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Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Shah Jahan I (full title: Al-Sultan al-'Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram, Abu'l-Muzaffar Shihab ud-din Muhammad, Sahib-i-Qiran-i-Sani, Shah Jahan I Padshah Ghazi Zillu'llah [Firdaus-Ashiyani]) (also spelled Shah Jehan, Shahjehan, , Persian: شاه جهان; January 5, 1592 January 22, 1666) was the ruler of the Mughal Empire in the Indian subcontinent from 1628 until 1658. The name Shah Jahan comes from Persian meaning "King of the World." He was the fifth Mughal ruler after Babur, Humayun, Akbar, and Jahangir. While young, he was a favourite of Akbar.

Even while very young, he could be pointed out to be the successor to the Mughal throne after the death of Jahangir. He succeeded to the throne upon his father's death in 1627. He is considered to be one of the greatest Mughals and his reign has been called the Golden Age of Mughals. Like Akbar, he was eager to expand his empire. The chief events of his reign were the destruction of the kingdom of Ahmadnagar (1636), the loss of Kandaharmarker to the Persians (1653), and a second war against the Deccan princes (1655). In 1658 he fell ill, and was confined by his son Aurangzeb in the citadel of Agramarker until his death in 1666. On the eve of his death in 1666, the Mughal Empire spanned almost , about 9/10 the size of modern India.

The period of his reign was the golden age of Mughal architecture. Shah Jahan erected many splendid monuments, the most famous of which is the Taj Mahalmarker at Agra built as a tomb for his wife Mumtaz Mahal (birth name Arjumand Banu Begum). The Pearl Mosque at Agra , the palace and great mosque at Delhi also commemorate him. The celebrated Peacock Throne, said to be worth millions of dollars by modern estimates, also dates from his reign. He was the founder of Shahjahanabad, now known as 'Old Delhi'. The important buildings of Shah Jahan were the Diwan-i-Am and Diwan-i-Khas in the fort of Delhi, the Jama Masjidmarker, the Moti Masjid and the Taj. It is pointed out that the Palace of Delhimarker is the most magnificent in the East.


Birth And Early Years

Shah Jahan was born as Prince Khurram Shihab-ud-din Muhammad, in 1592 in Lahoremarker as the third and favorite son of the emperor Jahangir, his mother being a Rathore Rajput Princess, known as Princess Jagat Gosain who was Jahangir's second wife. The name Khurram - Persian for 'joyful' - was given by his grandfather Akbar. His early years saw him receive a cultured, broad education and he distinguished himself in the martial arts and as a military commander while leading his father's armies in numerous campaigns - Mewar (1615 CE, 1024 AH), the Deccanmarker (1617 and 1621 CE, 1026 and 1030 AH), Kangra (1618 CE, 1027AH). He was responsible for most of the territorial gains during his father's reign. He also demonstrated a precocious talent for building, impressing his father at the age of 16 when he built his quarters within Babur's Kabul fort and redesigned buildings within Agra fort.


In 1607 CE (1025 AH), at the age of fifteen, Khurram was to marry Arjumand Banu Begum, the grand daughter of a Persian noble, who was 14 years old at the time. She would become the unquestioned love of his life. They would, however, have to wait five years before they were married in 1612 CE (1021 AH). After their wedding celebrations, Khurram "finding her in appearance and character elect among all the women of the time," gave her the title Mumtaz Mahal (Jewel of the Palace).

She had 18 children. Despite her frequent pregnancies, Mumtaz Mahal travelled with Shah Jahan's entourage throughout his earlier military campaigns and the subsequent rebellion against his father. Mumtaz Mahal was utterly devoted — she was his constant companion and trusted confidante and their relationship was intense. She is portrayed by Shah Jahan's chroniclers as the perfect wife with no aspirations to political power. This is in direct opposition to how Nur Jahan had been perceived.

The intervening years had seen Khurrum take two other wives known as Akbarabadi Mahal (d.1677 CE, 1088 AH), and Kandahari Mahal (b. c1594 CE, c1002 AH), (m.1609 CE, 1018 AH).

According to the official court chronicler Qazwini, the relationship with his other wives "had nothing more than the status of marriage. The intimacy, deep affection, attention and favor which His Majesty had for the Cradle of Excellence [Mumtaz] exceeded by a thousand times what he felt for any other."


A 19th century illustration of Shah Jahan.
Inheritance of power and wealth in the Mughal empire was not determined through primogeniture, but by princely sons competing to achieve military successes and consolidating their power at court. This often led to rebellions and wars of succession. As a result, a complex political climate surrounded the Mughal court in Khurram's formative years. In 1611 his father married Nur Jahan, the widowed daughter of a Persian immigrant. She rapidly became an important member of Jahangir's court and, together with her brother Asaf Khan, wielded considerable influence. Arjumand was Asaf Khan's daughter and her marriage to Khurrum consolidated Nur Jahan and Asaf Khan's positions at court.

