The experience I had traveling and studying in India was eye opening and life changing. The opportunity to experience what I experienced was a true gift, and I will appreciate it for my entire life. I learned so much about the history and the culture of India, and how its transferred to everything they do, including their art. Alysha K., student participant in Fresno State Study Tour 2010
The Fascinating Rule of Mughal Dynasty in India
1526-1857 - Mughal Dynasty: Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur (died 1530) to Bahadur Shah Zafar (dethroned and exiled to Burma in1857). With his victory in the first battle of Panipat in 1526, Babur established the Mughal Dynasty in India. Babur founded his capital in Agra where he laid many Gardens with trees imported from northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. Of these only one, Aram Bagh, is still fully preserved, another garden, Zuhra Bagh, is partially preserved. He died in 1530 and was succeeded by his very intellectual but administratively incapable son, Humayun. Sher Shah Suri defeated Humanyun to establish an interim dynasty that lasted until 1556 when Humayun regained the Indian Empire with the assistance of Shah Tahmasp of Persia. The eldest son of Humayun, Akbar became one of the greatest monarchs of Indian history because of his inclusive and tolerant policies. The 4th Mughal Emperor Jahangir inherited a prosperous empire. The 5th Mughal Emperor Shahjahan expanded the empire further and undertook a massive architectural project in building the new capital of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi). He is most famous for his love with Arjumand Bano Begum. He gave her the title of Begum Mumtaj Mahal. The Taj Mahal mausoleum was built for her. His son, Aurganzeb, led a furious but futile campaign against the Maratha rulers of central India. He usurped the throne by killing his three brothers and putting his own father, Emperor Shahjahan, in imprisonment in his palaces in Agra Fort. After Aurangzeb the later Mughal rulers gradually lost all their territory and might. The last Mughal Emperor was Bahadur Shah Zafar who was chosen as the leader of the freedom fighters of the ‘First war of Indian Independence’ in 1857. After the British suppressed this uprising against them, they arrested Bahadur Shah Zafar, presented the chopped off heads of his sons to him on a platter and then exiled him to Rangoon in Burma. He died as a prisoner on November 7, 1862 in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) in Myanmar (formerly Burma). He was a famous Urdu language poet and his poetry is still popular in India and Pakistan.
1483 to 1526 - Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty in India, was born on February 14, 1483 in Andijan city of Ferghana, an eastern province in modern day Uzbekistan. After a series of very destructive earthquakes nothing of the architecture of Ferghana’s antiquity has survived.
He was the 7th. descendent of Tamerlane on his father's side (Babur called him Timur Beg in his memoirs). On his maternal side he was 11th. descendent of Chenghis Khan (his clan was called Chagatai). His father, Umar Sheikh Mirza, died on 8 June 1494, when Babur was only 11 years of age. Babur was eldest of 3 sons and 5 daughters of Umar Sheikh Mirza. Babur's mother, Kutlaqnigar Khanim and his grand-mother, Aisan Daulat Begum, both came from very learned and cultured families. These 2 ladies were perhaps the most influential persons in Babur's life, he consulted them for every important decision. He learnt Turki, his native language and Persian from these two ladies. Babur wrote his memoirs called Baburnama in Turki language. It was translated in Persian language and illustrated under the patronage of Emperor Akbar. Babur also composed poetry that was compiled in an anthology called the Rampur Diwan. Babur was very much influenced by the Sufi saint, Khwaja Ubaidullah Arharil, who was present at his birth. In October 1504 Babur captured the cities of Kabul and Ghazni after two short lived victories over Samarkand. From 1519 onwards, Babur made 5 successive attempts to conquer India under the Afghan Lodi Dynasty. Each time he returned with fabulous riches from the loot of Hindu temples and cities in the Lody province of Punjab. Information on this period is not available from Babur directly because he did not make any entries in his memoirs from 1520 to 1525. Other contemporary accounts mention his expeditions to Kandahar, Balkh and Badakshan also. Before the battle of Panipat, Daulat Khan, the governor of Punjab and an uncle of the Sultan Ibrahim Lodi betrayed the Lodi Emperor and invited Babur to India. On 20 April 1526 Babur won the battle of Panipat, about 43 miles north of Delhi, killing Sultan Ibrahim Lodi. Babur used the canons for the first time in northern India. Babur rode to Delhi after the victory, while he sent his eldest son, Humayun, to Agra to control the treasury in that city. The widow of Raja Vikramaditya of Gwalior, who died fighting with Sultan Ibrahim Lodi, offered Humayun, the famous Kohinoor diamond in return of his promise to save their lives and possessions. On 17 March 1527 Babur won the battle of Khanua near present day Fatehpur Sikri against the combined armies of Rajputana under Maharana Sangram Singh of Chittorgarh. 1529 he suppressed the revolt of remaining Afghans in Bihar and Bengal. Charles V in Europe and Sultan Sulaiman of Constantinople were his contemporaries. Babur settled in Agra where he laid down many beautiful gardens on the eastern bank of River Yamuna. Two of these gardens are still partially existing. Aram Bagh was the garden with many pavillions where Babur lived and died on 26 December 1530. Emperor Babur was buried in a mausoleum that was never completed, it is situated just near the Aram Bagh. It is popularly called Chowburji because it is a square building with 4 minarets at its 4 corners, quite similar in architecture to the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah near by. Sometime in 1544, Bibi Mubarika, the senior Queen of Emperor Babur accompanied his body after it was exhumed from his original grave in Chowburji to his favorite garden in Kabul.
