the story of two eternal lovers; Emperor Shah Jahan and his queen consort Mumtaj Mahal. I had my first glimpse of Taj Mahal from the Agra Fort. The optical illusion from this fort gave me differing views of this Taj Mahal. I was very fortunate to learn about the many stories that connect Agra Fort with the Taj Mahal, before my visit to Taj. Somehow, that made me more curious about the world-famous structure.
The elusive tomb of love has gates on three sides of the Mausoleum. The southern entrance, Eastern gate, and Western gate are located in four different parts of the city. To save this delicate palace of marble from possible air-pollution, petrol and diesel vehicles are not allowed within two kilometers of the Mausoleum. The environment-friendly vehicles are lined up to take me near the respective gates.
We were directed towards the East gate of Taj Mahal. As I proceeded towards the gate, the hotel Oberoi Amarvilas fell on the left. It was the most iconic hotel and offered the best view of Taj Mahal. The Taj view suites are the specialty of this hotel. A short glimpse of this hotel is enough to give a flavor of its grandeur. The term ‘Someday’ was the only term that had flashed through my mind at that time.
The grand entryway of Taj Mahal gave us a glimpse of the grandeur due to arrive. We were told that there is a tomb built near the East gate in honor of Sirhindi Begum, another wife of Emperor Shah Jahan. Thus, the Eastern gate of Taj Mahal is known as the Sirhi Darwaja. Passing through the grand domed architecture, we arrived at the courtyard of Taj Mahal. At first glimpse, it almost left us stunned. The building of Taj Mahal was created with white marble and semi-precious stones. On a night with a full moon, the light of the moon reflects on these semi-precious stones which create a heavenly effect. Sadly, the full moon was days away during my travel.
We were told that the four pillars around the Taj Mahal were tilted a bit outward in case there was a devastating earthquake; then, the pillars would fall away from the main building. In short, it was build to sing the eternal saga of love for eternity.
The Untold Story of Taj Mahal
The legend says, in the last part of Emperor Shah Jahan’s life, his eyesight got damaged. So, he couldn’t see the Taj Mahal properly, which was the lone reminder of his beloved queen Mumtaj. While walking towards this edifice of marble and semi-precious stone one question was lurking in my mind, “Is the grandeur of this wonder of the world lies in its amazing architectural work or the story related to it?’’
The tale of eternal love has many versions. History deals with the cold facts; whereas, the story of their love saga and the birth of Taj Mahal is described in various ways.
The actual start of this flaming love story is as dramatic as the Taj Mahal itself. It is believed that the great couple, Shah Jahan and Mumtaz, met inside the elusive Agra Fort. They met at Meena Bazaar; the in-house market of the fort. The original name of Mumtaj was Arjumand Banu Begum. She was originally the niece of Shah Jahan’s stepmother-Noor Jahan.
Emperor Shah Jahan or Prince Khurram was the third child of Emperor Jahangir. He was groomed to be the next Emperor from his childhood, by none other than his grandfather; the great Mughal Emperor Akbar and his queen consort Ruqaiya Sultan Begum. He was also the favorite son of his father. Thus, his ambitious stepmother Empress Noor Jahan wanted him to marry her daughter Ladli Begum, the child from her first marriage.
Meena Bazaar was a very popular and lavish in-house market of the Mughal court for women. In those days, the women of the fort were not allowed to go out of the fort. For this reason, the Mina Bazaar used to be arranged to serve their need. The women from the local village used to come to sell various products like dresses, ornaments to the women of the fort. This market was only for the women; only the Emperor and Mughal princes could enter this market. Empress Noor Jahan had invited Price Khurram to market to meet her daughter with the hope of a possible match. Instead, prince Khurram took a look to the Arjumand Banu Begum and immediately fell for her.
As the news reached Noor Jahan, the immensely intelligent queen set up immediately conspired. She went to the house of his brother and invited Arjumand to stay with her in the palace. It was an immense surprise for Arjumand and his father- as the Empress Noor Jahan was not very close to her brother and his daughter. However, the original plan was to keep Arjumand in the golden trap of the palace so that it became impossible for the prince to court her. The plan was fool-proof, but Arjumand was also the niece of the intelligent Empress. Very soon she found a way to sneak out the palace to meet her prince.
Prince Khurram and Arjumand Banu Begum used to meet secretly in the bank of River Yamuna, the favorite place of Arjumand. So, she requested her prince to build a mausoleum for her in that very location. The enchanted Prince promised to build a mausoleum in honor of their love. It was the inception of this world-famous tomb of love. Later, after their marriage, when Mumtaj died giving birth to their 14th Child, the grief-stricken Emperor commissioned a marble tomb in honor of his lost love.
It had taken almost 22 years to finish the edifice of Taj Mahal in its entirely. After the completion, the mortal remains of Empress Mumtaj were moved here. Emperor Shah Jahan also laid to rest just beside his beloved queen after his death. Thus, the two lovers had found their way back to each other after the separation of decades by the harsh reality of death.
Inside the Edifice
Walking through the crowded path towards the tomb of love I finally reached in the main edifice where lies these eternal lovers. The edifice is created in white marble and semi-precious stones. The interior of the edifice is grand like its exterior. The two tombs of the eternal lovers (actually replicas) were at the center of the great hall. The real mortal remains of Emperor Shah-Jahan and Mumtaj kept several floors below. The designs on these replicas of the tombs were also very significant. For instance, in the tomb of the Emperor, there were designs of flower buds, whereas the tomb of Empress showed the blossomed flowers. This concept also defined the great love which Shah-Jahan had for his wife. Photography was not allowed inside the tomb, so I was unable to capture my moment of feeling awestruck.
In the end, with an overwhelmed heart, I finally come out of the main building. I was reluctant to let go of that feeling of wonder. I had chosen to sit in one corner, watching the river Yamuna passing by on one side, with the marble edifice on the other side. Slightly envious of the river, which had the chance to witness this love story firsthand. I bid adieu to the eternal sign of love, with a promise to return.