“You know Sheh Jahan, life and youth, wealth and glory, they all drift away in the correct of time. You strove therefore, to perpetuate only the sorrow of your heart? Let the splendor of diamond, pearl and ruby vanish? Only let this one teardrop, this Taj Mahal, glisten spotlessly bright on the cheek of time, forever, and ever”.
Rabindranath Tagore on Taj Mahal
For centuries, connoisseurs, artists, poets and even lay people have never failed to appreciate Taj as the greatest monument of eternal love. A wonder of wonders in the world, the Taj Mahal is a living edifice of human passion, which neither history dares to bury in its grave nor does time dare to forget.
But Taj was never intended to be built at the present site on the bank of Yamuna, Agra. Burhanpur, a small town close to Maharashtra border in MP was the place where Taj would have been located. The town, also referred to as the ‘Gateway to Deccan’ is located on the bank of Tapi.
Yamuna and Tapi, two rivers, one bring the glacier water from the Himalayas and the other flows through Satpura plateau in the heart of India before merging with the Arabian Sea. One aspect that bring them together is ‘history’. Tapi brought in wealth through Surat to Yamuna where it was celebrated with full opulence.
River Yamuna at Agra
River Tapi at Burhanpur
For a brief time in his youth, Shah Jahan was stationed at Burhanpur along with his most favoured wife Mumtaz Mahal.
On the night of July 16, 1631, Mumtaz gave birth to a girl, their 14th child, and soon after the delivery she died. Shah Jahan was in deep grief and had given up all worldly pleasures for the next few months. Mumtaz was initially buried in her favorite pavilion at Ahukhana (deer park), a pleasure garden across the river. But the river Tapi was not deep enough and its soil was not supportive to host a grand structure. The decision was changed.
In a sultry afternoon just before the monsoon when I decided to explore Ahukahna I was discouraged by the locals as there was no road to the site where Ahukhana is located in Zainabad Village on the other side of Tapi. A few days before it had rained and there was chances of waterlogging in the field through which one can access to the site. But I was determined and seeing my enthusiasm my guide Malvyaji assured – ‘let’s take a chance and drive’. We made it. The ruins had drawn a few group of local visitors picnicking as a part of their Eid hangover.
But to my surprise when I asked the local youth and children all engaged in selfies and food had no idea about the significance of the place. It is the irony that educating children about local history and heritage is the least of priority in Indian schools.
Then how do you expect them to appreciate episodes behind the creation of one of greatest monuments that draws millions of tourists to India from world over. The ignorance does not stop here. Even at Agra one sees the same illiteracy – ‘I asked a young man in a ghetto in Agra if he had ever seen the Taj Mahal.’ ‘Taj Mahal’? He said. ‘I have not seen it, but yes, I have heard about it. It is in Delhi’. – Royina Grewal’s ‘In the shadow of the Taj – a Portrait of Agra’.