1508-1556 - Nasir ud-din Muhammad Humayun, full title: Al-Sultan al-'Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram, Jam-i-Sultanat-i-haqiqi wa Majazi, Sayyid al-Salatin, Abu'l Muzaffar Nasir ud-din Muhammad Humayun Padshah Ghazi, Zillu'llah, was born on March 6, 1508 in Kabul. He was groomed to be the successor, although Babur divided his kingdom between his sons at his death. Best teachers were employed to teach Humayun the Turki, Persian and Arabic literature. The territories in Hindustan that Humayun inherited were the least secure because the Pashtun followers of Lodi dynasty had never fully reconciled with their defeat in the battle of Panipat. Humayun faced the revolt of the Rajputs on one side while the Pashtuns were being led by the charismatic governor of Bihar, Sher Shah Suri. Four days after the demise of Babur, Humayun was crowned the Emperor of India on December 30, 1530. The first challenge to his rule came from Sultan Bahadur, the ruler of Gujarat, who had acquired weaponry from the Portuguese. In return the Portuguese got a foothold in coastal pockets of Gujarat. Humayun launched a massive campaign in Malwa, Champaner and Mandu very successfully. But Sultan Bahadur slipped away and Humayun did not pursue him. Soon Humayun was forced to return to Agra because Sher Shah took the opportunity when Humayun was away to lay siege on the Mughal capital. Humayun managed to push Sher Shah back and regain Agra. Sher Shah attacked Bengal and took control of the province with all its riches. Finally he challenged Humayun at the Battle field of Chausa near Varanasi. Both sides were quite confident of victory but they decided to sign a treaty under which Sher Shah would become the governor of Bihar and Bengal. Humayun and Mughal troops lost sight of the enemy after the treaty. Sher Shah attacked the Mughal army encampments and killed many while they were asleep. Humayun himself had to run for his life. He fell off his horse while crossing the Ganga River and a boatman gave him an inflated leather sack to enable him to swim across the river. Sher Shah followed Humayun and took Agra. Humayun fled to Lahore but Sher Shah followed him to Punjab. Humayun managed to escape but the empire was now fully in control of Sher Shah, who established his capital in the old fort of Delhi. Humayun crossed the Thar desert to Umarkot where the local Raja gave him shelter hoping to get his assistance in protecting him from his neighboring rulers. While in Umarkot his 15 year old wife, Hamida Banu Begum, gave birth to their first child who was named Badruddin (born in Badr or full moon night) on October 25, 1542 (4th day of Rajab in 949 AH). After some time Humayun had to flee further west when the Raja of Umarkot realized that Humayun could not assist him. Now the only refuge was outside the Mughal Empire in Persia. The journey to Persia was treacherous and the infant prince could not have survived it. It was decided that Maham Anga, the governes and Jauhar, a noblemen employed in the royal household would take care of the price while they sought assistance from Persia. Jauhar hid the prince in a villager's hut when Humayun's brothers were chasing them. They were found when some villager accepted a monetary reward for informing their hideout. Akbar was then kept in Kabul until Humayun returned with an army commanded by a Shia, Bairam Khan. On arrival in Persia in 1544 the Shah Tahmasp initially treated Humayun as an equal but later their relations deteriorated when the Mughal refugee showed no signs of organzing an army to win back the Indian empire. After an assurance from Humayun that he would give Kandahar to the Shah, Humayun managed to get a sizable army to start his comeback. On March 21st., 1545 Humayun's army laid siege of Kandahar. Humayun, had to patiently wait for his brothers to surrender. Having won Kandahar, Humayun, pressed on to Kabul which it took amidst popular jubilation on November 4, 1545. Kamran managed to escape. Humayun pardoned his other brother, Askari, but put him under house arrest. Hamida Banu Begum and Humayun finally united with their son after a painful separation of many years. To evade the evil, the son's name and date of birth were changed. His new name was Abul Fath Jalauddin. He was given his popular name, Akbar, by his maternal grandfather, Sheikh Ali Akbar Jami. Kamran was soon arrested, the courtiers wanted him to be killed but Humayun decided to have him blinded and sent to Mecca for pilgrimage where he died in 1557. Askari was also exiled and sent to Mecca, he died on his way in Damascus in 1558. Humayun settled in the old fort of Delhi after regaining his empire. His reign was cut short by a sudden accident on Friday, January 24, 1556. He was descending on a spiral stairway in the library of his old fort when he heard the call to prayers by the muazzin, distracted by this, his garment got entangled with his foot, he stumbled and was seriously injured. Three days later on January 27, 1556, he succumbed to his injuries. His name Humayun literally means “the lucky one”. Ironically his life was a complete contrast to this, because he was constantly chased by bad luck throughout his entire life.
