The Taj Mahal, often called the most beautiful building in the world, was built by an emperor as a memorial to his beloved wife.
Prince Khurram, the future Shah Jahan, was born in 1592. His father was Jahangir, the fourth Mughal emperor of India. According to legend, the prince met Arjumand Banu Begum, the daughter of his father's prime minister, at a bazaar when he was 14 and she was 15. Smitten, the prince bought a diamond from the girl for 10,000 rupees, then went to his father and announced his desire to marry her.
Their wedding took place five years later, in 1612. From that time they were inseparable (although Shah Jahan also had other wives). After becoming emperor in 1628, Shah Jahan entrusted Arjumand Banu with the royal seal. He called her Mumtaz Mahal, "jewel of the palace." She accompanied him on military campaigns, advised him on affairs of state, and was loved by his subjects for her charitable work.
In 1631, Mumtaz Mahal died giving birth to their 14th child. Her heartbroken husband spent approximately two decades, and much of the money in the royal treasury, fulfilling his wife's dying wish by building a monument to their love.
The Taj Mahal is considered one of the wonders of the world. It stands amid acres of gardens on the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra. The most famous part of the monument is the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal with its white marble dome, but the 42-acre complex also includes mosques, minarets and other buildings.
In 1657 Shah Jahan fell ill, and in 1658 his son Aurangzeb took the opportunity to imprison his father and seize the throne. Shah Jahan remained in captivity until his death in 1666. It is said he spent the last days of his life staring into a small piece of glass at the reflection of the Taj Mahal, and died with the mirror in his hand. He is buried in the Taj Mahal with the wife he never forgot.
There are ugly aspects to the legend of the Taj Mahal. It is said Shah Jahan had the hands or fingers of the craftsmen who built the Taj Mahal cut off to ensure they couldn't create another building like it. The chief architect was supposedly beheaded.
It has been suggested that Shah Jahan never intended to be entombed with his wife, but planned to build a second, black marble Taj to serve as his mausoleum. However, many scholars doubt this story and believe the emperor did indeed wish to be buried near Mumtaz Mahal.