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Shahjahan was the fifth Mughal
emperor and most prolific builder in Indian history. Shahjahan ascended to
the throne when Mughal Empire had reached its zenith. Son of Jahangir and
grandson of Akbar - the greatest Mughal Emperor, Shahjahan became ruler in
1627 at the age of 35 years. The first step that he took after ascending to
the throne was to expand his empire to the South.
During the early years of his reign, Shah Jahan preferred Agra to Delhi as
a place of residence. This preference is reflected in his selection of Agra
as the site for a number of building ventures including the world's most
famous and beautiful mausoleum, Taj Mahal.
Endowed with all the qualities required of a medieval Muslim ruler, he was
a brave and competent commander; a generous master who treated his servants
with respect, dignity and affability; and a far-sighted leader with a strict
sense of justice.
Shah Jahan was an active patron of
palaces and mosques. In 1638, Shah Jahan moved his capital from Agra to
a city in Delhi. Known as Shahjahanabad, the new capital city was laid
out under the emperor's auspices from 1639-1648.
From an early age, Shah Jahan's
four sons, Dara Shukoh, Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb, and Murad Bakhsh, grew up
in an atmosphere of bitter rivalry. In 1657, Shah Jahan became seriously
ill. The expectation of an early death provoked the four sons into
making a desperate bid for the throne.
his 30-year reign, Shah Jahan had never expected that his last days
would be so utterly tragic. With his old age and his poor health, Shah
Jahan could only helplessly watch the serious outbreak of hostility
among his sons. Shah Jahan was a mere spectator at the savage contest.
The emergence of Aurangzeb as the undisputed victor led to the father's
imprisonment in the Agra fort.
Tended by Jahanara, his eldest daughter, Shah Jahan was confined to the
fort for eight years. When Shah Jahan was on his death-bed, he kept his
eyes fixed on the Taj Mahal which was clearly visible from his place of
confinement. After his death, Shah Jahan was buried there beside his
dead queen, Mumtaz Mahal.