1542-1605 - Abul Fath Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar was born on October 25, 1542 in Umarkot in present day Sindh province of Pakistan. The young prince Akbar spent the first years of his life as a hostage, in Kabul in the household of his uncle, Kamran. His governess Maham Anga and caretaker Jauhar took care of him as good as they could but he did not receive formal education in his early years. After the reunion with his parents in 1545, Hamida Banu Begum and Humayun employed the best tutors to teach him but the young prince liked painting more than learning other subjects. His favorite teachers were the two famous painters who were invited by Humayun from Persia in 1550, Mir Sayyid Ali and Abdus Samad. Despite best efforts Akbar did not learn to read and write but surprisingly he had very good memory. He was very fond of hunting and horseriding. He was only 13 years and 3 months of age when he was crowned the Mughal Emperor of India on February 14, 1556 in Kalanaur, on the Pakistan border in Punjab. Initially he ruled under the guardianship of Bairam Khan. The Mughal rule in India was very fragile as there were many provincial threats looming. Akbar raided Sikandar Shah Suri in Punjab early in his reign successfully. But while Akbar was out in Punjab, a Hindu ruler commanding a mighty army took control of the capital, Delhi. Akbar with his commander, Bairam Khan immediately returned to face this biggest hurdle of infant reign. The battle (2nd battle of Panipat) on November 5, 1556 was initially going in Hemu's favor but his army dispersed when an arrow hit Hemu in his eye. At the end of the day Emperor Akbar saved his capital. Just after being crowned Emperor Akbar delegated his mother, Hamida Banu Begum, to supervise the construction of the mausoleum of Emperor Humayun in Delhi in 1562. He moved his capital to Agra in 1558 where he demolished a brick fort of Lodi rulers called Badalgarh. Emperor Akbar's historian, Abul Fazl, mentions that the site was chosen because of the natural protection on the eastern side by Yamuna River. He states in Akbar Nama that there were about 500 buildings in Agra Fort. There were two moats surrounding the high battlements of Agra Fort. The outer moat was filled with water from the Yamuna River and inner moat was dry. There were originally three gates of the fort to enter from land and one water gate in the moat leading out to the river in the east. Only two gates are now used. The gate in the south is open to public while the western gate leads to the area of the fort still under military. Many buildings of the fort were demolished by his grandson, Emperor Shahjahan, to be replaced with beautiful white marble palaces. During the last years of Mughal rule, the Jats destroyed and looted many palaces in the fort. Finally the British removed the beautiful baths and had them transported to England. For many years Emperor Akbar did not have a male heir to the throne and he used to visit holy saints to ask them for their blessings. In the red sandstone quarry and village called Sikri, a Sufi saint named Sheikh Salim Chistie used to live among the stone cutters. He belonged to lineage of the Sufi saint, Khwaja Muinuddin Chistie of Ajmer in Rajasthan. Emperor Akbar sought his blessings and the Sufi saint correctly predicted that he would have three sons. When his chief queen, a Hindu Rajput princess from Amber, became pregnant, Emperor Akbar decided to move with her to the village of Sikri to reside close to the Sufi saint. Gradually the construction of one of the finest Mughal capitals in India started in the tiny village of Sikri. Akbar was keenly interested in learning about other religions. He invited Hindu, Jain and Buddhist scholars to teach him about their religious philosophies. From Goa he invited Jesuit priests to teach him about Christianity. Three separate Jesuit missions with multiple priests came to Sikri to inform the Mughal Emperor about their faith. He also learnt about Jewish religion. This inter-religious communication influenced Emperor Akbar's architecture in Sikri. There is very little Islamic architecture in this Mughal capital, except in the Jama Masjid. Even there the mausoleum of the Sufi saint is blended with Buddhist and Jain Torana arches. In 1569 Emperor Akbar's first son was born in Sikri and was named Salim after the Sufi saint. Later two other sons, Murad and Daniel were also born in Fatehpur Sikri. Early in his reign, Akbar had a matrimonial alliance with the ruler of Amer, Maharaja Bharmal. His son Baghwant Das became an important commander of the Mughal Army. Kunwar Man Singh already as a prince led many important campaigns for Emperor Akbar. Later as Maharaja Man Singh, he commanded the Mughal Army in its most important campaigns in Afghanistan, Bihar, Bengal, Assam, Rajputana and Deccan. The most important of all the campaigns was that of Gujarat because of the maritime trade revenue from the Portuguese that it fetched for the Mughal empire. Emperor Akbar became immensely popular because of his extremely liberal religious policies. The hated tax called Jaziya on non-Islamic subjects was abolished. Emperor Akbar left an impressive legacy in architecture. In 1570 the fort of Ajmer was built. Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador of King James I of England, met with Emperor Jahangir in this fort. In 1583 the fort of Allahabad was built at the confluence of Yamuna and Ganga Rivers. In 1566 the fort of Lahore was built on top of the ruins of an ancient fort in Punjab. The almost half century of Mughal Emperor Akbar's rule in India was one of most prosperous periods in medieval history. Emperor Akbar built his own mausoleum that is popularly called Sikandara in 1600. He died in Agra on October 26, 1556 and was buried in Sikandara according to his wishes. Emperor Akbar is among few monarchs who are referred to as 'the great'.
1556-1627 - Abdur Rahim Khan Khana, also known as Rahim, was born in Lahore in 1556. He was the son of a famous Mughal commander, Bairam Khan and step son of Emperor Akbar because the Emperor married the widow of his trusted commander, Bairam Khan after he was murdered in central India. He translated the Memoirs of the 1st Mughal Emperor Babur from Turkish to Persian. He was scholar of Sanskrit and a well known poet in Hindi language. Despite being a Muslim, Rahim is better known for his Hindi couplets. Many of his poems are part of school curriculum in India. Abdul Rahim Khan Khana was one of the nine Navratnas (the nine ‘jewel’ courtiers) in the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar. He was a great admirer of Indian civilization. He was also an excellent poet and an Astrologer. His command over Sanskrit was exceptional considering the fact that he was not an Indian native but of Iranian origin. Two of his works are masterpieces on the subject of Astrology- Khet Kautukam and Dwawishd Yogavali. These two books still act as books of reference for people interested in Astrology in India. He built a tomb for his wife in 1598. He was also buried in this tomb near the mausoleum of Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia when he died in 1627.
1569-1627 - Nur-al-din Muhammad Salim Jahangir full title: Al-Sultan al-'Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram, Khushru-i-Giti Panah, Abu'l-Fath Nur-ud-din Muhammad Jahangir Padshah Ghazi Jannat-Makaani, was a child of many prayers, he was born on September 20, 1569 in the village of Sikri, where his father Emperor Akbar was building a new capital. His mother was Jodha Bai, the daughter of the Hindu Rajput Maharaja Bharmal of Amer. Her maiden name was Rajkumari Hira Kunwari. His name 'Nur-al din' means the light of faith while his royal title 'Jahangir' means conqueror of the world. As his two elder brothers died in child birth, Prince Salim, was the darling of his parents. His childhood name was taken from the Sufi dervish's name and the emperor used to call him 'Sheikhu Baba'. He was provided the best possible education. Emperor Akbar was devoted to the Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chistie. The saint's daughter was Prince Salim's foster mother. The close and affectionate relationship between Emperor Akbar and his son did not last very long. As Jahangir grew older, he became impatient to take over the Mughal throne. At one point Prince Salim openly revolted against his father but Emperor Akbar took control of the capital and the prince had to flee for his life. He took shelter in the fort of Allahabad. Emperor Akbar wished his eldest grandson, Prince Khusrau to succeed him. But just 8 days after the demise of Emperor Akbar, Prince Salim forcefully took the Mughal throne on November 3, 1605. A year later Prince Khusrau Mirza was finally defeated, blinded and imprisoned in Agra Fort. The 5th Guru of Sikh religion, Arjun Devji, had assisted Prince Khusrau and this resulted in the persecution of Sikhs under Emperor Jahangir, who otherwise followed the tolerant, religious philosophy of his father towards all other faiths. He continued the expansion of the empire with the help of the rulers of Rajputana with whom he signed treaties. He was a keen observer and wrote his autobiography called Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri (also called Jahangirnama). He was also a great patron of art and literture. An artist named Abul Hasan painted a life size portrait of Jahangir in 1617 in Mandu. This portrait was purchased in an auction by a museum in a Persian Gulf country. He married many wives both Hindu and Islamic but the most influential among them was the Persian, Mehr-un-Nissa, who was given a title of Nur Mahal (light of the palace) initially and later the more lofty title of Nurjahan (light of the universe). She was married to an Afghan soldier, Sher Afghan, who died at an early age. Some historians speculate that Emperor Jahangir had a hand in his killing but there is no contemporary documentation to prove that. In later years Jahangir suffered from his addiction to alcohol and drugs. In this period Nurjahan was virtually the empress of India. He died in 1627 on his way back to Lahore from Kashmir and was buried in Shahadara area of Lahore. A mausoleum was built for him during the reign of his 3rd. eldest son, Prince Khurram, who succeeded him to the Mughal throne.
