SHAH JAHAN is developing an architectural signature. White marble is a hallmark – visible in the tomb he built at Fatehpur Sikri for Shaik Salim Chisti and also at the mosque he builds in the Chisti dargah in Ajmer. It is not only his feel for material that defines his design sense, but his grasp of form, mass and scale and his confirmed leaning to paradisaical imagery. Nor is it always marble – a marble-like effect is achieved with polished plaster in the Public Audience Hall of the Agra Fort.
It is an unfortunate event however that paves the way for what will be Shah Jahan’s crowning architectural achievement. After only a few years as Queen, Mumtaz passes away in childbirth while in the Deccan. Mumtaz Mahal is interred at Buhranpur and later at Imperial Agra, on the banks of the Yamuna. It is upon this resting place that work begins almost immediately on a structure that will be seen as one of the Wonders of the Age and the world, the Taj Mahal – a vision formed from white Makrana marble and semiprecious stones.
Shah Jahan will never again adorn himself with his favourite perfumes and for two years more he will be seen wearing only white, the colour of mourning. His eldest daughter, Jahanara, Princess Flowerbed, takes over the official responsibilities of her mother Mumtaz.
*From Shah Jahan’s description of the Taj Mahal