|Biographical detail : ||Emperor of India whose reign saw the height of Moghul refinement and sophistication.
Shah Jahan was famous for commissioning the Taj-Mahal (mausoleum for his wife Mumtaz Mahal) – the height of architecture, Lal Qila (Red Fort) Jama Masjid of Delhi and his famous Peacock throne. He founded the city of Delhi, which was called Shahjahanabad after his name.
Shah Jahan who came to the throne at Delhi in 1628 reigned for thirty years. He patronised Hindu poets in his court and Muslim scientific works were translated into Sanskrit. Shah Jahan tended to be hostile to Sufism and his piety was based more strictly on the Shariah than Akbar’s (his grandfather) had been.
One of the most famous legends surrounding the building of the Taj Mahal, near Delhi, is that Shah Jehan, determined that no other ruler should ever copy his glorious masterpiece got 20,000 labourers, who worked night and day on the site for twenty years. Many workers were brought from Iran and Central Asia to complete one of the wonders of the world. They built a ramp ten miles long just to move materials up to the 187-foot-high dome. Its great dome was first completed in 1643. Some of the senior men who worked there were the chief architect Ustad Isa Afrandi from Iran, the calligrapher Amanat Khan Shirazi and the head of the dome-making team, Ismail Khan Afridi from Turkey.
The material used to build the masterpiece were brought in from all over India and neighbouring countries – marble from the quarries of Makrana in the Indian desert state of Rajasthan, turquoise from Tibet, jade from China, lapis lazuli and sapphire from Sri Lanka – and carried to the site by a fleet of 1,000 elephants.
The white marble of the Taj is so perfectly cut and polished that it reflects light at its different intensities throughout the days. It changes from rose at dawn to almost translucent white at the height of a sunny day. But the most fabulous time of all is when it reflects the moonlight.
Taj Mahal embodies Eight Paradises – Hasht Bihisht. Its Persian layout reflects the levels of paradise and nine vaults of heaven in the central domed chamber (that’s one vault) surrounded by front halls in the centre of each side (that’s four vaults), and rooms (at two levels) at the corners (the other four vaults) ultimately a nine-fold plan. In Muslim history, the Eight Paradises plan emerges in palace architecture of north western Iran under Turkoman and Timurid rulers of the later 15th century, and then is adapted (among other dynasties) in various buildings by the Mughals in India. In the words of Shah Jahan’s court historian, Muhammad Amin Qazwini, the Taj Mahal “will be a masterpiece for ages to come, increasing the amazement of all humanity.”
Agra was the bustling city of 2 million inhabitants “the wonder of the age – as much a centre of the arteries of trade both by land and water as a meeting place of saints, sages and scholars from all Asia …a veritable lodestar for artistic workmanship, literary and spiritual worth” as written by Moghul chronicler Abdul Aziz, and as quoted by William Dalrymple, a British historian.
It was becoming clear that the decline of Moghul Empire had set in. The army and the court had both become too expensive, the emperors still invested in cultural activities, but neglected agriculture on which their wealth depended. The economic crisis came to a head and Shah Jahan was deposed, in 1651.
Aurangzeb his son took the charge and confined Shah Jahan in the Agra fort. He died, in a manner of speaking, in imprisonment and was buried in the Taj Mahal, close to his wife.
Shah Jahan was born Shahabuddin Muhammad at Lahore and named Khurram.