1580-1583 The First Jesuit mission to the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar came to Fatehpur Sikri in 1580 and remained there for three years. The leader of this mission was Friar Rudolf Acquaviva, the son of the ninth Duke of Atri, who mentioned that Emperor Akbar believed that the doctrines of the Christian Trinity and the Hindu Incarnation did not match well with ‘Din-i-Ilahi’, the eclectic religion that he thought would be acceptable to many people in his empire. The most interesting personality among these Jesuit missionaries was Friar Francis Henriques who was born in Persia around 1538 and was educated in Ormuz. He converted into Christianity from his original Islamic faith and joined the Jesuit society in Bassein in 1556 (the year of coronation of Emperor Akbar). Anthony Monserrate from Vich in Spain was the third member of this mission. Father Montserrat had unprecedented access to the private household of Mughal Emperor Akbar. In his memoirs he describes in great detail the economic and political power of the senior ladies in the palace of the Emperor. When Emperor Akbar personally lead the Mughal Army to suppress a rebellion in Kabul in 1570, Afghanistan, the political charge of the capital city of Delhi was formally handed over to his mother, Hamida Banu Begum. He also described the arrangements that were made when Gulbadan Banu Begum, daughter of the first Mughal Emperor Babur and the aunt of the Emperor Akbar organized a Haj Pilgrimage for the ladies of the imperial Mughal palace. He described in detail his endeavors to convert the Mughal Emperor into Christianity and his frustration on not being able to convince the Mughal Emperor. Friar John Correia-Afonso researched the letters sent by members of this Jesuit mission to the court of Emperor Akbar and recorded them in a book.
1580-1587 - Ralph Fitch was a merchant who joined a group of fellow merchants - John Newbery, John Eldred, William Leedes who was a jeweler by trade and James Story who was a painter on a journey to Mesopotamia, the Persian Gulf, the countries around the Indian Ocean, India and Southeast Asia. This journey was financed by the Levant Company that was chartered in 1580 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I for trading with the countries of the Orient. Their journey started in February 1583 in Tyger with their initial destinations being Tripoli in present day Libya and Aleppo in Syria. In Syria they went on a boat down the River Euphrates to Fallujah, Baghdad and finally to Basra in present day Iraq. They were on this part of the journey from May to July 1583. John Eldred parted company with the rest of the group in Basra to trade. Fitch and the rest of the group sailed down the Persian Gulf to Ormuz where the Venetian merchants had them arrested and sent them as prisoners to the Portuguese colony of Goa on the west coast of India. They were bailed out by the intervention of the Jesuit monk, Thomas Stevens who was educated in New College at Oxford and one other monk. Thomas Stevens was the first Englishman who arrived in India by the sea route around the Cape of Good Hope in Southern Africa. James Story, the painter decided to join the Jesuit mission in Goa. The others remained in Goa under the watch of Portuguese from October 1583 to April 1584 when they finally managed to escape. Traveling north through central India this group of British merchants finally reached the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar at Agra and Fatehpur Sikri. In his memoirs Ralph Fitch mentioned: “Agra and Fatehpor are two very great cities, either of them much greater than London and very populous”. There is some speculation that Ralph Fitch carried a letter from Queen Elizabeth I addressed to the Mughal Emperor Akbar. John Newbery was robbed and murdered on his return journey via Lahore in Punjab in present day Pakistan. Fitch traveled further along the Yamuna and Ganga Rivers to visit the present day cities of Varanasi, Patna and Kuchbihar in Bengal. He then went to Chittagong in present day Bangladesh before traveling further to Rangoon in Burma and reached Thailand in January 1587. After traveling in the region of the Gulf of Malacca he retraced the same route back home. He arrived in London on April 29, 1591 where he was welcomed as an important consultant by the founders of the British East India Company because of his knowledge of India. He died in 1611.
1591 -The second Jesuit mission arrived in the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar in Lahore and remained there for one year.
1592-1666 - Prince Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram, the third eldest son of Mughal Emperor Jahangir and his Rajput Queen Manmati, was born on January 5, 1592 in Lahore. On ascending the Mughal throne he took the title: Al-Sultan al-'Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram, Malik-ul-Sultanat, Ala Hazrat Abu'l-Muzaffar Shahab ud-din Muhammad Shah Jahan I, Sahib-i-Qiran-i-Sani, Padshah Ghazi Zillu'llah, Firdaus-Ashiyani, Shahanshah—E--Sultanant Ul Hindiya Wal Mughaliya, but popularly he is referred to as Shahjahan. Khurram meaning joyful in Persian language was the name selected by his grandfather, Emperor Akbar. He received a well rounded education and grew up to be a great patron of literature, art and architecture.
