Mumtaz Mahal was born as Arjumand Banu into Persian nobility. She was just 19 years old when she was married to Prince Khurram on 10 May 1613. He would go on to become Emperor Shah Jahan. They were actually betrothed five years before but had to wait for a date selected by court astrologers as most conducive to a happy marriage. She was given the title Mumtaz Mahal Begum or Chosen One of the Palace. She was the prince’s third wife, but he was supposedly so taken with her he showed little interest in his other wives.
The love was apparently mutual. She travelled with him of the empire, and she even held the Imperial Seal, the Muhr Uzah, proving his great trust in her. She supposedly had no political aspirations. If she intervened, she did so on behalf of the poor.
They would go on to have fourteen children in fourteen years of marriage, though tragically seven would die at birth or at a very young age. Even more tragically, Mumtaz Mahal died giving birth to her fourteenth child. Mumtaz died on 17 June 1631, due to postpartum haemorrhage and from complications related to repeated childbirth, after a labour lasting 30 hours. 1 The child, Gauharara Begum, survived the birth and lived to be 75 years old. Mumtaz Mahal was temporarily buried at Burhanpur as she had been accompanying her husband on a campaign. Her husband was reportedly inconsolable, and he went into secluded mourning for a year. When he reappeared, his hair had turned white, his back was bent, and his face was worn. It was their eldest daughter who managed to pull her father out of mourning, and she took her mother’s place at court.
Her husband planned a suitable mausoleum for her, and it would take more than 22 years to complete the magnificent Taj Mahal. Meanwhile, her body was disinterred at the end of 1631 and moved to Agra in a golden casket. It waited for the completion of the Taj Mahal on the banks of the Yamuna river.
Shah Jahan followed her into death in 1666, and he was interred in the Taj Mahal as well. Their tomb is the central focus of the complex, though the main chambers houses false sarcophagi. Their actual graves are at a lower level.