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Life of Mumtaz

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Mumtaz Mahal was born as Arjumand Begum (in 1593) to Abdul Hasan Asaf Khan, a Persian noble and brother of Nur Jahan who was to later become the Mughal Empress and wife of Jahangir. She had two sisters. Her elder sister Parwar Khanum married Sheikh Farid (son of Jahangir’s foster brother).

Mumtaz_Mahal Initial Years and Matrimony

There’s a story which says that Shahjahan first saw Arjumand at the Royal Meena Bazaar of Agra and fell in love with her. She was betrothed to Shahjahan in 1607 AD when she was 14 years old. However their marriage took place five years later in 1612 on an auspicious date selected by the astrologers. Although Khurram took other wives also, he found her to be the best in appearance and character among all and gave her the title “Mumtaz Mahal” (or the chosen one of the palace), by which she was to be known worldwide later on.

Shahjahan’s marriage with other wives was mainly attributed to political reasons and he only had a single child from each of his other two wives as a formality. Mumtaz and Shahjahan had 14 children out of whom only seven survived up to adulthood.

Mumtaz is known to have been very beautiful and the court’s poets used to extol her beauty and grace in their writings. She developed a deep relationship with Shahjahan and was a constant companion to him in his quests. She is portrayed by the poets as a religious and perfect wife who did not have any political ambitions. However her influence over Shahjahan cannot be denied, for it is said that she had asked him to not bear any child with the other wives to prevent wars of succession later on.

Considering that they had 14 children in nineteen years of their marriage, Mumtaz was frequently pregnant and yet she travelled with him in nearly all of his military campaigns. The historians note her as being kind towards the poor and destitute. She interacted on behalf of petitioners and distributed allowances for widows. She also loved watching elephant and combat fights in the court. She is noted to have taken interest in designing of a riverside garden in Agra.

Death and Legacy

Mumtaz died when she was accompanying her husband to Burhanpur (currently in Madhya Pradesh) for yet another military campaign against Khan Jahan Lodi. She was pregnant with her fourteenth child and died after 30 hrs of delivery pain due to postpartum haemorrhage. She was being tended by her favourite lady-in-waiting Sati-un-Nisa and Wazir Khan, her doctor. Shahjahan had called many dais (midwives) for her service but to no avail. He was inconsolable at the time of her death and it is said that Jahanara Begum (their eldest daughter) played an important role in reviving Shahjahan and the court, (which was downcast for a long period owing to Mumtaz’s death), to their former standards.

Some stories say she wanted four promises from Shahjahan on her deathbed. The first one was that he would build a monument of love for her, the second that he would marry again, the third that he would be kind to their children and the fourth that he would visit her tomb on her death anniversary. Except for the second one he seems to have fulfilled the rest of them.

After her death she was temporarily buried in Zainabad, a walled pleasure garden in Burhanpur. She was later brought to her original resting place in Agra. Her fortunes which were valued at about 10,000,000 rupees were distributed half among her daughter Jahanara and half for the rest of her children.

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