Mumtaz Mahal (April 1593 – 17 June 1631) (Persian, ; meaning "the chosen one of the palace") born as Arjumand Banu Begum was a Mughal Empress and chief consort of emperor Shah Jahan. The UNESCO World Heritage Site Taj Mahal, Agra was constructed by her husband as her final resting place.
Arjumand Banu Begum was born in Agra into a family of Persian nobility, as a daughter of Abdul Hasan Asaf Khan, making her a niece (and later daughter-in-law) of Empress Nur Jehan, the wife of the emperor Jahangir. Arjumand Banu Begum was married at the age of 19, on 10 May 1612, to Prince Khurram, known as Shah Jahan, who conferred upon her the title "Mumtaz Mahal". Though betrothed to Shah Jahan in 1607, she ultimately became his third wife, in 1612, and was his favorite. She died in Burhanpur in the Deccan (now in Madhya Pradesh) during the birth of their fourteenth child, a daughter named Gauhara Begum.
Mumtaz Mahal mothered fourteen children by Shah Jahan, including Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan's successor, the Imperial Prince Dara Shukoh the heir apparent anointed by Shah Jahan and Jahanara Begum, the Imperial Princess.
Arjumand Banu Begum was born in Agra into a family of Persian nobility, as a daughter of Abdul Hasan Asaf Khan, making her a niece (and later daughter-in-law) of Empress Nur Jehan, the wife of the emperor Jahangir. Her younger sister Parwar Khanum married Sheikh Farid the son of Nawab Qutubuddin, the governor of Badaun who was also emperor Jahangir's foster brother. According to a group of Shia Muslims in India, Empress Mumtaz was religiously a Shia.
In 1607 AD (1016 AH), Prince Khurram, also known as Shah Jahan, was betrothed to Arjumand Banu Begum who was just 14 years old at the time. She would become the unquestioned love of his life. They would, however, have to wait five years before they were married in 1612 AD (1021 AH), on a date selected by the court astrologers as most conducive to ensuring a happy marriage. After their wedding celebrations, Khurram "finding her in appearance and character elect among all the women of the time", gave her the title 'Mumtaz Mahal' Begum (Chosen One of the Palace). 18 AH). The intervening years had seen Khurram take two other wives. By all accounts however, Khurram 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, Motamid Khan (as recorded in his Iqbal Namah-e-Jahangiri), 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."
Mumtaz Mahal had a very deep and loving marriage with Shah Jahan. Even during her lifetime, poets would extol her beauty, grace and compassion. Mumtaz Mahal was Shah Jahan's trusted companion, travelling with him all over the Mughal Empire. His trust in her was so great that he even gave her his imperial seal, the Muhr Uzah. Mumtaz was portrayed as the perfect wife with no aspirations to political power in contrast to her aunt, Empress Nur Jehan, the wife of 4th Emperor, Jahangir who had wielded considerable influence in the previous reign. She was a great influence on him, apparently often intervening on behalf of the poor and destitute. But she also enjoyed watching elephant and combat fights performed for the court. It was quite common for women of noble birth to commission architecture in the Mughal Empire. Mumtaz devoted some time to a riverside garden in Agra.
The Taj Mahal Despite her frequent pregnancies, Mumtaz travelled with Shah Jahan's entourage throughout his earlier military campaigns and the subsequent rebellion against his father. She was his constant companion and trusted confidante, and their relationship was intense. Indeed, the court historians go to unheard lengths to document the intimate and erotic relationship the couple enjoyed. In their nineteen years of marriage, they had fourteen children together, seven of whom died at birth or at a very young age.
When Shah Jahan travelled from Balapur fort,to Burhanpur, mother of Mirza Azam and elder daughter of Shahzada Badi uz-Zaman Mirza, alias Shah Nawaz Khan of the Safawi dynasty Dilrus Banu, wife of Aurangazeb along with Mumtaz and cousin/brother Shah Beg Khan, along with military personnel - stayed three nights near Argaon at Hiwarkhed, before the birth of their fourteenth child.
Mumtaz died in Burhanpur in 1631 AD (1040 AH), while giving birth to their fourteenth child. 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 walled pleasure garden known as Zainabad originally constructed by Shah Jahan's uncle Daniyal on the bank of the Tapti River. The contemporary court chroniclers paid an unusual amount of attention to Mumtaz Mahal's death and Shah Jahan's grief at her demise. In the immediate aftermath of his bereavement, the emperor was reportedly inconsolable. Apparently after her death, Shah Jahan went into secluded mourning for a year. When he appeared again, his hair had turned white, his back was bent, and his face worn. Shah Jahan's eldest daughter, the devoted Jahanara Begum, gradually brought him out of grief and took the place of Mumtaz at court.
Her personal fortune (valued at 10,000,000 rupees) was divided by Shah Jahan between Jahanara Begum, who received half and the rest of her surviving children. Burhanpur was never intended by her husband as his wife's final resting spot. As a result her body was disinterred in December 1631 and transported in a golden casket escorted by her son Shah Shuja and the head lady in waiting of the deceased Empress back to Agra. There it was interred in a small building on the banks of the Yamuna River. Shah Jahan stayed behind in Burhanpur to conclude the military campaign that had originally brought him to the region. While there, he began planning the design and construction of a suitable mausoleum and funerary garden in Agra for his wife. It was a task that would take more than 22 years to complete: the Taj Mahal.
Shahzadi Huralnissa Begum (1613 1616)
- Shahzadi (Imperial Princess) Jahanara Begum (2 April 1614 – 1681)
Shahzada (Imperial Prince) Dara Shikoh (20 March 1615 – 30 August 1659)
- Shahzada Mohammed Sultan Shah Shuja Bahadur (23 June 1616 1660)
- Shahzadi Roshanara Begum (3 September 1617 1671)
Badshah Mohinnudin Mohammed Aurangzeb (4 November 1618 – 3 March 1707)
- Shahzada Sultan Ummid Baksh (1619 1622)
- Shahzadi Surayya Banu Begum (1621 1628)
- Shahzada Sultan Murad Baksh (1624 1661)
- Shahzadi Gauhara Begum (17 June 1631 1706)
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