His first marriage was to Kandhari Begum. Her mausoleum is in the southern part of the Taj Mahal complex. Already in his youth, Prince Khurram proved his administrative and military skills. Emperor Jahangir appointed him as the commander of Mughal army that was entrusted with the task of expanding the empire in the central and southern India.
Prince Khurram and Emperor Jahangir had both met their future favorite queens at a “Meena Bazaar”, a mock market that used to be organized by aristocratic and royal ladies to celebrate Nauroz, the Persian new year. Both the ladies came from a highly learned and cultured Persian Shia family of Mirza Ghiyas Beg.
Mirza Ghiaz Beg was the youngest son of Khvajeh Mohammad-Sharif who was a poet and vizier (a senior official) of Mohammad Khan Tekkelu and his son, Tatar Soltan, who was the governor of Khorasan, a Safavid province. He was born in Teheran. The father of Ghiaz Beg, Mohammad-Sharif was later listed in the service of Shah Tahmasp I (1524 – 1576) as a vizier of Yazd, Abarkuh and Biabanak for seven years. Subsequent to these posts he served as the vizier of Isfahan, where he passed away in 1576. Mirza Ghiaz’s elder brother, Mohammad-Taher, was also accomplished literary person who composed poetry under the name of Wasli.
After the death of Mohammad-Sharif, Mirza Ghiaz Beg fell in disgrace of the Shah Tahmasp I, which meant not only demotion and loss of property but even his personal safety. He had to hurriedly dispose of his possessions and flee the country with a caravan of merchants traveling to the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar in Fatehpur Sikri. But the journey was treacherous. On the way the caravan was attacked and he lost most of his meagre possessions to the looters. He was traveling with his wife and three children, Mohammad-Sharif, Abu’l Hasan (Title: Asaf Khan) and the daughter, Sahlia. His wife, Begum Asmat, was pregnant. They were left with just two mules and had to take turns on them while crossing the snow clad mountains before they reached Kandahar in Afghanistan, where his wife gave birth to Mehrunnisa (the sun among women), an uplifting name in times of hardship. The merchant, Malik Masud, came to their rescue and assisted them to travel further to India where he had contacts in the Mughal court. Mirza Ghiaz’s cousin and uncle were already serving the Emperor Akbar in provincial capitals. Mirza Ghiaz Beg served as Diwan (Treasurer) of Kabul under Emperor Akbar. He later served under his son, Emperor Jahangir, who bestowed on him the title of Itmad-ud-Daulah, the one trusted by God.
Mirza Ghiaz Beg passed away in 1622 in Kangra in present day Himachal Pradesh. His body was carried to Agra to be buried there.
Prince Khurram (later Emperor Shahjahan) was betrothed to Arjumand Bano Begum on April 5, 1607. There is sufficient historical evidence to believe that the delay in his marriage to his favorite queen, Arjumand Bano Begum, was linked to the desire of his father, Emperor Jahangir, to marry her aunt Mehr-un-Nisa. Merh-un-Nisa was married to Sher Afghan, a very able Afghan commander. Most probably Emperor Jahangir, had Sher Afghan murdered in order to marry Mehr-un-Nisa although there is no concrete proof of this in contemporary historical documents. Mehr-un-Nisa probably came to know of the conspiracy behind her husband’s murder and refused to marry the Mughal Emperor for quite a long time. She finally relented under pressure from her family members and married him in May 1611. One year later on May 10, 1612, Prince Khurram was finally allowed to marry his beloved Arjumand Bano Begum, for whom he later built the world’s most beautiful mausoleum, the Taj Mahal.
Emperor Jahangir honored Mehr-un-Nisa with the title of “Nur Mahal” or the light of the palace. Later he enhanced the title to “Nur Jahan” or the light of the universe.
Prince Khurram was very ambitious and impatient to rule, although he was not the eldest son. From 1622 to 1625 he revolted unsuccessfully against his father, Emperor Jahangir. Consequently he had to seek refuge with various provincial governors and rulers. During this period he stayed for some time in the Jag Mandir, a palace on an Island in Pichola Lake, that the Maharana of Udaipur specially built in white marble for him. The idea of extensive use of white marble in his later architectural projects could have been inspired from his sojourn in Udaiplur. His father-in-Law, Asaf Khan, finally arranged an honorable peace treaty between the Mughal prince and the emperor. Three year later in 1628 Emperor Jahangir died in Lahore where he was buried.
With the assistance and active support of the powerful Persian Shia family of Arjumand Bano Begum, the Mumtaj Mahal, Shah Jahan was able to suppress the legitimate right of his elder brothers to proclaim himself the next Mughal Emperor. Prince Khurram gave Arjumand Bano Begum the title of ‘Mumtaj Mahal’ or the crown of the palace’. She remained Prince Khurram’s most trusted advisor and favorite queen throughout her short life. She was 19 when they married. Most of her life she was by her husband’s side mostly in camps near battlefields and was mostly pregnant.
Following were the 14 children of Mumtaj Mahal:
On March 30, 1613 she gave birth to a daughter, Huralnissa Begum, her first born. She was just over three years old when she died on June 14, 1616.
The second child was again a daughter, Jahanara Begum, who never married and became the most important lady in the royal household after her mother’s death. She sponsored the constructions of many buildings and gardens in the new capital of Shahjahanabad. The famous Chandni Chowk Bazaar, the Mughal royal shopping mall, was her idea. She was influenced by the Sufi philosophy and a devotee of the famous Sufi saint Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia. She died on September 16, 1681 and is buried in a simple, elegant but beautifully carved grave enclosure near the shrine complex of the Sufi saint in Delhi.
