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Mumtaz Mahal

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Mumtaz Mahal (b. April, 1593, Agra, India. d. June 17, 1631, Burhanpur, India) was the wife of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan whose death provided the impetus for the contruction of the Taj Mahal as her memorial. Mumtaz Mahal was actually a ceremonial name given to Arjumand Banu Begum on the occasion of marrying Shah Jahan and means Chosen one of the Palace in Persian. She was a Muslim, of Persian decent and daughter to Abdul Hasan Asaf, a high ranking noble in the court of Jahan's father, the emperor Jahangir.


Betrothed to the young Prince Khurram (later to become Shah Jahan) in 1607 aged just 14, she had to wait five years for the marriage ceremony, during which time Prince Khurrum married two other wives. However, she undoubtedly became the love of his life. By all accounts, Khurrum was so taken with Mumtaz, that he showed little interest in exercising his polygamous rights with the two earlier wives, other than dutifully siring a child with each. According to the official court chronicler Qazwini, the relationship with his other wives "had nothing more than the status of marriage. The intimacy, deep affection, attention and favour which His Majesty had for the Cradle of Excellence [Mumtaz] exceeded by a thousand times what he felt for any other."

In the 19 years of their marriage she bore Jahan 14 children. Despite her frequent pregnancies, Mumtaz travelled with Jahan's entourage throughout his earlier military campaigns and the subsequent rebellion against his father. Jahan was utterly devoted: she was his constant companion and trusted confidante and their relationship was intense. The court historians go to unheard of lengths (for the time) to document the intimate and erotic relationship the couple enjoyed.


Mumtaz died in Burhanpur in 1631 (1040 AH), giving birth to their fourteenth child, a daughter named Gauhara Begum. She had been accompanying her husband while he was fighting a campaign in the Deccan Plateau. Her body was temporarily buried at Burhanpur in a garden known as Zainabad on the bank of the Tapti River. Jahan was inconsolable and early in 1632 work began on the Taj Mahal, often described as the world's most exquisite building, the architecture of which was designed in part to propagate propaganda for Jahan, but mostly to immortalise his beloved Mumtaz.