The World’s Largest Valentine has nothing to do with chocolates, flowers or a romantic dinner. Although these are traditional elements of Cupid’s Day, this particular Valentine gets the prize reserved for The Top. Maybe, even, Over The Top.
Here are some clues:
1. It is 350 years old
2. It was built by a man for the woman he loved.
3. It took twenty two years and 20,000 men to complete.
4. It is twenty four stories high.
5. It sits on a marble platform larger than a football field’s length squared.
6. It is adorned with semiprecious jewels
7. It is located in Agra, India.
Yes, the Taj Mahal is the World’s Largest Valentine.
In the 1600’s, Shah Jahan lost Mumtaz Mahal during the birth of their fourteenth child and his grief for his beloved wife of nineteen years was deep and real. During the mourning period he forbade color, dancing and even perfume in his sophisticated and ostentatious court.
Shah Jahan could have kept his feelings for Mumtaz locked in his heart. He could have abdicated. He could have replaced her with another queen. He did none of these. Instead, he boldly designed and had erected a mausoleum in her honor. It became known as Mumtaz’s Palace which, in Hindi, is Mumtaz’s Mahal, easily shortened to Taj Mahal.
This “building by Tiffany’s” reflects the flow, the grace, and the beauty of Mumtaz Mahal. He used the very sky behind the mausoleum as an active and ever-changing backdrop for his masterpiece. Clouds, sunshine, and rain reflect varying light and color on the Taj Mahal’s white marble.
With deep feelings for Mumtaz, a well developed architectural ability, and his position as Emperor of a large and almost unimaginably wealthy empire, Shah Jahan was uniquely equipped with the essentials to create what has become his gift to the world. Never before had this particular combination been present.
It took wealth most of us cannot imagine to have created a 24-story building covered with thick marble slabs, inlaid with artistically shaped precious stones, and abundant with lush carvings of plants and growing flowers. The Taj Mahal is protected by four 145-foot minarets located at the corners of its marble platform which itself is set between two identical buildings of red sandstone. It boasts waterways which symmetrically dissect its lavish gardens and the entire complex is walled and finished with a massive gate and forecourt.
No wonder it took more than two decades to finish.
But it was finished and it stands today as a monument to the love between a man and a woman.
It is the World’s Largest Valentine.
It is the Taj Mahal.