On March 30, 1615, her first son, Shahzada Dara Shikoh was born. His name was selected from Persian and meant ‘possessor of glory’. Dara Shikoh grew up to be a very learned and scholarly person who studied Persian, Arabic and the ancient Indian language, Sanskrit. He patronized the translation of 52 Upanishads from original Sanskrit to Persian language. All earlier translations of the Upanishads in to European languages were done from this masterpiece of Hindu philosophic literature. Dara Shikoh was liberal in his religious philosophy and was very much influenced by Sufism. He was Shah Jahan’s favorite son and was groomed to be the next Mughal Emperor. In the war of succession that followed Shah Jahan’s illness in 1657, the third eldest son, Aurangzeb defeated and killed him on September 8, 1659.
Her fourth child was Shahzada Muhammad Sultan Shah Shuja Bahadur, who was born on July 3, 1616. He was appointed the governor of eastern provinces of Bengal and Orissa. Dara Shikoh’s army defeated him in the battle of succession, and he retreated back to Bengal. After Aurangzeb defeated and killed Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja tried once again to challenge his younger brother but was again defeated. He retreated back to Bengal and finally decided to go in exile to Mecca but the entire family was murdered on the way.
The fifth child was again a daughter, Roshanara Begum, who was born on September 3, 1617. She was quite influential during the reigns of Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. In Agra she patronized the construction of the Jama Masjid, which has a unique zigzag pattern created by inlay of white marble in red sandstone background on the three main domes. A locality near this Friday mosque in Agra is named after her, the Roshan Mohalla. She died in Delhi in 1671 and is buried in the garden she patronized in her life time called Roshanara Bagh.
The sixth child of Mumtaj Mahal was Mohinuddin Muhammad Aurangzeb, who defeated and killed all his brothers, imprisoned his own father and usurped the throne. He took the title of Alamgir. He was born on November 3, 1618 in Dahod.
The seventh child of Mumtaj Mahal, Shahzada Sultan Umaid Baksh, was born on December 18, 1619. He died in infancy in March 1622.
The eighth child, Surayya Banu Begum, was born on June 10, 1621 and also died in infancy on April 28, 1628.
The ninth child, Shahzada Sultan Murad Baksh, was born on September 8, 1624. Aurangzeb defeated him in the battle of succession and killed him on December 14, 1661.
The tenth child, Shahzada Sultan Luftallah, was born on November 4, 1626 and died in infancy on May 14, 1628.
The eleventh child, Shahzada Sultan Daulat Afza was born on May 9, 1628 and also died in infancy.
The twelfth child, Husnara Begum, was born on April 1630 and did not survive beyond her infancy.
The thirteenth child, Samedia Begum, was probably also still born or died in infency.
The fourteenth child, Gauhar Ara Begum, was born on June 17, 1631, she survived although her mother, Queen Mumjaj Mahal passed away. She lived to a ripe old age of 75. She died in 1706 in Shahjahanabad (present day old Delhi).
The contemporary chroniclers narrate that Shah Jahan was so heart broken at her death that he remained alone in his palace for a long time and even contemplated abdicating the Mughal throne. When he immerged from his seclusion his hair and beard had turned gray.
Mumtaj Mahal was temporarily buried on the day of her death in Burhanpur. On January 8, 1632 Begum Mumtaj Mahal was again temporarily buried in a red sandstone enclosure very close to the white marble mausoleum in the northwest side of the garden of the Taj Mahal. This enclosure can still be seen in the garden of Taj Mahal.
On March 4, 1633 the locality of Taj Ganj was established for all the construction workers to live near the site. There is some confusion about the main architect of the Taj Mahal. It was most probably designed by a committee consisting of several persons including the emperor himself. Ustad Ahmad Lahori was one of the specialists in construction who served Emperor Shah Jahan between 1624 and 1635. He was honored with the title of Nadir-al-Asr or wonder of age. Amanat Khan who was originally from Persia worked on the calligraphy inside the central chamber and elsewhere in the building according to an inscription on the main gate during the years 1635 and 1636. On December 19, 1637 Shah Jahan honored him for his calligraphy work. In 2004 a team of researchers from the Archaeological Survey of India discovered the names of 670 previously unknown persons who specialized in various artistic areas. These names were inscribed in the vaults in the foundation of the Taj Mahal. Apart from these names there is sufficient evidence to believe that Ismail Khan from Turkey (or of Turkish origin from central Asia) was the designer of the dome of the Taj Mahal. Qazim Khan was from Lahore and specialized in the casting of solid gold finial on top of the dome. A local lapidary from Delhi was the chief sculptor and the specialist for mosaic work. Muhammad Hanif was given the task of supervising the thousands of masons. Mir Abdul Karim and Mukkarimat Khan of Shiraz in Persia were the paymasters for the thousands of specialists and ordinary construction workers who were employed by Shah Jahan.
Apart from these few there were sculptors from Bukhara (in Uzbekistan), calligraphers from Syria and Persia, specialists in inlay of semi-precious stones in marble from South India and stone cutters from Baluchistan (frontier province of Pakistan). There was a man who specialized in the construction of turrets. There was another specialist for carving flowers from marble slabs. In all there were thirty seven men who had special talents and formed a creative nucleus in the monumental task of building the Taj Mahal. The ordinary labor force of about twenty thousand was employed mostly from various cities in North India.
