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The Man Who Created the Taj Mahal - Peter Malakoff

The Mughal emperor, Shah Jehan, ordered the building of what is known as the Taj Mahal, as a mausoleum to the memory of his favorite wife,

Mumtaz Mahal.

Constructed over a period of twenty-two years, (1632-1654), with the daily labor of over 20,000 workers, to many people, this building, erected on the shores of the Yamuna River in India, is the most perfect and beautiful architectural structure in the world. Credit for the final plan is usually given to Ustad Isa, who was either Turkish or Persian, but, there is some uncertainty about who really drew the plans. Here is the story of the man who designed the Taj Mahal:


Ehvam, Thus I have heard:

When Shah Jehan was at the height of his power and happiness, it was brought to his attention that there existed in his kingdom, a great architect, who was also an especially gifted artist and sculptor, a man who could create the exact likeness of a person, merely from seeing their hands. It was said, that from a moments study of a persons hands, this man could create the exact likeness of that person in stone.

 When Shah Jehan heard this he immediately ordered the man brought before him. "Is this true? Can you really see and create the image of a person from the sight of their hands only?", the Shah asked.  The man, who was very proud of his ability, replied; "This is indeed true O Shah!". Then he spoke to Shah Jehan, "Let all the unmarried women of your court be brought forth in front of me, all together. From their midst, I will select the most beautiful  and carve her likeness in stone. If I succeed in your eyes and in the eyes of the court, in creating the perfect image of this woman with all her subtlety and manner, then that woman shall be given to me as wife for reward. If I fail to create the  perfect image, then let me be killed. Shah Jehan, was amazed at the boldness of the sculptor and filled with excitement for his proposal. He immediately ordered it to be done.

In the time of less than an hour, all the unmarried women of the court were assembled before the artisan, each one heavily veiled as was the custom of the day and all in anticipation. They held out their hands for the artisan to inspect

as he walked slowly by.

Now, the Royal Princess, the daughter of Shah Jehan, had heard of the brave and incredible challenge of the artisan and being greatly excited, had inserted herself into the line of the assembled women. And, as fate would have it, it was in front of this most beautiful young girl that the artisan stopped and said, "This is the woman I will sculpt in stone!" He had seen her perfectly in her hands and had fallen in love.

  Immediately, Shah Jehan was told that the woman the artisan had chosen was his daughter. The Shah was highly concerned, but decided to do nothing immediately and instead sent spies to watch and note the progress of the artisan. The spies reported back to Shah Jehan that, indeed, the artisan was sculpting an exact likeness of Shah Jehan's daughter. Again spies were sent and again the news returned that the image in stone was without a doubt, the princess in all her beauty and glory. Finally, the image was completed and in front of the whole assembled court, unveiled, with gasps of admiration and wonder at this man who could sculpt the every detail of a woman from looking only at her hand. But Shah Jehan was deeply troubled. This daughter of his, had been secretly promised to the general of his army.

He could not give her to this poor artisan! Shah Jehan spoke:


  "I am most deeply impressed with your skill, artistry and intuition. You have, indeed, created an exact and most beautiful image of this woman who happens to be my daughter. But you must take another woman!", Shah Jehan exclaimed. "It cannot be with the Princess. She has been promised to another man. The whole assembly stood without breathing. All were deeply troubled. Their ruler could not honor his promise. Many among them felt deeply embarrassed.


  But, the artisan replied: "Great Shah, I have picked the most beautiful candle from the tapers of your court. It is her flame that lights the lamp of my heart. It is her face that delights my eyes. It is in her delight, that I revel. It is her and her alone. If you will not honor your promise, then I have nothing to do but leave and wait upon the will of Allah."  Upon saying that, the artisan bowed and proudly, walked from the assembled gathering.

  Many years passed and Shah Jehan grew older. It was then, that  the tragedy of the death of his favorite wife, Mumtaz, eclipsed the bright sun of his life.

His heart was broken.

The horse of his love-desire grew wild with the remembrance of his wife and the  yearning  to eternalize her presence in the  most beautiful and perfect mausoleum came to fill his life. He became inflamed with a desire, to build a tomb for his wife to rest in, a grand celebration of love in which he, himself, would be laid one day by her side.


A court poet recorded the emperor’s despair at her death in 1631:

“The color of youth flew away from his cheeks;

The flower of his countenance ceased blooming.”

He wept so often “his tearful eyes sought help from spectacles.”

But who would design this building? Who could create in stone, the feeling of his heart? Shah Jehan's thoughts went again to the artisan he had summoned many years before. The artisan had gone on as an architect to design many of the most beautiful mosques and buildings in the land. Everywhere he was spoken of with admiration and praise. Surely, this was the man to take on this extraordinarily special and emotionally laden project.

