Shaji George

TAJ MAHAL AND A BRIDE´S SORROW

 It was late in the morning; Ram did not wake up yet. He did not know that he is going to meet a girl for marriage on that day. His mother knocked the door and asked him to get up and go to the temple for a prayer. Normally Ram wakes up early in the morning and goes to work. He was an architect and sculptor by profession. He carved a statue of Lord Ram and offered to the local temple, so the villagers were very familiar to him. Ram was very handsome in look; so many girls were keen on talking to him. Whenever he goes to a market, girls were around him for chatting. Ram’s parents did not have a child for a long time after their marriage, so they prayed to Hindu God Lord Ram. Finally Ram’s mother conceived with a boy. They named him as Ram and they believed him as a gift from Lord Ram. They were the citizens of Mughal Empireand Emperor Shah Jahan was ruling the kingdom. While Ram was a teenager, he used to work for the temples, he does architectural, and calligraphy works.
Ram’s mother reminded him that he is going to meet most beautiful girl in the village; her name was Lakshmi Devi – name of Hindu Goddess of wealth and Beauty. Many villagers compared her with Queen Mumtaz Mahaland they believed Lakshmi Devi was more beautiful than the late queen. Ram normally wake up before the dawn, on that he woke up late morning. His mom was so excited with bliss; she prepared special lunch for him and advised him to meet the girl before the twilight. Ram went over to the girl’s house before the dusk; the girl was so excited in seeing him and she kept talking to him until her Parents intercepted. Her Parents realized that their daughter was attracted by Ram and decided to meet groom’s parents. Both parents met together and decided to schedule the wedding on RAMANAVAMI – the birth day of Lord Rama- Hindu God.
It was a traditional Hindu wedding and several village girls were dancing just after the ceremony .It was around twilight, two soldiers arrived at the village. They announced that Emperor Shah Jahan was eager to meet Ram- well known sculptor of the time. The villagers showed them the house of Ram. The soldiers came to the Ram’s house while wedding bash was going. The soldiers read the Emperor Shah Jahan’s decree and asked Ram to follow them to meet the king. Ram kissed his bride and assured her that he would return as quickly as possible. Ram rode on his horse to appear before the king. After days of journey, he finally arrived at the palace of Emperor Shah Jahan. The soldiers took him to the King and annunciated that Ram was well known sculptor of the kingdom. The king said “I am building a monument for my beloved wife to show the world as a memory of my everlasting love. You will be the main sculptor and architect of the monument. I want to make sure no one replicate this monument; it should be very unique in design and style”. Ram replied “Your majesty, I am happy to work for your monument, I just married a day ago, would you permit me to visit my once in two weeks”. The king replied “sure, you will be rewarded with five hundred gold coins only if you complete your work “. The soldiers took Ram to a shelter where all the workers were staying. He realized that most of the workers were so young and many of them even not married. The soldiers reminded him that he will be provided with workers attire and need to meet chief architect in the next day morning. Ram was greeted by other workers and they were discomfited knowing that Ram was taken by the soldiers during the wedding ceremony. The co workers warned him that the king never kept his word and he would not allow anyone to leave for vacation. The workers were working day and night and it was King’s order that no one allowed to leave the premises until the monument is completed.
Next day, Ram woke up early in the morning for prayer; he was excited to meet the chief architect- a Middle Eastern man whom the king brought over there to oversee the construction. He went to the Architect’s room and there was picture of a monument drawn on the wall. He did not realize that it was the monument they were building. The architect gave a large piece marble stone and asked Ram to engrave the picture on the wall to the stone. Ram spent whole week and finally engraved the picture of Monument into the stone. The architect was highly impressed on his skill and hired him as the main sculptor. Ram said “I know you are the main architect and advisor of the King, I will do all the work with sincerity and will utilize whole my skills. Would you ask the king to permit for vacation every year to see my wife?” The architect replied “It is King’s order that no one can leave the site locale until the monument is completed”. Ram was little disappointed but he had confidence in gaining king’s appreciation by accomplishing stupendous calligraphy work. Ram showed his skills in calligraphy and sculptor as well.
Next day on wards, his work really started. He was taken to a place where he was shown around twenty five thousands drawings, it was his job to engrave those drawings into marble stones. He was given five hundred carvers to build the images for the monument. He was told that stones and marbles were coming from different parts of the world and it would take ten years to receive all the stones. Every image he carved, it was a replica of Hindu god and goddess even though it was designed to show the Islamic art to the world. He was assigned a young calligrapher named Arjun, for him Ram was not a master but a great friend. They shared their stories and pain each other. Arjun was unmarried young man, he had a girl friend. He left his girl friend and came to the city of Agra for work so he can make money before the wedding. Ram told him once anyone started to work with the emperor, it would be quite difficult to leave the work since it is against the King’s decree. Ram told him that he had to leave his wife during his wedding ceremony even though he begged for a short break from work. Next day ended with disturbing news that Arjun fell down from roof of the mausoleum, many workers believed it was an act of suicide. It was king’s order; work should continue even though any accident or worker’s death might occur. The soldiers picked up the corpse and through it into a nearby forest. Ram went over to Arjun’s bed for scouring; he found a piece of White marble piece lying beneath his pillow. It was a very glistening marble piece and Arjun’s girl friend’s image was carved on it. “Life without Love is worthless” was written beneath the image. Arjun’s death caused severe distress to Ram. It took several weeks for him to recover from mourning. His hope to see his own beloved wife was fading away day by day but he was concentrated in his work to please the king.