The materials required for the building were imported from all over India and some from various countries in Asia. The white marble was from Makrana, a region in the kingdom of Mirza Raja Jai Singh I of Amber. There are original firman with seal and signature of Emperor Shah Jahan that confirm that Emperor Shah Jahan asked Raja Jai Singh I to expedite the delivery of marble. More than 1000 elephants were used to transport the marble pieces and also for lifting huge pieces of marble over a seven mile long ramp. Jasper stone came from Punjab. Jade and crystal came from China. The turquoise stone came from Tibet. The Lapis Lazuli came from Afghanistan. Sapphire was imported from Sri Lanka. The Cornelian came from Arabia. Various shades of Agate were available in India. The total cost of the construction of the mausoleum surpassed Rupees forty million (about one million dollars) in the period of Emperor Shah Jahan when one could buy one gram of gold for Rupees 1.3. Originally there was a solid gold screen around the grave of Mumtaj Mahal. This screen was replaced with a larger and very beautifully carved white marble screen that we see at present in 1642. The marks of the pillars of the golden screen can still be seen on the floor around the grave of Begum Mumtaj Mahal. This suggests that the construction of main building may have been finished by 1642. On January 31, 1647 the best friend of Arjumand Bano Begum and another queen of Emperor Shahjahan, Sati-un-Nisa died. She must also have been temporarily buried somewhere. In early 1649 a red sandstone mausoleum was built just outside the western gate to the southern courtyard of Taj Mahal where Sati-un-Nisa is buried. Across the road on its southern side is the Fatehpuri Mosque built with brick and mortar that was later laminated with red sand stone like all peripheral buildings of the Taj Mahal. The tomb of Akbarabadi Begum, the other queen of Emperor Shahjahan, is on the southeast corner of the southern courtyard. Both the mausoleums for Sati-un-Nisa and Akbarabadi Begum are referred to as the Saheli Burj or the towers for the girl friends of Begum Mumtaj Mahal. Ustad Ahmad died in 1649. The year 1648 is inscribed on the main gate of Taj Mahal and many historians and archaeologists of the Archaeological Survey of India believe that the entire complex of Taj Mahal must have been complete in 1648.
According to this construction the Taj Mahal took 17 years to complete.
The Emperor Shah Jahan himself died on January 31, 1666 and his body was carried on a boat through the river gate in the moat of Agra Fort. The body was transferred in the night in absolute secrecy through the Khizri Gate of Agra Fort over the Yamuna River to the tomb of Mumtaj Mahal through the riverside entrance to Taj Mahal that is now closed. Emperor Aurangzeb feared that there could be a revolt against him in Agra if people found out that the beloved Emperor had passed away in captivity. Shah Jahan was still very much beloved by the local population in Agra even at the time of his death.
The total length of the Taj Mahal complex from the south gate of the southern courtyard to the north wall of Taj Mahal on the banks of River Yamuna is 579.2 meters or 1900.3 feet. The width of the complex from its eastern wall to the western one is 304.8 meters or 1000 feet. This entire area has seven very conspicuous elements:
The Darwaza or the main gate to enter into the gardens in front of the mausoleum; the Mughal Charbagh or the garden that is divided in four parts that is in front of the Taj Mahal; the Masjid that was constructed for the royal family and their guests to pray when they visited the mausoleum; the Mehman Khana that was built to maintain symmetry with Masjid on the western side of mausoleum and finally the main white marble mausoleum that is the focus of attention of every visitor immediately after one enters the red sandstone main gate of the Taj Mahal. In the middle of the garden is a white marble platform with a fountain pool, where most visitors to this tomb like to be photographed.
All royal mausoleums built by Mughal Emperors had a Charbagh Garden around them or the mausoleum was placed in the middle of the garden with four divisions. In Taj Mahal’s design the main mausoleum was placed in the north of the Charbagh. The reason for this change in tradition was probably esthetical. By this placement it is reflected in the still waters of Yamuna River. The site was chosen at a specific location where even the River makes a symmetrical U-curve flowing from the northwest towards the mausoleum and flowing away from the mausoleum towards the northeast. The other advantage was that there was no building behind the mausoleum. In the bright moon light when the white marble of Taj Mahal shines, the building appears to be suspended because the gardens in front are dark and there is only open sky behind the building. There were two entrances designed in the Taj Mahal. In the north there are two stairways in the red sandstone platform leading to a gate opening on to banks of River Yamuna. The boats could come right up to the River gate bringing the royal visitors during the reign of Emperor Shahjahan and even subsequently. This entry is now closed. The other entry in to the Charbagh is through the massive red sandstone main gate of the Taj Mahal that in itself is a very impressive building. It is 151 feet wide, 117 feet deep and 100 feet high. One gets just a glimpse of white marble mausoleum as one approaches the gigantic arch in the main gate. As one proceeds further inside gradually more and more of the mausoleum is visible. When one is standing in the middle of the interior of this main gate, the entire mausoleum is beautifully framed in the northern arch of this gate. From the main gate to the red sandstone platform on which the white marble mausoleum is standing the total distance is 1000 feet. The entire area between the main gate and the mausoleum is covered by the Charbagh that is 1000 feet wide also.
The red sandstone platform at the end of Charbagh is 970 feet 7 inches wide and 364 feet 10 inches deep. This platform is about four feet higher than the garden level. There are three buildings on this Chameli Farsh red sandstone platform. The mosque is on its western side, in the center is the main mausoleum and on its eastern side is the ‘Mehman Khana’ guest house.
From the top of this red sandstone platform another white marble platform rises further 5.79 meters or 19 feet higher. This white marble platform is 57 meters or 187 feet long and its width is exactly the same. On the southern side of this white marble platform there are two stairways leading up to it. At each of the four corners of this platform are four minarets with three balconies jutting out regular levels in each of them. These minarets are 40.2 meters or 132 feet high. They were planned to be slightly leaning outwards. In case of an earthquake they would fall away from the mausoleum and not on it. From this white platform one climbs another 3 feet over the white marble steps in front of the mausoleum’s entrance. The total height of the mausoleum from the bottom of the 19 feet high white marble platform to the top of metal finial crowning the main dome is 74.2 meters or 243 feet 6 inches. On the roof of the Taj Mahal the dome rests on a drum shaped structure that is 39 feet tall. From the bottom of this drum to the top of the metal finial crowning the dome it is 44.4 meters or 145 feet 8 inches high. The metal finial on top of the dome alone is 32 feet 5.5 inches tall.
The foundations of the Taj Mahal are also very special. Shah Jahan had wells dug on the River bank below the Chameli Farsh platform. The walls of these wells have masonry arches on top. The Chameli Farsh Platform of Taj Mahal is resting on these arches. There are two domes in the Taj Mahal to reduce the weight of the dome and to harmonize the height of the dome inside the monument with its interior and its height outside with the exterior architecture of the mausoleum. On the roof of the Taj Mahal there is stairway leading into the empty space between the two domes. Entry to the roof of the Taj Mahal is closed to public.
