No woman was more honored in death than Mumtaz Mahal, the Indian princess who inspired the building of one of the world's architectural wonders and its most famous mausoleum, the Taj Mahal. The familiar structure remains an iconic image of India -- ironic since the building is primarily Persian in design. The Taj Mahal is located in northern India, in Agra in the province of Uttar Pradesh and was built between 1632 and 1653, a cultural golden age. Its builder was Shah Jahan, the fifth emperor of the Mughal Empire, who, like his predecessors, was a Muslim and a descendant of Genghis Khan. His most beloved third wife and consort was Arjumand Banu Begum, born in 1593 into a noble Persian family. (She was renamed Mumtaz Mahal, meaning "chosen one of the palace.) His devotion to her, obviously a very outstanding woman, became legendary. After the death of Mumtaz in 1631, during the birth of their 14th child, Shah Jahan fell into inconsolable grief. Eventually he decided to honor his late wife by commissioning a magnificent mausoleum and funerary gardens. The epic building project, participated in by designers, artists, and artisans from various countries, became the sublime Taj Mahal. Unfortunately, over the centuries the structure fell into disrepair and was, sadly, defaced by gem-stealing British occupiers. It was an Englishman, though, Viceroy The Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, who initiated a restoration that was completed in 1908. (I can't forbear mentioning that the Marquess's 15th Century ancestors Richard Curzon and Alice Willoughby are also ancestors of mine)
There are many representations of Mumtaz Mahal, although none seem to have been taken from life. I have drawn upon them to create my own take on this wonderful lady.
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