Thursday, May 30, 2024

Tears of Red Fort – 3 : Red Fort – Illuminated by the children of Mumtaz Mahal!

Shah Jahan had nine Begams – Kandhari Mahal, Akbarabadi Begum, Mumtaz Mahal, Hasina Begum, Moti Begum, Kudsia Begum, Fatehpuri Mahal, Sirhindi Begum and Rani Manabhavati.  Shah Jahan had many children from all these Begums.  Mumtaz Mahal was the third of Shah Jahan’s Begums. Of the fourteen children born from her stomach, only eight survived.  When Shah Jahan came to the Red Fort in 1648, Mumtaz Mahal had been dead for seventeen years but her eight children illuminated the Red Fort.  In this episode we will discuss about Mumtaz Mahal.
The real name of Mumtaz Mahal was Arjumand Banu Begum.  Shah Jahan used to call her Mumtaz Mahal which meant – ‘Most beloved jewel of the palace.’ Mumtaz was born in April 1593 in Agra.  Her father Abdul Hasan Asaf Khan was the brother of Jahangir’s Begum Noor Jahan and came to India from Persia with his father.  Thus the blood of Persia regurgitate in the veins of Mumtaz Mahal and she was the maternal sister of Shah Jahan.
Mumtaz Mahal looked very beautiful like a white doll carved out of marble stone and used to sell silk and glass beads at her shop in Meena Bazaar, Agra.  The tradition of Meena Bazaar was started by Shah Jahan’s grandfather Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar.  It was adorned only for the Mughal Emperors and the most affluent ones. Only Muslim Princesses(Shehzadis) and Hindu princesses were allowed to set up shops in Meena Bazaar on which they had to sell their own goods. Often the mistresses of these shops were also sold to some prince or Amir-umrao(Affluent ones).
Once in 1607, Prince Khurram came to visit Meena Bazar and met her maternal sister Arjumand Begum.  In the first meeting Khurram decided to marry Arjumand Begum.  Despite already having two Begums, Prince Khurram enunciated his desire to marry Arjumand Begum to his father Jahangir. On this, Jahangir got Khurram married to Arjumand Begum in 1612 AD.
Thus 19-year-old Arjumand became Khurram’s third wife, who later succeeded Jahangir by the name of Shah Jahan.  Jahangir changed the name of Arjumand to Mumtaz Mahal.  She was Shah Jahan’s third Begum to say, but soon she became Shah Jahan’s favorite Begum.  Shah Jahan proclaimed her as the ‘Emperor Begum’.  Empty papers of Shah Jahan’s royal decrees and the royal seal of Shah Jahan were then kept by Mumtaz Mahal, implying that orders issued in the name of Jahangir were actually issued by Mumtaz Mahal.
Mumtaz Mahal was an expert in playing chess.  Shah Jahan used to play chess with her, sitting in front of her for hours.  Mumtaz often defeated the emperor in this game.  Whenever Shah Jahan got defeated, he used to glisten with joy and would shower Ashrafis on Mumtaz Mahal.
Mumtaz had a very good knowledge of her mother tongue Persian and wrote very good poems in Persian language. She gave shelter to many poets of Persian language in the Mughal court.
Mumtaz decorated the royal garden with beautiful flowers and made it a paradise.  Thus Mumtaz Mahal created beauty all around her and Shah Jahan would plunge into this unending sea of ​​beauty.
In the manner, Jahangir’s Begum Noor Jahan made Mughal Sultanate dance at her fingertips, Mumtaz Mahal also became the emperor’s favorite and began to domineer the Mughalia Takht, Mughalia dynasty and Mughalia Sultanate.  As a result, Shahjahan’s other eight Begums and many of their children were badly neglected and their names couldn’t be recorded on the pages of history.
Mumtaz took two measures to keep the Mughal Sultanate firmly in her hands. Firstly, she often invited poor women to the royal garden and spent time with them.  From these women, she used to get information about small and big things happening in the Sultanate.  Mumtaz Mahal also helped the poor and needy. Mumtaz Mahal used to help the needy by asking the emperor, but she herself used to take care of the girls who could not get married due to poverty.  For these reasons, Mumtaz Mahal was liked by the poor community.
The second measure was also thoughtfully adopted.  Whenever Shah Jahan went out of the capital for any work, Mumtaz inevitably accompanied her. As an advantage, Mumtaz connected directly with every Rich, Cavalier, Prince, Hindu chieftain and mullah-maulvis of the Sultanate.
For this reason, as long as Mumtaz lived, no one rebelled against her.  No person could fill the emperor’s ears against Mumtaz.
On 17 June 1631, Mumtaz Mahal died while giving birth to Gauhra Begum, the 14th child of Shah Jahan in Burhanpur.  Shah Jahan considered Gauhra Begum to be cursed for himself and even refused to see her face. In 1612, at the age of 19, Mumtaz was married to Shah Jahan.  After this marriage, she lived only 19 years and during this period she got pregnant 14 times.  In a way, Shah Jahan made her a child-making machine.
Shah Jahan buried the body of Mumtaz at Jainabad Bagh in Burhanpur.  To preserve her body, one of the three famous methods of making mummies in the country of Egypt was resorted so that her body would never smell and could be safe for thousands of years.
Shah Jahan, immersed in Mumtaz’s mourning, remained in Burhanpur for almost a year and during this time he did not leave his camp even once.
Later, in December 1631, Mumtaz’s body was taken out of the tomb when the construction of  Taj Mahal started in Agra and the boundary walls were ready. The corpse was brought from Burhanpur to Agra as a magnificent royal procession with full vigor.  Eight crore rupees were spent on the procession at that time.
  On 12 January 1632, Mumtaz’s body was buried in the premises of the Taj Mahal which was under construction.  When the Taj Mahal was completed 9 years later in AD 1640, the body of Mumtaz Mahal was once again taken out of the grave. This time she was buried in a cellar of the Taj Mahal and a fake grave was built on the floor above it so that if the enemies ever destroy the Taj Mahal, Mumtaz Mahal can be safe in her coffin at the basement and can easily wait for the doom.
When Shah Jahan died, Shah Jahan was also buried in the basement of the Taj Mahal near Mumtaz Mahal and the emperor’s fake tomb was also built near the fake tomb of Mumtaz on the upper floor.
Thus Mumtaz Mahal was now asleep in the Taj Mahal of Agra and Shah Jahan had come with her eight children to live in the Red Fort of Delhi.  

Article by Dr. Mohan Lal Gupta, English Translation By Er. Ayush Dadhich, Video Presentation by Er. Dipti Tayal

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