Shah Jahan

5th Mughal Emperor


Born as Khurrum, third son to Emperor Jahangir and his Hindu wife Taj Begum, was given the name Shahjahan (meaning Ruler of the World) when he came to power in 1627-  A throne that came to him just a year after his failed rebellion. Shahjahan had been a precocious  child and favorite of his grandfather Akbar,  this was mostly due to his interests in athletics, hunting etc a similarity he shared with his grandfather. He was a favorite of his father too but this relationship was to sour later owing to court politics and the rebellion thereafter. 

To history, Shahjahan is best known not for his war efforts but his immense contribution to Mughal architecture, symbols of which still stand today and are thronged by thousands of tourists month on month. Within the span of his 30 year rule he established a new city, built forts, mosques, laid down several gardens and of course built the grandest building of them all- The Taj Mahal sealing his name forever to posterity.

Apart from his architectural interests, he was an able administrator and led the expansion of the empire in a moderate fashion, he was also a  man with insatiable carnal appetite giving not only 14 children to his one wife Arjumand Bano Begum, better known as Mumtaz Mahal, he had numerous dalliances and even believed to have an incestuous relationship with his eldest daughter- Jahanara Begum.

Shahjahan’s last years were largely spent solving family disputes and later the open rebellion between his sons- Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb, Shuja and Murad which broke after his illness in 1658. He survived the illness but it was the rebellion which finally took him out.

If I were to talk about the highlight of Shahjahans life- It would primarily be 2 things:

1) His Architectural contribution

2) His role in the rebellion between his sons

Lets explore this further..


 Shahjahan is lauded for contributing immensely to Mughal architecture, so great and long lasting the contribution has been that till this day atleast 4/10 of his creation feature as heavy tourist spots in India. For sake of brevity I’m mentioning all his famous commissions here, more detailed version can be found here

a) Taj Mahal at Agra

The most famous symbol of love built as a mausoleum after the death of his beloved wife- Mumtaz Mahal

b) Shahajanabad

Delhi’s 6th city was founded by Shahjahan and called after his own name. Built at the time of shifting capital from Agra to  Delhi 


c) Red Fort

Royal Palace of Shajanabad, his seat of rule.


d) Peacock Throne at Diwan-i- Khas


e) Jama Masjid (Mosque)


f) Agra Fort


f) Shalimar Garden



It was in 1658 when Shahjahan seriously fell ill with stranguary (urinal problem)  so much so that it was feared he would pass away. Seeing the ailing king, the time was ripe to decide the successor to the throne. It is in this midst this confusion that the rebellion broke between the two principle contenders- Dara Shikoh and Aurangzeb. Although Shahjahan recovered from his illness it was Aurangzeb who refused to quit the rebellion.

Between the two sons, Shahjahan had always favored Dara Shikoh, his eldest, for the throne more for his syncretic thinking and genteel manner. Dara was highly intelligent and religiously tolerant person, he even translated the Upanishads to Persian. Always calm and composed, he was the closest to his father and thus favored more for the throne.

His rival for the same seat was the younger brother and his complete opposite in every manner- Aurangzeb.

Aurangzeb from his younger days had always been fastidious, reserved and narrow minded. Although highly intelligent himself and also a trained musician, Aurangzeb never had the tender quality that his elder brother possessed. He was also aloof, distant and extremely pious towards his Muslim faith.

When the rebellion came about, the fight for the throne was always between these two. Although the other two princes- Shuja and Murad equally wanted the throne, they were of no match to them, eventually both got killed in the bloody squabble between brothers. Amongst the two sisters- Jahanara and Roshnara, the eldest- Jahanara supported Dara while Roshanara was by Auranzebs side. This is how the Mughal family divided its allegiance. 

When it came to the battlefield it was Aurangzeb who proved his prowess better than Dara. By making successful alliances including with his brother Murad,  Aurangzeb was able to entrap Dara leading to his defeat pretty soon after. Dara was captured and killed and the rebellion had found his winner in Aurangzeb.

After seizing the throne he imprisoned his father at Agra fort where he was to spend his final days, his other brothers were disposed off, Jahanara chose to stay with Shahjahan taking care of him till the last hour, Roshanara on the other hand moved to court with Aurangzeb.

7 years after his house arrest, the heartbroken Shahjahan passed away.