It feels like I have been waiting to see the Taj Mahal forever. The moment I heard its story, I fell in love with it and was immediately envious of the heroine. I heard that it was built by a Shah for his beloved wife who passed away. I always thought how romantic men were back then. They built honored their wives with alluring shrines. These days you hardly hear love stories like that. I wanted to learn more about the Queen. I wondered what was her secret appeal that made the Shah devote his life offering her memory such a tribute.
After a 5 hour drive from Delhi we got to Agra where the Taj is. The car service provided us a free guide, Shams. Shams was an amazing guide/photographer/comedian. He has lived in Agra all his life and is as much in love with the Taj Mahal as the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan was when he built it in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
As we started the tour Shams told us the story about Shah Jahan and his favorite wife who actually turned out to be of Persian decent. Her real name was Arjumand Banu Begum. When I heard she was Persian, this perked up my ear and everyone could tell that it also inflated my head. I was proud that my ancestors had some role in this magnificient site that has attracked thousands and thousands of people to it from all over the world for hundreds of years. It is truely breathtaking. Shams sensed my rejoice in tidbits of information relating to Persian contribution so he took great pleasure in teasing me with other Persian contributions to the Taj. This was our joke of the day, all the great contributions of Persians to the Taj Mahal. I told them if we kept it up there wouldn't be enough room in the photo of my head and the Taj.
I think I am no longer envious of Banu. Shams told us that Banu died giving birth to her 14th child. Being pregnant for 14 years doesn't sound very romantic. I guess it was common back then but when I heard this I envied her less. Shah Jahan was so grief stricken that he spent the next 22 years of his life creating this mausoleum. During that time poor Banu was in some regular coffin and her body was moved around twice to different grave sites until finally he finished the Taj and she got to rest. When I heard this part, I really stopped being envious of Banu. The poor lady was pregnant for the majority of their marriage and then even after her death her body didn't get any rest until 22 years later when he finally buried her in final restig place. I mentioned to Shams how sad Shah Jahan must have been after the death but then he pointed out that Shah Jahan had at least 3 other wives and 500 concubines! This is when I decided Banu could keep her Taj.