Emperor Shah Jahan used to visit the work site every day morning and evening but he was not happy with the construction progress. He declared another decree the working hours will begin at sun rise and ends at sun set and workers will be allowed only lunch break. This cause severe distress to all the workers, several workers got sick with respiratory problems because the entire area was filled with dust and dirt. One day, Emperor Shah Jahan made a surprise visit to the calligraphy and he was astonished by seeing the images drawn on marble pieces. He asked his soldier “who is really behind this magnificent art work? The soldier enquired the workers, they told him that Ram was the main sculptor and the soldier brought Ram in front of the king. The emperor told him” I am highly delighted in your artistic workmanship and I am enchanted by the beauty of each image you carved”. The king further said “I will double your wages”. Ram replied to the King “Your Excellency, I am grateful to your honor; I will be cherished if you permit me a week of vacation to see my beloved wife? The emperor did not answer anything and ordered the soldier to double his wages. The emperor left the premises with his advisors and ministers and he was concerned with the completion of his dream monument rather than the workers solicitudes.
 Ram was counting every moment of the day; time never waits for any one. Ram spent twenty years of his life for the greatest monument on earth. The chief architect inspected the structure and declared the work was completed as per the design. The emperor was informed that final finishing of the monument was done and advised the emperor for final inspection. The emperor made his visit to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb and was satisfied in the beauty of the Mausoleum .The emperor announced a decree that the monument was completed and offered wages to the workers, artisans, and craftsmen. Ram came to know that the emperor chopped the right hand of the chief architect since he was afraid that architect might build similar architecture for some other kingdom. Finally, the soldiers summoned Ram to the palace; the king asked” Did you finish all the work assigned to you?” Ram replied” His majesty, would you give little more time to check everything before I leave the place?” The king agreed. Ram climbed over the top of the marble dome and hit the dome with a hammer so that balance of the equilibrium would change. He was afraid that the king would kill him. Since then, a single drop of water fall over the tomb during the raining season. Ram returned to the palace and the soldiers took him over to the king. The king told him” You should be paid with thousand coins since I doubled your wage. The country’s getting bankrupt and you would get only five hundred coins.” The minister gave him a bag made out of linens with five hundred coins. Ram went over to his room and took a replica of Taj Mahal which he carved on a marble stone to keep as a souvenir. Ram walked to a nearby market and bought a horse and rode back to his home. He was mentally and physically so week and he had hard time to walk without a walking stick. His long grey hair and beard made him as an old man.
     Ram took several weeks to reach at his village and the villagers could not recognize him. For him it was not difficult to find his own home. He could not find anyone outside the house and he knocked the door. He peaked through the windows and found a woman wearing white sari praying in front of Lord Ram- the Hindu God. Ram decided wait until the woman finish the daily evening prayer. He knocked the door again once the woman left the prayer room. The woman opened the door and she saw an old man standing in front of the door, she thought he might be a Hindu Sannyasi looking for food. She noticed a horse in her front yard eating hay. The woman asked “what you need from me?” Ram replied “I am thirsty, can you give something to drink?” She replied “yes, sure”. She went inside the kitchen and brought water in a clay pot. Ram drank the water and replied to her “Laksmi Devi, You don’t recognize me?” She looked at his face and realized him. She kissed him several times. She could not utter any words for a while and said “I was praying for this moment for almost twenty years”.
     She took him to her bath room and gave him a bath. She prepared a dinner for him. Before eating the dinner, he gave all the money to her and said “Please accept the gold coins that I received by the king for the job I did”. She took the gold coins and they ate dinner together as wife and husband. They could not sleep whole night and they were talking throughout the night. She curiously asked about the monument that the emperor has built for his beloved wife. Ram took the replica of Taj Mahal from his bag which he carved on a white Marble stone and gave to his wife. He said “we built this monument in the city of Agra and twenty thousand workers spent twenty one years of their life to build this mausoleum”.
     They lived together for six months and Ram was suffering from respiratoryillness. He was getting weaker and weaker and finally he died. The villagers set the logs for his funeral and his wife was standing behind it. Since they did not have any children, the Hindu priest started the fire. The villagers expected that she would immolate herself on the funeral pyre of her husbandwhich is a part of Hindu tradition called sati. One lady in the crowd mumbled “she proved herself that she was unfaithful to her own husband”.
She turned back and saw the horse which her husband brought from the city of Agra kneeled down and was shaking her ahead. She rode on the horse back and went inside her house. She came back with the gold coins and threw all the gold coins to the People and left the village. The sky turned immediately to darkness and started heavy raining and thunderstorm. The villagers were fighting each other to collect the gold coins from the mud. Unfortunately a heavy lightning hit that area and killed all the villagers who were trying to get the gold coins from the mud. Since then, no one dare to dig the ground to find the gold coins. She drove on the back of the horse almost fifty miles from her village and finally reached in a Buddhist temple. The Buddhist monk received her with a new red rob and accepted her into their monastery. Later, she became a Buddhist nun and begins to start her monasticism. She spent rest of her life as a Buddhist nun meanwhile emperor Shah Jahan was sent to the prison by his own son.
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All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Shaji George.
Published on e-Stories.org on 06.10.2010.

 

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