Khurram's intense military successes of 1617 CE (1026 AH) against the Lodi in the Deccanmarker effectively secured the southern border of the empire and his grateful father rewarded him with the prestigious title 'Shah Jahan Bahadur' (Brave King of the World) which implicitly sealed his inheritance. Court intrigues, however, including Nur Jahan's decision to have her daughter from her first marriage wed Shah Jahan's youngest brother and her support for his claim to the throne led Khurram, supported by Mahabat Khan, into open revolt against his father in 1622.

The rebellion was quelled by Jahangir's forces in 1626 and Khurram was forced to submit unconditionally. Upon the death of Jahangir in 1627, Khurram succeeded to the Mughal throne as Shah Jahan, King of the World, the latter title alluding to his pride in his Timurid roots.


Shah Jahan's court
Although his father's rule was generally peaceful, the empire was experiencing challenges by the end of his reign. Shah Jahan reversed this trend by putting down a Islamic rebellion in Ahmednagarmarker, repulsing the Portuguesemarker in Bengalmarker, capturing the Rajput kingdoms of Baglana and Bundelkhand to the west and the northwest beyond the Khyber Passmarker. Shah Jahan's military campaigns drained the imperial treasury. Under his rule, the state became a huge military machine and the nobles and their contingents multiplied almost fourfold, as did the demands for more revenue from the peasantry. It was however a period of general stability — the administration was centralised and court affairs systematised. Historiography and the arts increasingly became instruments of propaganda, where beautiful artworks or poetry expressed specific state ideologies which held that central power and hierarchical order would create balance and harmony. The empire continued to expand moderately during his reign but the first signs of an imperial decline were seen in the later years.

Under Shah Jahan the Mughal Empire attained its highest union of strength with magnificence. The land revenue of the Mughal Empire under Shah Jahan was 20¾ millions. The magnificence of Shah Jahan’s court was the wonder of European travelers. His Peacock Throne, with its trail blazing in the shifting natural colors of rubies, sapphires, and emeralds, was valued by the jeweler Tavernier at 6½ millions sterling.

His political efforts encouraged the emergence of large centres of commerce and crafts — such as Lahoremarker, Delhimarker, Agramarker, and Ahmedabadmarker — linked by roads and waterways to distant places and ports. He moved the capital from Agramarker to Delhimarker.

Under Shah Jahan's rule, Mughal artistic and architectural achievements reached their zenith. Shah Jahan was a prolific builder with a highly refined aesthetic. He built the legendary Taj Mahalmarker in Agramarker as a tomb for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Among his other surviving buildings are the Red Fortmarker and Jama Masjidmarker in Delhi, the Shalimar Gardensmarker of Lahore, sections of the Lahore Fortmarker (such as Sheesh Mahal, and Naulakha pavilionmarker), and his father's mausoleum.

Legend has it that Shah Jahan wanted to build a black Taj Mahalmarker for himself. There is no reputable scholarship to support this hypothesis, however, nor other horrific legends that Shah Jahan maimed, blinded, or killed those responsible for designing and building his tomb.


His son Aurangzeb led a rebellion when Shah Jahan became ill in 1657 CE (1067 AH) and publicly executed his brother and the heir apparent Dara Shikoh. Dara was the eldest of the sons and was the favorite of both the Emperor and the people. With this Dara assumed the role of Regent in his father’s stead which brought animosity towards him swiftly by his brothers. Upon receiving this information, his younger brothers, Shuja, Viceroy of Bengal, and Marad, Viceroy of Gujarat, declared their independence, and marched upon Agra in order to claim their riches. Aurangzeb, the third son, the ablest and most virile of the brothers join them and being placed in chief command, attacked Dara's army close to Agra and completely defeated him. Although Shah Jahan fully recovered from his illness, Aurangzeb declared him incompetent to rule and put him under house arrest in Agra Fortmarker.

Jahanara Begum Sahib voluntarily shared his 8-year confinement and nursed him in his dotage. In January of 1666 CE (1076 AH), Shah Jahan fell ill with strangury and dysentery. Confined to bed, he became progressively weaker until, on January 22, he commanded the ladies of the imperial court, particularly his consort of later years Akbarabadi Mahal, to the care of Jahanara. After reciting the Kalima and verses from the Qu'ran, he died. Jahanara planned a state funeral which was to include a procession with Shah Jahan's body carried by eminent nobles followed by the notable citizens of Agra and officials scattering coins for the poor and needy. Aurangzeb refused to accommodate such ostentation and the body was washed in accordance with Islamic rites, taken by river in a sandalwood coffin to the Taj Mahal and was interred there next to the body of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.


Shah Jahan's legacy was one of the most profound of all the Mughals. A patron of the fine arts, he continued the Mughal patronage of painting, although his passion was architecture, with the highlight being undoubtedly the Taj Mahal. Painting during his reign reflected the serene prosperity that the Mughals enjoyed with many scenes reflecting Shah Jahan's interest in romance.

