Death of Mumtaz Mahal

... and its effect on Shah Jahan

Mumtaz and Shah Jahan lived together for a period of 19 years before she died in 1631. Her death affected Shah Jahan to an extreme level which was notably described by many great historians of his period. Mumtaz was Shah Jahan’s companion in all his travel and military campaigns. She traveled with him in spite of her frequent pregnancies. The journey she took during her 14th pregnancy with Shah Jahan turned out to be her last with him. Her sudden death was a shock to everyone and most of all Shah Jahan.

Mumtaz traveled with Shah Jahan when he traveled on a military campaign to Deccan Plateau against Khan-I-Jehan Lodi. In 1631, she delivered their 14th child, a daughter and dies due to a case of complicated pregnancy in Burhanpur. She was buried in Burhanpur itself as a temporary measure in the ‘Zainabad’ gardens along the banks of river Tapti.

The effect of Mumtaz’s death on Shah Jahan was long lasting and had been described by many court chroniclers with utmost attention as he was completely shattered by her death. It is said that he was extremely inconsolable and passed into a state of mourning that lasted for almost 2 years. He stayed away from court for almost a week and took to an extreme way of isolation. He stayed away from any form of entertainment and even lead a life of a religious recluse.

It is very popularly said that ‘he aged overnight’ because of the incident. He banned all entertainment and any form of luxury for almost the next two years. He stopped listening to music or any interest in dressing in rich or colourful clothes. It is also said that he abstained from jewelry or perfumes as an outcome of his grief for about two years from Mumtaz’s death.

Many were concerned about his grief as to he would abandon the kingdom and his children due to his mourning on his wife’s death. Muhammad Amin Qazwini, the court historian quoted that the emperor Shah Jahan who was once quick in removing his few grey hairs was seen with grey beard after his wife’s death. He also mentions that Shah Jahan even wore spectacles as his constant weeping deteriorated his eye sight. Ebba Koch, Australian Scholar based on the effect of grief caused by Mumtaz’s death on Shah Jahan compares him with the Muslim legendary lover, Majnum yearning for his lover Layla.

The whole royal family far and near were also equally concerned of his mourning and also his interest in the rule and on his children. It is said that Shah Jahan was bought out from this grief and mourning by his first daughter, Jahanara Begum Sahib who took care of him and replaced the duties of Mumtaz in the court.

Shah Jahan was deeply upset and he ordered the building of a monument through which he wanted to depict the love and intimacy he shared with Mumtaz. Thus was born the intention for building the world famous monument for love, Taj Mahal.


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