  Again the Shah Jehan had the architect brought before him and spoke to him as follows: "Noble man." he began. "In the name of Allah, Please accept my pleas for your help in designing a mausoleum for my now deceased wife, Mumtaz Mahal, on whom there may be peace. You were dishonored by me at our last meeting together. I now wish to set that matter aright. My daughter, the very same one whose image you carved so exactly in stone, is still unmarried. My general, the man she had been promised to was slain in battle. As a token of my sincere wish to have your services, accept my daughter in marriage. She is yours upon the fulfillment of my proposal.  Design the mausoleum for my now deceased wife, Mumtaz, on whom there may be peace, and for myself."

  The architect was astounded, greatly pleased and highly honored all at the same time. Indeed, no one had ever seen the Shah Jehan so emotionally in need before anyone. He exclaimed to the Shah, " Noble Ruler, Glory of Islam, I am honored to accept your gift and will immediately begin the design of the mausoleum. By the grace of Allah it shall be done!"


  The architect was given a suite of rooms in the palace and in a state of great excitement, immediately began drawing up plans for the mausoleum. Within a few days, the first plans were ready and were brought before the Shah Jehan. But he was not at all pleased. The feeling of the building was not right.


  Undaunted, the architect drafted yet more plans, this time of several buildings. His energy was great and shining, touched by the future promise of the princess as his bride. Again the plans were brought before the Shah Jehan and again they were rejected. Several times more this process repeated itself and the architect began to fall into a mood of despair. He would never be able to have the princess as his bride unless the Shah Jehan accepted his plans and it seemed as if that would never happen.

  Now, one of the wisest aides to the Shah Jehan approached him and offered a suggestion: "O noble Shah, please give your attention to my humble suggestion. By the grace of Allah, I have seen a way to attain your desires. Presently, your architect is unable to produce a suitable plan because of his inability to feel what you feel and to taste what you now are tasting. There is a vastly different state of mind and emotion between you and your architect. You, my Lord, are in a state of grieving for your wife Mumtaz, on whom there may be peace. The architect is in a state of joyful anticipation, of seeing his future wife, your daughter, and entering into the happy state of marriage. I propose that this disparate state of emotions is at the root of the lack of a suitable building plan for the Mausoleum. This is what I suggest be done: Let it be known to the architect that the princess is sick, indeed, let it be known that the princess is sick unto death. Bring this news to the ears of your architect. Let his heart be filled with grief and sorrow. This will bring balance to his now expectant heart. This will allow the emotional state of the architect to taste accord with your own."

 Shah Jehan was well pleased with the proposal and gave his vizier full authority to do as had been suggested. Immediately, the vizier, himself, went to the rooms of the architect and spoke as he had proposed.

The architect was heart-rent by the news, he was saddened, shocked and humbled by the tragic sense of his life and life itself. So much beauty, so much sorrow, so much hope, so much despair. His heart broke open and tears ran freely from his eyes. He did not know whether he was crying in sadness or ecstasy. All his life he had remembered the young woman whose hands he had seen, whose image he had recreated, whose heart he cherished. He must see her before she died. He threw himself into the plans with a broken heart. He worked in a frenzy of love. Tears fell upon the pages of drawings and his heart coursed with feeling. His hands gave form to his feeling heart and in this way the Taj Mahal was created.


In the end, Shah Jehan received the plans for the most beautiful mausoleum in the world, the architect was joined in marriage to his beloved and all of them, now dead, live on in story and the building of the Taj Mahal.


Ehvam. Thus I have heard.



"I have been to Shah Jahan's palace in Delhi-an area called the Red Fort in the inner precincts of his private domain. Adjacent to his private quarters were large marble rooms and an immense swimming pool for his consorts.
The rooms are empty now, but what were they like then? There were silken canopies, flowers, perfumes, courtiers, people in magnificent dress, and elephants fighting outside in the yard. It was extraordinary, elegant theatre. The marble rooms were not empty. they were filled with silken canopies and incense and perfumes and eunuchs and well washed ladies covered with flowers and jewels. In the center of the pool were silken pavilions. The pool was undulating with flowers. Beautiful ladies with their jewels and flowers lay around the water, occasionally diving under the water and coming up inside the pavilions.
The court of Shah Jahan was a truly elegant gathering of human beings who were willing to creatively generate the high theatre of extraordinary living instead of the realism of the Western garbage of egalitarian puritanism. You must have a larger view than the monotonous level of consumerism and economics of stressful materialistic life, and awaken to the dimension of Spirituality, imagination, exaggerated theatre and love, where everything about the human vehicle is removed far from the pig, Divinely Transfigured and Divinely Transformed by love, by imagination, by religious vision, by Spirituality, by Communion with Me."


– Adi Da Samraj








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