Shah Jahan Builds the Taj Mahal Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The grand Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, according to one popular legend, to remember the love he shared with his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The building has come to represent not only this love but also dynastic splendor and, as another legend tells it, the emperor’s piety and his devotion to Islam.

Summary of Event

On January 5, 1592, Shah Jahan Shah Jahan was born to the Mughal emperor Jahāngīr Jahāngīr (r. 1605-1627) and Princess Manmati in Lahore, India. In 1611, Jahāngīr married Nūr Jahān Nūr Jahān , whose brother, Asaf Khan, was a high-ranking military officer. Asaf Khan had a daughter named Arjumand Banu Begum (Mumtaz Mahal Mumtaz Mahal ), born inĀgra in 1593. According to legend, Shah Jahan was sixteen when he first saw Arjumand. He wanted to marry her immediately, but for political reasons, he first married a Persian princess around 1608. Four years later, in 1612, Shah Jahan married Arjumand, whose name became Mumtaz Mahal, which means “chosen one of the palace.” She was his favorite wife and bore his only children, and she would become the inspiration for the famous Taj Mahal. [kw]Shah Jahan Builds the Taj Mahal (1632-c. 1650) [kw]Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan Builds the (1632-c. 1650) [kw]Jahan Builds the Taj Mahal, Shah (1632-c. 1650) Architecture;1632-c. 1650: Shah Jahan Builds the Taj Mahal[1160] Government and politics;1632-c. 1650: Shah Jahan Builds the Taj Mahal[1160] Religion and theology;1632-c. 1650: Shah Jahan Builds the Taj Mahal[1160] India;1632-c. 1650: Shah Jahan Builds the Taj Mahal[1160] Taj Mahal Architecture;Mughal Empire

Shah Jahan rebelled against his father Jahāngīr in 1623. Jahāngīr died in 1627 and was succeeded by Shah Jahan, who was proclaimed emperor on January 28, 1628, and resided in the early years of his reign inĀgra.

The inseparable Mumtaz and Shah Jahan traveled together on early military expeditions to recover lost ancestral territories. Little is known about Mumtaz except that she was of legendary beauty and the emperor loved her deeply. He entrusted her with the royal seal, and she influenced him on behalf of the needy. Although pregnant, she traveled with Shah Jahan in 1631 to fight the Lodi Empire Lodi Empire in the Deccan. On June 17, 1631, Mumtaz died after giving birth to their fourteenth child, a daughter. Mumtaz was buried temporarily, while the grief-stricken Shah Jahan proceeded to build the most beautiful mausoleum possible: the Taj Mahal, constructed as a lasting symbol of the love between himself and Mumtaz.

Construction on the mausoleum began in 1632. According to official Mughal histories, the chief architect was Ustad Ahmad Lahori Ustad Ahmad Lahori , an Indian of Persian descent, who also designed the Red Fort in Delhi. A renowned mathematician and astronomer, he became the royal architect. The master calligrapher was Amanat Khan Amanat Khan , whose signature is inscribed on the gate. Amanat Khan came to India from Shiraz, Persia, in 1608, and was already the preeminent calligrapher during Jahāngīr’s reign.

More than one thousand elephants transported building materials, including twenty-eight types of gemstones, such as lapis lazuli, turquoise, and jade, which were used for the pietra dura, or decorative floral and geometric designs, inlaid in the white marble. More than twenty thousand laborers from India, the Ottoman Empire, Persia, and Europe worked on the Taj Mahal.

There is controversy regarding the exact date of its completion. According to Abdul Hamid Lahori, Shah Jahan’s official chronicler, the Taj Mahal was completed in twelve years (1644). However, an inscription on the main gate shows a date of 1648, seventeen years after Mumtaz’s death. Yet another source, an account of travels in India by the French jewel merchant Jean-Baptiste Tavernier Tavernier, Jean-Baptiste (1605-1689), states that after mourning for two years, Shah Jahan began construction: sixteen years of building for the main mausoleum and an additional five to six years to complete the other structures, which would indicate a completion date of 1654-1655.

