In the history of the world, which woman had the greatest influence on her husband?
Tariq Saiful Islam
[Why did King Shah Jahan build the Taj Mahal? Economic and technological aspects of the great Taj Mahal are mind boggling. It was built over a period of twenty years with twenty two thousand workers working regularly. Visitors are awe-struck even today to see this marvel of marbles. Engineers and architects who visit the Taj Mahal cannot fathom how it could be built more than 350 years back.
King Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal not because he had riches; other kings had riches, too. Not because Queen Mumtaj Mahal was a paragon of beauty, which she was, but there were other beautiful queens in the history of world. The Queen could cast such great spell of influence on her husband because of her qualities of loyalty, compassion, and endearing companionship. There are other wonders of the world—such as the Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China-- but none is regarded as an epitome of love as the Tajmahal is.]
This is the story of Mumtaz Mahal in whose memory her husband King Shah Jahan built the great Taj Mahal, a monument whose beauty ranks among the best in the world. In this article I shall try to assess the qualities of Mumtaz Mahal, which endeared her so much to her great husband. As a result of my effort, I hope to come out with a list of qualities which Mumtaz Mahal had and which the women of modern day would like to have to be able to cast influence on their husband as Mumtaj Mahal did.
2. Meeting of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal
King Shah Jahan, then a prince, first met Mumtaz Mahal at a royal meenabazar ( a posh shopping mall for the royals and the nobles) where she was selling expensive stones. The Prince asked the price of an item, which he thought was a glass. Mumtaz replied that it was not glass but a precious diamond and it had a very high price tag of 10,000 rupees. The Prince felt slightly embarrassed, went back home, brought money and purchased the diamond.
3. Their Marriage
After meeting Arjumand Banu Begum as she was known then, Prince Khurram which was his name before he became king immediately told his father, King Jahangir about her and his desire to marry her. The king agreed as Arjumand belonged to a very well known noble family. Her father, Asaf Khan was a very highly placed courtier. It, however, took some time and it was in the year 1612 that she was married to Prince Khurram. At that time, Prince Khurram was 20 years old and Arjumand was 19.
4. The Qualities of Queen Mumtaj Mahal
Their married life was a most engrossing affair. In the course of the next 19 years, the Queen bore 14 children. It is during the birth of her last child, a daughter that she died at the premature age of 39. It is said that at the time of her death she had requested the King to build a mausoleum in her memory, which the King did and with such devotion and expense that it turned out to be the greatest memorial the world has ever seen.
It is their constant companionship and feeling for each other that put their conjugal life apart. One unnamed author has made the following poignant statement in the internet:
“The Prince (and later King) would not part with her even on his numerous military campaigns. In his sufferings, she sustained him; in his glory, she inspired him to acts of charity and benevolence. Both comrade and counselor, she was loved by him for her unswerving loyalty and by his people for her wise and compassionate guidance.”
Queen Mumtaz Mahal was a very soft spoken lady and talked to the King with devotion and respect. She was arguably a very beautiful woman though no authentic picture of the Queen exists. However beautiful she might have been, delivery of 14 children in course of 19 years of conjugal life might have dented her beauty, yet in the eye of the king she was unparallel. Her death not only shocked the king beyond measure, but it also spurred him into action soon after her death to build a mausoleum whose equal the world has not seen.
5. The Tajmahal
Construction of the Tajmahal took 20 years and about 22,000 workers continuously worked. Every marble stone was individually hand chiseled to achieve a perfect design. The plan of the Tajmahal was prepared by the engineers of the east, the Chief Engineer being Ustad Ahmad Lahauri although it is mentioned by historians that King Shahjahan had consulted European experts as well. To design the Tajmahal in the first place and then to complete it over two decades taking care of every detail appear mind boggling.
It was a most expensive work. One foreigner, after seeing the Tajmahal, commented, “How could they build it without foreign aid?” as, now a days, foreign aid is considered first when a large project is undertaken by the countries of the subcontinent. The king did not take any foreign loan from the World Bank or the IMF (these organisations did not even exist then) or from the USA, which would attain independence nearly 150 years later after construction of the Tajmahal. A woman visitor, amazed at the sparkling beauty of the Tajmahal, said, “I am ready to die right now if my husband promises to build a mausololeum like this for me!”
6. Queen Mumtaj Mahal’s Special Qualities
It is not the affluence of King Shahjahan that enabled him to build the Tajmahal because there were kings richer than him nor was it the beauty of Queen Mumtaz Mahal who was of course very beautiful, but there were other beautiful queens. It is rather her qualities of unswerving loyalty, compassion, passionate companionship with the king both mental and physical that led to 14 children, her support to the king in happiness and tribulation that enabled her to have such great influence on her husband.
7. An Epitome of Love
There are other wonders of the world—such as the Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China-- but none stands as an epitome of love as does the Tajmahal, which immortalises the great influence Queen Mumtaz Mahal had on her romantic husband King Shah Jahan.