One of the greatest legacy that Shah Jahan was a part of during the Mughal rule of India was that of the ferocity of his successor to gain control of the empire. Shah Jahan exemplified one of the highest points in the Mughal Empire but also foreshadowed its downfall through the succession of emperors in the Mughal line. With his accession and downfall at the hands of his sons aside, Shah Jahan can clearly be seen as a leader who changed the landscape of India dramatically in the course of his reign; when you take into consideration that the legacy that brought him down as well as his great accomplishment, Shah Jahan gives us a great wealth of knowledge into the internal workings of an empire that was built from conquering, violence, and tolerance while alluding to the unstable hierarchy and the right to power in the Mughal Empire. He came to power through violence and betrayal and was ultimately brought down by the same means, exacerbating the legacy of the Mughals.

Notable structures associated with Shah Jahan

Shah Jahan has left behind a grand legacy of structures constructed during his reign. The most famous of these is the Taj Mahalmarker in Agramarker built to hold the tomb for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Upon his death, his son Aurangazeb had him interred in it next to Mumtaz Mahal. Among his other constructions are Delhi Fortmarker also called the Red Fort or Lal Qila (Urdu) in Delhimarker, large sections of Agra Fortmarker, the Jama Masjidmarker (Grand Mosque), Delhi, the Wazir Khan Mosque, Lahoremarker, Pakistanmarker, the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque), Lahore, the Shalimar Gardensmarker in Lahore, sections of the Lahore Fortmarker, Lahore, the Jahangir mausoleum — his father's tomb, the construction of which was overseen by his stepmother Nur Jahan and the Shahjahan Mosque, Thattamarker, Pakistan. He also had the Peacock Throne, Takht e Taus, made to celebrate his rule.

There is a crater named after Shah Jahan on the asteroid 433 Eros. Craters on Eros are named after famous fictional and real-life lovers.

European accounts of Shah Jahan's personal life

Numerous accounts of Shah Jahan's personal life were recounted by contemporary European writers.

Shah Jahan's family

Like all his ancestors, Shah Jahan's court included many wives, concubines, and dancing girls. Several European chroniclers have noted this. Niccolao Manucci wrote that "it would seem as if the only thing Shah Jahan cared for was the search for women to serve his pleasure" and "for this end he established a fair at his court. No one was allowed to enter except women of all ranks that is to say, great and small, rich and poor, but all beautiful." When he was detained in the Red Fort at Agra, Aurangzeb permitted him to retain "the whole of his female establishment, including the singing and dancing women." Manucci notes that Shah Jahan didn't lose his "weakness for the flesh" even when he had grown very old. However, most of the European travellers in India had access to such information primarily through bazaar gossip and not first hand.

See also


  1. Koch, p.18
  2. Koch, P.19
  3. Qazwini. fol. 233a translated by Begley and Desai (1984), p.14
  4. Bloom, J. and Blair, S. (1994). "The Art and Architecture of ʡ̯Islam: 1250-1800". New Haven and London: Yale University Press
  5. Encyclopedia of World Biography on Shah Jahan
  6. Encyclopedia Britannica Online - Rebellion of Khurram
  7. Asher, p.170
  8. Hunter, p.307
  9. Black Taj Mahal Myths
  10. Black Taj Mahal Story
  11. Black Taj Mahal Spirituality
  12. Havell
  13. Asher, p.171
  14. Koch, p.101
  15. Manucci, I, p.195
  16. Bernier, p.166 and p. 21
  17. Manucci, I, p.240


  • Padshah Nama, a book written by Abdul Hamid Lahori
  • Shah Jahan Nama/Amal-i-salih by Inayat Khan/Muhammad Saleh Kamboh
  • Nushka i Dilkhusha by Bhimsen
  • Bernier, Francois, Travels in the Mogal Empire (1656-68), revised by V.A. Smith, Archibald Constable, Oford 1934.
  • Tavernier, Jean Baptiste, Travels in India, trs. and ed. by V.Ball, 2 Vols. Macmillan, 1889, 1925.
  • De Laet, Joannes, The Empire of the Great Mogol, trs. byHoyland and Banerjee, Bombay 1928.
  • Peter Mundy. Travels of Peter Mundy in Asia, ed. R.C. Temple, Hakluyt Society, London 1914.
  • Manucci, Niccolao, Storia do Mogor, Eng. trs. by W. Irvine, 4 vols. Hohn Murray, London 1906.
  • Manrique, Travels of Frey Sebastian Manrique, trs. by Eckford Luard, 2 Vols. Hakluyt Society, London 1927.
  • Begley, W, The Symbolic Role of Calligraphy on Three Imperial Mosques of Shah Jahan, Kaladarsana, 1978, pp. 7 - 18
  • Hunter, William., The Imperial Gazetteer of India.Turbner & Co.: London 1886
  • A Handbook to Arga and the Taj by E.B. Havell

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