The 42-acre Taj Mahal complex has five principal parts: the main gateway, mausoleum, mosque, garden, and jawab (a building mirroring the mosque). The redstone gateway has a main arch, flanked by two pairs of smaller arches, which contain black Qur՚ānic calligraphy inlaid in white marble paneling. The white marble mausoleum rests on a square podium, with a minaret, or tower, at each corner, a large dome surrounded by four smaller domes in the center, and four identical facades, each with a central arch. Inside, an octagonal marble chamber contains the “false” tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, whose real coffins lie underneath at the garden level. The redstone mosque and jawab flank the mausoleum, and the garden is divided into four equal parts by canals.

The magnificent Taj Mahal, viewed from the garden side of the immense compound.

(George L. Shuman)

Generally, architecture and the arts flourished under Shah Jahan. Art patronage;Mughal Empire In 1634, he commissioned the creation of a magnificent imperial throne to symbolize the glory of his court. No longer in existence, the Peacock Throne Peacock Throne was reportedly made entirely of gold and jewels from the royal treasury and took seven years to complete. It was flanked by the gilded tails of two peacocks, inset with rubies, diamonds, and other gems. The throne was supported by twelve emerald-covered pillars and had an enameled canopy. The underside was covered with rubies, garnets, diamonds, and emeralds.

In 1638, Shah Jahan moved his capital fromĀgra to Shahjahanabad (now Old Delhi) on the Yamuna River. At Delhi he built the famous Red Fort Red Fort , named for its gateways and high walls of red sandstone. The Red Fort contained the grand imperial palace made of white marble, and the Peacock Throne stood in the palace’s public audience hall.

Shah Jahan also built the Moti Masjid Moti Masjid (the Pearl Mosque) withinĀgra Fort, northwest of the Taj Mahal. Constructed between 1646 and 1653, this mosque has been compared to a perfect pearl because of its translucent white marble and perfect proportions. There are three domes, a large courtyard, and a rectangular prayer hall divided into three aisles, each with seven bays.

By 1656, construction was finished on the Jama Masjid Jama Masjid (the Great Mosque), the largest mosque in India. Situated across from the Red Fort in Delhi, the Jama Masjid has three giant gateways and two minarets, each 130 feet high. The courtyard is large enough to accommodate more than twenty thousand worshipers. It is believed that the mosque holds some hair, considered sacred, from the prophet Muḥammad and a chapter of the Holy Qur՚ān.

When Shah Jahan became gravely ill in 1657, four sons—Dara Shukoh, Shuja, Aurangzeb Aurangzeb , and Murad—fought for succession to the throne. Shah Jahan designated Dara Shukoh as his successor, but Aurangzeb defeated his brothers. He then deposed Shah Jahan and confined him toĀgra Fort. According to legend, Shah Jahan spent the last eight years of his life staring at the Taj Mahal through a window at the fort. On January 22, 1666, he died and joined his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal, at the Taj Mahal.


Shah Jahan’s reign is considered the golden age of Mughal architecture and art. The Pearl Mosque atĀgra and the palace and Great Mosque at Delhi stand as monumental achievements of this period. Shah Jahan introduced the broad use of white marble instead of red sandstone in building construction.

His solid gold Peacock Throne, however, no longer exists. In 1739, Persian king Nāder Shāh (r. 1736-1747) plundered Delhi and took the Peacock Throne to Persia, where it was eventually dismantled and lost. The throne and its later reproductions would become symbols of the Persian (Iranian) monarchy.

Shah Jahan’s architectural masterpiece, the Taj Mahal, is considered one of the world’s most beautiful buildings and is a popular tourist attraction. The delicate white marble, harmonious forms, intricate decorative details, and structural symmetry epitomize the Mughal aesthetic style, which combines Islamic, Indian, and Persian elements. The love story and mythology of the Taj Mahal have also endured through the years, so that this opulent building has become one of the most celebrated symbols of love.

In 1983, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated the Taj Mahal a World Heritage Site, a recognition given to a place or building of major import to the common heritage of humankind and, thus, worthy of preservation. Although controversy surrounds the exact dates of the Taj Mahal’s construction, India celebrated the 350th anniversary of this famous monument to love in September of 2004.

Categories: History