Introduction

In the poem Taj Mahal, the poet Rabindranath Tagore addresses Emperor Shah Jahan. He tells that life, youth, wealth, and renown, all float away down the stream of time. The pain in Shah Jahan’s heart was the memories of his beloved Mumtaz. He wanted to preserve the love, by building a monument.

Like the sunset, the imperial power also diminishes. But he hoped that at least a single sigh would stay to grieve the sky. Emeralds, rubies, and pearls are all like the glitter of a rainbow and they must pass away. Shah Jahan’s wish was that the Taj Mahal would hang on the cheek of time, like a solitary tear.

About the poet

Rabindranath Tagore was a Bengali writer who reshaped Bengali literature and music as well as Indian art in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was born on 7 May 1861. His parents were Debendranath Tagore and Sarada Devi. His notable works are Gitanjali, Gora, and Rabindra Sangeet. He founded Santiniketan in 1901 and Viswabharati in 1921. He became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. He died on 7 August 1941.

Theme

This poem is about the transcendental nature of art which has the power to enlighten the whole humanity which is transient. It is art alone which embodies the feelings of man. Here, the Taj Mahal represents the intense aspiration of Emperor Shah Jahan to glorify his sorrow. It is also an eternal monument that immortalizes art.

Line 1- 11

You knew, Emperor of India, Shah Jahan,
That life, youth, wealth, renown
All float away down the stream of time.
Your only dream
Was to preserve forever your heart's pain.
The harsh thunder of imperial power
Would fade into sleep
Like a sunset's crimson splendour,
But it was your hope
That at least a single, eternally-heaved sigh would stay
To grieve the sky.

The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan knew that life, youth, wealth, and renown would float away down the stream of time. His only dream was to save for the future his heart’s pain: his love for his wife Mumtaz. The harsh thunder of imperial power would fade like a sunset’s deep red splendor. However, Shah Jahan’s only hope was that an eternally-heaved sigh would stay to cause sorrow to the sky.

Line 12-18

Though emeralds, rubies, pearls are all
But as the glitter of a rainbow tricking out empty air
And must pass away,
Yet still one solitary tear
Would hang on the cheek of time
In the form
Of this white and gleaming Taj Mahal.

The poet says that precious diamonds like emeralds, rubies, and pearls which are like the shining beauty of a rainbow will be gone easily. Even so, one lonely tear would hang on the cheek of time in the form of this great shining Taj Mahal for the future.