For our first wedding anniversary, my husband and I visited the Taj Mahal. We were both awestruck by the grandeur of Persian sculptures on impeccable white marble.
Despite being the most visited monument in India, the crowds somehow fade away. Needless to say, Taj lives up to the hype. No wonder it’s referred to as the eighth wonder of the world. It has the same aura you feel while visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Opera House in Sydney. It represents India to almost everyone.
It was built in the 17th century by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a burial crematorium for his belated wife Mumtaz Mahal. Emperor’s eternal love for his beloved resulted in this opus magnum of a building. It would cost about $110.5 million to build something of this scale today. The Taj Mahal is not just a landmark, it’s a monument of love. It’s a benchmark of one’s devotion to their partner.
Its unparalleled magnificence makes it a visual like none other. But it’s more than what meets the eye. It is a beautiful reminder of love and loss.
The Taj Mahal can teach us some timeless lessons on love.
1. Love isn’t fair, but that’s what makes it so beautiful.
Even if you find the person who’s right for you, there is no guarantee they will stick with you forever. This thought is scary. You put yourself out there, show your vulnerable self to someone only to get hurt. You can’t expect fairness but you will discover yourself in the process. That’s the beauty of this sentiment.
There is a tragedy in all great love stories. Mumtaz Mahal was one of three wives of the king. Sadly, she died while giving birth to their 14th child. These facts do not sound ‘fair’ by any means. Yet, it is one of the most romantic places to propose in the world. In spite of the hardships, people aspire to have a timeless romance like Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Their immortal story keeps our faith intact in all the goodness that is love.
Oftentimes, love would not find a forever. Yet, it will enable you to create something incredible. Having experienced that moment in time is what makes it worth it.
2. Love isn’t happiness, at least not always.
Love will result in heartbreak, sooner or later. It’s a paradox. With joy comes pain. So, don’t expect a constant supply of happiness while committing to love. Love can, however, inspire you. It can be an incredible source of personal growth and improvement.
Happiness in love is created as a result of the progress we make as individuals.
It was a different time and era when Shah Jahan’s love story unfolded. But the resulting outcome makes one believe it must be beautiful. Their time together was limited, and after Mumtaz’s death, Shah Jahan was captured and imprisoned by his son. Yet, he could see the Taj Mahal from his prison cell. He never let go of the memory of his beloved wife. His last wish was to be buried next to her. So, in a way, he found his forever and beyond with his beloved.
3. Love is all about keeping promises.
Promises are the gateway to love. They signify everything beautiful about being in love — the foundation for trust and commitment. Yet, they are not always easy to keep. Honor your small promises and you’ll never have to worry about the big ones being broken.
Legend has it that Mumtaz’s last wish was to be buried in the world’s most beautiful mausoleum. And her husband did everything in his power to make her wish true. With this promise, he found his purpose even when his beloved was gone. That’s the power of a promise.
Promise making is more complex than it appears on the surface. The reasons for making and keeping promises are two very different things. People make promises for positive reinforcement or responsiveness motivation, while they keep them due to their self-regulation skills. Striving for the later could result in a classic love story of your own.
It sounds cliche to even expect someone to keep promises in this day and age. However, it sure is one hell of a benchmark — a not so secret for any successful relationship.
4. Grief is the last act of love.
Nothing ever prepares you for dealing with grief. No matter how much you read about grief, you don’t understand it until you feel it. Although emotions are subjective, this one is the most powerful of them all. Everything you think you know about yourself goes out of the window when you experience grief. No grief stage theory has been able to account for how people cope with loss.
If you ever fall in love, you will encounter some form of grief. It is inevitable. It is different for every person and every loss. But rarely we consider it as an act of love. If channeled correctly, it can give you the much-needed closure. It can result in something beautiful. Something tangible.
That’s what Shah Jahan did with his grief. He found his purpose. No doubt he had the power and means to create this monument. Still, he is the only famous historian to honor his deceased beloved in this way.
Grief is not only about separation. It’s about finding new and meaningful ways of continuing the relationship with the deceased.
5. ‘True love’ can outlast time.
While describing the Taj Mahal, famous Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore said,
The Taj Mahal rises above the banks of the river like a solitary tear suspended on the cheek of time.
He emphasizes that Shah Jahan knew his fame and glory will fade with time. So he built this monument to perpetuate the sorrow of his heart. Years have passed, and the king is no more, and his kingdom has perished. Still, the symbol of his love is timeless. A beautiful reminder of their tale of love.
Their love pulls millions of people every year to this monument. So in a way it lives on in all of those who visit, want to visit, or read about the Taj Mahal.
Love is powerful to withstand the test of times and separation.
My aunt lost her husband a few years ago. It amazes me how fondly she speaks of him even today. How much she misses him, yet keeps his memory alive. She makes his favorite food whenever she is low and tells us stories of the time they got married. Their love has not faded with time, hardships, and even separation. Stories like this make you believe in eternal love.
Love is the absolute greatest thing we get to experience in this life.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable while in love. Even if you end up heartbroken, which you eventually will, this emotion is worth the trouble.
For us millennials, some of these things seem too good to be true. Yet, for dreamers and believers, there is so much to take away from classic old-school romance.
Thank you for reading, and for believing in love.