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Mumtaz Mahal
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    (April 1593-June 17, 1631)
    Born in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
    Birth name was Arjumand Banu Begum
    Persian nobility; Mughal empress
    Daughter of Abdul Hasan Asaf Khan
    Betrothed to the Shah Jahan (Prince Khurram) in 1607 (not married until 1612, however)
    Was honored with the marital name of Mumtaz Mahal ('the most excellent of the palace,' or 'the chosen One of the Palace')
    Died during birth of her and Jahan's fourteenth child
    Taj Mahal was commissioned as a monument to her memory, symbolic of Jahan's 'undying love' and 'marital devotion' for his late wife (ca. 1632-53)
    She and her intended waited a whole five years for the astrological signs to align, in hopes that it would ensure a happy union.
    In the meantime, he took a first wife, and after the marriage to Mumtaz, he took a third.
    Shah Jahan spoiled her, prioritizing her over his other wives.
    She travelled with Jahan's entourage even while pregnant, including during his military campaigns, presenting a serious health risk for herself and her unborn children.
    Not surprisingly, her death in childbirth occurred while she was accompanying her husband on a theater of war in the Deccan Plateau.
    Her and her husband's crypt, in contrast to the exquisitely designed exterior of the Taj Mahal, is relatively plain and uninteresting to look at (by design, they weren't meant to be seen as 'grand' in accordance with Muslim traditions).
    She figures dead center into the heated debate over whether the Taj Mahal is classified as a Muslim worship site or a Hindu worship site (her identity as a Muslim queen is an inconvenient fact many choose to ignore).
    She is a reference in 'Slumdog Millionaire' when young Jamal poses as a Taj Mahal tour guide ('How did she die?' 'A road traffic accident - maximum pileup!' I thought she died in childbirth?' 'Exactly sir! She was on the way to the hospital!')
    The passionate romance between her and the Shah is legendary.
    She was known not only for her beauty, but for her kindness and gentility.
    Although she did not seek power as other Queens did of the period, she did influence her husband greatly when it came to charity for the poor and destitute.
    The almost monogamous nature of their marriage was deemed especially striking for the period, when a ruler could have as many wives and mistresses as he chose.
    The Shah's trust in her was so great that he bestowed on her the highest honor of his kingdom — his imperial seal, the Mehr Uzaz.
    Court historians - astounded - went to great lengths to record the details of her marriage, more than any other woman.
    Following her death, the Shah was inconsolable. He remained in seclusion for almost a year, emerging an aged and broken man.
    Tellingly, it was not one of his other two wives who took her place in court following her death, but Mumtaz's eldest daughter, Jahanara.
    On her deathbed, she made her husband promise to look after their children, her parents, and, most importantly, to build a monument to their love and companionship.
    It took 22 years out of Shah Jahan's life to complete the monument. Doing so involved disinterring her from her resting place in the Burhanpur and transporting her body in a golden casket to their home in Agra.
    Sir Edwin Arnold described the monument as 'not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passion of an emperor's love wrought in living stones.'
    The monument's very name is believed to have been derived from her - European travelers would have been informed by local merchants who associated with the abbreviation of her name 'Taz Mahal' (also explaining the tendency of people to characterize the tomb in feminine terms).

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair

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