The Taj Mahal was used by officers of the English East India Company for a considerable period as a private club. On the roof of the mausoleum one can still see marks left behind by roller skates used by the British. The East India Company Governor General, William Bentinck once proposed the marble of Taj Mahal and other Mughal monuments to be sold in Europe for building material. The English Parliament considered the proposal but found it to be financially not feasible because marble from Italy, Bulgaria and other European sources was cheaper.
SHAHJAHANABAD (mid seventeenth century): Before the construction of Taj Mahal at Agra, the fifth Mughal Emperor, Shahjahan, started the construction of the Red Fort of Delhi and Jama Masjid as the focal points of his new capital, Shahjahanabad.
His daughter, Jahanara Begum, patronized the construction of Chandni Chowk Bazaar. It was the Mughal aristocratic shopping mall. This was a walled city with many gates piercing it. Only a few of the original gates and some portions of the wall around this city still exist.
Shah Jahan is best remembered for his grand and majestic construction projects. He ruled initially from Agra Fort where he demolished most of the red sandstone palaces of Emperor Akbar’s period on its eastern side and replaced them with very beautifully decorated white marble ones. The decoration in the palaces was done with very elegant carvings as well as beautiful floral and geometrical motifs created with inlay of semi-precious stones in white marble. In Agra Fort’s Diwan-i-Khas or the hall of private audience, there is the following couplet in Persian inlaid with black marble in white marble background that aptly describes the grandeur of the Shah Jahan’s palaces:
“Agar Firdaus bar rue Zamin-ast, Hamin asto Hamin asto Hamin ast” - If there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.
Emperor Shahjahan was contemporary to Louise XIV, the Grand Monarch of France, “Roi-Soleil” – the sun around whom the planets (the ministers) of the court revolved. Both were grand builders. The construction at Versailles Palaces was undertaken at the same time as Taj Mahal and the new Mughal Capital “Shahjahanabad” were being built. Both had a fascination for beautiful women and both had one queen who influenced them overwhelmingly.
Shah Jahan was successful in his military campaigns to extend the empire in central and southern India. In the northeast the Persian governor was forced to surrender the fort of Kandahar in 1638. He also conquered Badakhshan and even Balkh remained in Mughal Empire for about one year. The Persian rulers regained Kandahar in 1649. In 1657 Shah Jahan was struck by a serious illness. His four surviving sons fought a series of bloody battles for the succession to Mughal throne.
Aurangzeb finally immerged the winner. He imprisoned Shah Jahan in Musammam Burj Palace in Agra Fort where Jahanara, his daughter took care of him until his death on January 22, 1666. He was still popular among the local population of Agra at the time of his death. Fearing a revolt, Aurangzeb ordered his body to be carried out of the fort in the night through a gate opening into the moat. His body was carried over the River Yamuna to be buried beside his favorite queen in the mausoleum built exclusively for her.
1594 – The third Jesuit mission led by Father Jerome Xavier came to the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar.
1605- JEAN-BAPTISTE TAVERNIER, Baron of Aubonne, was born in Paris in the year 1605. His father Gabriel had to flee from Antwerp to Paris in 1575 with his family that included his brothers Melchior and Nicolas because they were protestant Christians and were being persecuted in their native town. Tavernier traveled widely in his seven ‘Voyages’. He visited India during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shahjahan whose reign, his architectural accomplishments and his domains are vividly described in his travel memoirs.
1615 – Sir Thomas Roe: As ambassador of King James I, Sir Thomas Roe, arrived in the court of Jahangir at Ajmer/Pushkar to secure Mughal permission to establish British factories in Ahmedabad, Broach and Agra. Later a factory was built in Surat with Mughal permission.
1625-1688 – Francois Bernier was born in Joué-Etiau (Anjou) in France in 1625. He was orphaned in his infancy and was brought up by his uncle. He acquired a short course medical degree from the school at Montpellier that allowed him to practice medicine but not on French citizens. In 1655 he left France on a twelve year journey that took him to Palestine, Cairo in Egypt, Arabia and Ethiopia. He arrived in Surat in present day Gujarat State in 1658. He reached the Mughal court in Agra and was attached to noblemen of Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Emperor Shahjahan. The history of the downfall of Prince Dara Shikoh is described in fascinating detail in his memoirs. Bernier later served as a personal medical doctor of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Having the royal patronage allowed him to travel widely in India.
1639 – 1717 – Niccolao Manucci was an Italian traveler who spent almost his entire adult life in India in the courts of Mughal Emperors Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. He had close contacts with many personalities of the Mughal royal family and based on the personal knowledge gained from these contacts he wrote the ‘Storia do Mogor’ in three different European languages. Francois Catrou, a French historian borrowed his original manuscript to write ‘Histoire générale de l’empire du Mogul’ in 1715.
1857 – The last Mughal Emperor: Bahadur Shah Zafar. Bahadur Shah II the last Mughal Emperor of Delhi ascended the Mughal throne at the age of 62. He was the son of Akbar Shah with his Hindu wife, Lal Bai and was born in 1775. Urdu and Persian poetry was flourishing in India at this time and Bahadur Shah II was himself a poet of considerable reputation. He composed under the pen name of ‘Zafar’. Some of the famous poets of this era were Mirza Ghalib, Zauk, Momin and Daagh. Their poetry has remained popular even in the twenty-first century. The fighters in India’s ‘First war of independence’ in 1857 chose him as their nominal leader. The British were enraged by his defiance and after suppressing the first struggle for India’s freedom, they beheaded his male children and presented their heads on a platter to Bahadur Shah II. In 1858 he was exiled to imprisonment in Rangoon (now Yangoon). He died in the jail on November 7, 1862 in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) in Myanmar (formerly Burma). His poetry is still popular in India and Pakistan. His couplet “Do Gaz Zamin bhi mil nak saki kuye yaar main” became prophetic when he was buried in Burma away from ‘Kuye Yaar’ or the neighborhood of the beloved.