The Magnificent Mughals of India.
Shah Jahan, ruler of India, murdered three of his brothers in his bloody rise to power. Yet when his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, suddenly died, the grief-stricken emperor built the world's most beautiful tomb as a monument to her memory.
Shah Jahan was the fifth emperor of the Mughal dynasty. The Mughals combined the brute force and fierce ambition of their legendary ancestor Genghis Khan with a delicate artistic sensitivity. Theirs was a world where even forts were architectural gems, where emperors had their life stories told in exquisite miniature paintings, and where each new ruler competed with the previous one by building a grander palace, fort, mosque and city.
The Taj Mahal tells the story of this remarkable dynasty through its greatest artistic achievement. From the soaring domes, to the marble columns inlaid with precious gems, to the vast gardens, to the perfect symmetry of its design, the Taj Mahal expressed the power, grandeur, glory and beauty of the Mughal world.
Elizabeth Mann is the author of 11 Wonders of the World books, cited by Booklist as one of the ten best series for young readers.
Alan Witschonke has illustrated five Wonders of the World books.
Prince Khurram was flfteen years old when he fell in love. The fourteen year old who captured his heart was as bright and generous as she was beautiful. Four years later, in 1612, they were married. From that day on, Mumtaz Mahal was his constant companion, his trusted advisor, the love of his life. In the Muslim world, where arranged marriages were customary and men were allowed four wives, such devotion to one woman was unusual. She was at his side when he became the emperor of the Mughal Empire and took the title Shah Jahan (World Ruler), and she was at his side when he led armies against rebels in remote and dangerous areas.
In 1631 she went with him on a military campaign to a region called the Deccan, far from their palace in Agra. The campaign promised to be long, so the royal court, including the women who attended Mumtaz Mahal, moved to the Deccan with the emperor and his army. Near the town of Burhanpur, they set up a city of tents where life went on much as it had in the palace while the army skirmished with the enemy.
In the hot month of June, the mood in the zanana (women's quarters) was tense and excited. Mumtaz Mahal was about to give birth to her 14th child! One night she dreamed that she heard her unborn baby cry. When she told her women about it, tension became fear. Such a dream was a bad omen.
At last the infant was born, and fear turned to joy -- the baby girl was healthy. At the sight of the weakened queen lying exhausted against her silken cushions, joy quickly faded. Fearing the worst, Mumtaz Mahal summoned Shah Jahan to her tent. She asked only that he care for her children and then died in his arms.
The emperor was devastated. He wept for a week, and it is said that the hair of his beard turned white. He put aside the silk clothing and bright jewels that he had worn all his life and dressed instead in white mourning clothes. He turned away from music, dance, all entertainment. Nothing gave him pleasure.
Despite his grief, Shah Jahan was not one to neglect his duties as emperor. He rose at dawn to pray in the tiny mosque in his palace and then took his place in the throne room. He listened patiently as nobles and commoners alike approached him with their problems and requests. He rewarded those who pleased him with gifts of jewels, elephants, and land. For the unlucky, executioners were on hand to carry out swift punishments. Day after day, he forced himself to perform the routines of the imperial court.
The only light for Shah Jahan in this time of darkness was his plan to build a tomb for Mumtaz Mahal. This work he embraced eagerly. He wanted to create a paradise for his great queen, and a monument to their love. Thus from the emperor's grief the Taj Mahal was born.