For the love of Taj
Taj Mahal might be synonymous with love, but for Sahir Ludhianvi, it mirrored exploitation, writes Madan Lall Manchanda
For you, Taj Mahal may be a symbol of the manifestation of love. Rightly so, because this magnificent monument was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in loving memory of his beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal. It is said that the emperor’s heart still throbs in this marvel, one of the seventh wonders of the world. It took 22 long years and 20,000 workers to build this entire complex. It is built in white marble, has a white dome and a minar on each of the four corners that sparkle under the glorious sunshine.
A perpetual dance of the fountains is on, in the reservoir in its front. It is flanked by a row of evergreen trees — Junipers Chinensis — on both its sides. Colourful flowers peep through the beds and a sheet of velvet verdure is spread around to impart it an enchanting, dreamy look on moonlit nights. For years, this has attracted the lovelorn from across the globe, to the monument.
Mighty kings, queens, beauty queens, clowns, jesters, literary giants, Nobel laureates, generals, field marshals — the rich and the poor alike fell prey to the irresistible charm of Taj Mahal and feel compelled to steal a cursory glance. The glance turns into a gaze that leave the spectators spellbound. According to an estimate, 65 lakh tourists visit the Taj every year.
History bears testimony that Shah Jahan, a great lover of architecture who also got the Red Fort in Delhi built, died a sad man in his old age. He was confined to the Agra Fort and deprived of his liberty. As per his last wish, he was shifted to that part of the fort wherefrom he could view Taj Mahal. On the fateful day, as he viewed Taj, he was seized by a feeling of self pity. A strange sadness came over him and Shah Jahan was filled with utter remorse:
‘Lab se sada yeh ayee, ‘Zamana Baddal Geya’
Ankhen Raheen mazar pe, Aur Dam nikal geya’
(A murmur came from his lips, ‘the times have changed.
His gaze was fixed on the tomb, and his breath gave way)
A symbolic structure of black marble distinguishes it from the grave of Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan had the intention to build yet another such structure in black marble on the other bank of Yamuna. But this was not to be. Shah Jahan’s son thought that would be wasting public money and time. According to a source, the land on which Taj was built was bought fraudulently from the Jaipur Maharaja. Also, unjust use of Jizia was made for it, it is said.
Sahir Ludhianvi, one of the top most Urdu poets who kindled fire in the young imaginative minds and swept them, as strong wind sweeps the fallen leaves, mounts a powerful attack on the social system that permits extremes of wealth and poverty.
In his poem titled “Taj Mahal”, he logically argues and reminded people that there have been many more — including the craftsmen who have carved the artefact — and not Shah Jahan alone who have in no lesser manner showered their affections on their love-mates. But amazingly, their mazars have remained unknown and have been erased from the memory of mankind. No one ever lit even a candle light on their mazars.
For Sahir, Taj, the monument of love and splendour, evokes a different response. He saw in Taj the design of its wealthy creator who ignored the concerns of common man. The poet mounted a scathing attack and dealt a grievous blow to shatter the illusion surrounding the monument of splendour Taj Mahal.
‘Ek Shah ne daulat ka sahara le kar
Ham gharibon ki mohabat ka uraya hai mazak’
(A king by taking advantage of his riches has mocked at the love of poor beings as us)
Sahir, therefore, pleads to persuade his lady love to meet him elsewhere and not at Taj Mahal:
‘Mere Mehboob kahin aur mila kar mujh ko,’ the champion poet writes in one of his poems.
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