Everyone knows about the Taj Mahal, perhaps the most beautiful monument of love that humanity has ever known. What most people do not know, however, is that the queen who rests inside the marvelous mausoleum had a daughter, a daughter who happens to have a lesser known resting place.
Mumtaz Mahal will forever sleep inside of the Taj Mahal. But where does her daughter rest? And who is she?
Jahanara Begum, (April 2, 1614 – September 16, 1681) the eldest daughter of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and Queen Mumtaz Mahal, lived a life split between two worlds. On the one hand, she was a princess with vast riches who at times struggled with an alcohol problem, and on the other hand, especially towards the end of her existence, she was a Faqira, an ascetic, a woman who tried to live in accord with the simplicity of Islamic spirituality. According to historical accounts, she was extremely beautiful, soulful, and self giving.
Upon her mother’s ill fated death, she, at the age of 17, inherited half of her mother’s vast fortune which was estimated to have been at least 10,000,000 rupees.
But she initiated herself into one of India’s most well known sufi orders, the Qadiriyya order, and spent her last years dedicating her life to helping others and sharing her vast wealth with the masses while developing her own connection with the divine. She oversaw the construction of many mosques and buildings, designed one of Delhi’s most famous squares, Chandni Chowk, and even built a boat herself which every year sailed to Mecca with over 151 pounds of rice on board to be distributed to the needy people of the holy city. She even wrote a biography about India’s most beloved Muslim saint, Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti, wherein she ended the book by saying “Jahanara, a speck of dust at the feet of the sages of Chisht.”
But it is how she decided to leave this world, and where she decided to eternally rest, that is fascinating.
You have to understand, that her mother rests inside perhaps the world’s most famous and beloved monument. It receives millions and millions of visitors each year. It is one of the seven wonders of the world. A wonder that was built for her mother by her father.
In other words, no human being in the history of humanity, except for her siblings, has ever had two parents that are resting inside a monument as breathtaking as the Taj Mahal.
This is what sets the stage for one of history’s biggest contrasts, right up there with the sun and moon, love and hate, light and darkness.
So where does Jahanara Begum lie?
At the age of 67, she designed her final resting place, as she had lived life as an architect, and chose to be buried in the courtyard of the Nizamuddin Dargah, where one of the most well known saints of the Chishti order and one of her spiritual masters, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, is buried. In her own words: “I have not lived the life of a princess for many years. I have tried to live a life of simplicity, humility and purity. So let my passing also be all simplicity, humility and purity.”
There lies Jahanara Begum, in a complex where thousands of people of all religions come everyday to find peace of mind, hope, love, and an answer to their deepest wishes. There she lies, a walking distance away from the man who was known as the healer of the hearts and the friend of Allah. There she lies, in the place where broken hearts get healed and where the people lay down all of their sorrows, longings and dreams. There she lies, in simplicity and grace.
Her final poem, a poem which is carved into a marble stone besides her tomb, describes her own life in a haunting but beautiful way, and knowing that this princess is the daughter of the man who built the most beautiful love monument in the history of the world and the daughter of the woman to whom he built it for, the poem takes on a depth which brings tears to the eyes.
“Allah is the Living, the Sustaining.
Let no one cover my grave except with greenery,
For this very grass suffices as a tomb cover for the poor.
The mortal simplistic Princess Jahanara,
Disciple of the Khwaja Moin-ud-Din Chishti,
Daughter of Shah Jahan the Conqueror
May Allah illuminate his proof.”
1092 [1681 AD]
This article is written by Joey Belmondo