Mughal emperor Jahangir’s death and the following succession struggle ended in the triumph of his son, Prince Khurram, who took the title Shah Jahan, which means “emperor of the world.”
He killed his male relatives and forced Jahangir’s powerful widow, Nur Jahan, to retire. He is best remembered for building the Taj Mahal, a mausoleum for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. He was the fifth ruler of the Mughal (Mogul, Moghul) Empire and his reign marked the zenith of Mughal power and splendor.
Anticipating his father’s death, the future Shah Jahan openly rebelled in 1623 and seized power upon Jahangir’s death in 1628, putting to death all his brothers and other possible rivals. Shah Jahan was a devout orthodox Muslim. Intolerant of other faiths, he ordered the destruction of new Hindu temples and Christian churches in 1632. In the same year, he attacked the Portuguese settlements at Hoogley and Chittagong in Bengal. Both trading outposts were far from Goa, the Portuguese viceroy’s seat, and he could send no help. Portuguese prisoners were taken to Agra and kept until 1643, when they were repatriated to Goa. Shan Jahan also campaigned against the Shi’i ruled Muslim states in the Deccan and subdued them to vassalage. However he had to give up Kandahar in Afghanistan to the Persians in 1653 because they possessed superior artillery and guns, and he also lost control of previous Mughal holdings in Central Asia.
Shah Jahan ruled the Mughal Empire at its height and was noted for the extravagance and opulence of his court. He was famous for the buildings he commissioned, most notably the Red Fort in Delhi with its mosque and sumptuous palaces, especially for the gem encrusted Peacock Throne. Although he had a harem of 5,000 women, he was known for his devotion to his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, whose name means “light of the palace.” She died giving birth to the last of their 14 children. He expressed his grief for her by assembling 20,000 workers, who labored for 20 years to complete her mausoleum in Agra. Designed by Persian architects it was a synthesis of Persian Muslim and Indian styles called Indo-Islamic and remains a wonder of the world. Most of his other monuments also remain. The demands of his campaigns and projects resulted in huge tax increases that weakened the economy.
As Shah Jahan aged, his adult sons began to conspire for the throne. He kept his eldest and favorite son, Dara Shikuh, in Agra so he could begin acquiring military and administrative experience. Fearing that he was near death, his remaining three ambitious sons revolted in 1657. They fought with one another, against their father, and against their oldest brother. Aurangzeb, the third and most ruthless, was the victor. He killed his brothers and imprisoned his aged father in an apartment in Agra fort with a view of the Taj Mahal until his death in 1666. Meanwhile Aurangzeb proclaimed himself Emperor Alamgir in 1658.
Jiiu-Hwa Lo Upshur