Mumtaz Mahal: The Woman Who Inspired The Taj Mahal

By | September 11, 2019

test article image
The Taj Mahal in 2019. Source: (Photo by Diego Cupolo/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

If you were asked "What is the most popular tourist attraction in India?" you would most likely say that it is the Taj Mahal in Agra in the state of Uttar Pradesh. You would be absolutely right: According to Indian government sources, this historic, UNESCO-designated world heritage site sees between 7 and 8 million people per year. Aside from its awe-inspiring, graceful beauty, much of the Taj Mahal's allure is its compelling backstory of love and death in the form of the marriage between Emperor Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Why was the Taj Mahal built?

test article image
A map of India circa 1700 showing the Mughal Empire at its greatest extent. Source: (Wikipedia)

In the early 16th century, the Turkic warlord Babur invaded India, and after a battle in 1526, he established the Mughal (or Moghul) Empire. The Mughal Dynasty controlled most of the Indian subcontinent until it slowly declined, with the last remnants being incorporated into the British Empire in the mid--19th century. Babur himself claimed a fine conquering pedigree, being a direct descendant of the warlord Timur and claiming relations to the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan. ("Mughal" is the Persian word for "Mongol.")