Biography of Shah Jahan (Mughal Emperor)
Introduction: Shah Jahan (also Shahabuddin Muhammad Shah Jahan) was the fifth Mughal Emperor in India. He was born on 5th of January 1592 at Lahore. He was the son of Muhgal Emperor Jahangir and Taj Bibi Bilqis Makani. His mother was a Rajput Princess. The early name of Shah Jahan was Prince Khurram.
Shah Jahan is considered to be one of the greatest Mughal Emperors in India. Shah Jahan ruled from 1628 to 1658 A.D.
Accession to the Throne: Shah Jahan ascended the Mughal throne in 1628 A. D., a few days after the death of his father. He was the third son of Jahangir. His two elder brothers Prince Khusrau and Prince Parvez had died during the lifetime of his father.
Except for a few rebellions which he suppressed, the first half of Shah Jahan’s reign was a period of almost unbroken success. During his reign some famines of unprecedented severity broke out in Gujarat and Deccan.
Conquest of Deccan: Shah Jahan conquered and annexed Ahmednagar in 1633. The Sultans of Golkonda and Bizapur also had to acknowledge his suzerainty and pay tribute to the emperor.
Campaign in Central Asia: Shah Jahan tried to conquer Balkh and Badakhshan, the ancestral home of the Mughals. At first he attained some success in the matter. But in the end the Mughals were disastrously defeated and the invading Mughal army was forced to leave Central Asia. During his reign Kandahar was also recaptured by the Persians. These events exposed the weakness of the Mughal army.
Patronage of art and architecture: Shah Jahan was a great builder and he built many splendid buildings. That is why many scholars called him the ‘Engineer King’. The period of reign of Shah Jahan is famously known as ‘Golden Age of Mughal Architecture‘.
Shah Jahan is remembered not for military achievements, but for his love of art. During his reign the Indo-Persian architecture reached its climax. His reign is chiefly remembered for the beauty and grandeur of the peacock-throne and the Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal was built in loving memory of his dear wife Mumtaz Mahal. The early name of Mumtaz Mahal was Arjumand Banu Begum. The love of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal is well known in Indian History. The Taj Mahal is justly regarded as a jewel of the builder’s art.
Towards the end of Jahangir’s reign began the practice of putting up buildings entirely of marbles and decorating the walls with floral designs made of semi-precious stones. This method of decoration, called pietra duro, became even more popular under Shah Jahan. He used it on a large scale in the Taj Mahal.
Shah Jahan also built at Agra, which was his capital, the Jama Masjid, the Red Fort containing the Moti Masjid, the Diwan-i-Am and the Diwan-i-Khas. He also made the famous Peacock Throne (Mayur Singhasana). Its construction took seven long years and cost the Emperor at least rupee one crore. It was indeed a gorgeous seat unrivalled in its splendor by the throne of any other monarch and exacted the admiration of all, including the foreign travelers.
Golden Age: Shah Jahan’s reign has been described by many historians as the ‘Golden age of Mughal Empire”. During his reign the Mughal Empire was at the height of its glory and greatness. There was peace and prosperity in the country. Trade and commerce flourished. Great advancement in architecture was made. Glorious progress in various branches of science like medicine, astronomy, mathematics also took place during his reign.
Policy of Shah Jahan towards European traders: The Mughal Emperors of the period were very powerful and they encouraged trade with the European countries. They gave permission to the European traders to establish factories and trade centers in the different parts of the country. The Emperors knew that the trade with the European merchants would be beneficial for them.
The Portuguese were the first European merchants who came to India. After the Portuguese came the Dutch. But they soon concentrated their activities in the East Indies. They were followed by the English.
The Mughal Emperors permitted the European traders to establish factories in different parts of the country.
Last Days of Shah Jahan: Shah Jahan had to suffer a lot in the last years of his life due to fratricidal war amongst his four sons. In this war Aurangzeb emerged victorious. He imprisoned his father Shah Jahan who had to pass last eight years of his life as a prisoner in the Agra Fort. Shah Jahan died on 22nd of January, 1666.