Into India– Part Six (A Valentine’s Story)

Perhaps you already know the story behind India’s most beautiful building, the Taj Mahal (which means crown of palaces in Arabic, though it is in fact a mausoleum).

The Taj Mahal is a monument to love, the love of Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal (note the similarity to the current name of the building), who died bearing their fourteenth child. Grief stricken when she died prematurely, Jahan began building this magnificent tomb for Mumtaz in about 1631. Jahan was a Muslim, not a Hindu. You may be aware that there was a long period in India’s history when it was ruled by the Moghul Empire, of which Jahan was one of its more notable Emperors. It took until 1648 to finish the construction, and here is a poem Jahan himself wrote on the occasion of its completion….

Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator’s glory.’

The Moghuls were wise rulers. They knew how important Hinduism was to India, and so they incorporated some Hindi designs in this building, as well as Arabic quotations from the Koran and Persian architecture. So it is not a surprise to hear that the consensus is that “Taj Mahal is regarded by many as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Islamic, Persian, Ottoman, Turkish and Indian architectural styles.”

Yes this building is a tribute to great skill, great architectural design, great beauty, but most of all it is a monument to great love of a husband for his dearly departed wife. I can hardly think of a better Valentine’s symbol than this.

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