Shalimar means Abode of Love in Sanskrit.
When I think of Shalimar, I immediately think of 2 things…
Shalimar is a women’s fragrance originally created by Jacques Guerlain in 1921 as a classic soft amber oriental perfume and currently produced by Guerlain.
I’m proud to say that Shalimar by Guerlain is part of my perfume collection and one of my absolute favourites. I’m attracted to fragrances with a bit of bitter, powder or floral scents compared to the citrus or sweet sugary scents that are more popular amongst our local women. Shalimar in particular has an exotic tinge to it and is not readily available here in our sunny shores. I’m also intrigued by perfumes with a history behind it and Shalimar is a classic dating back to 1921. Known as the perfume with a “bad reputation”, it was adopted by some of the 1920s bad girls (think flappers). In fact, they use to say back then…
“There are 3 things a lady never does. Smoke, dance the Tango and wear Shalimar”.
The fragrance can be described as vanilla, powdery, and sweet. The fragrance contains Bergamot, Lemon, Jasmine, Rose, Iris, Incense, Opopanax, Tonka Bean, and Vanilla. It is considered to be an Oriental perfume which was popular during its conception. The top note of the fragrance is Bergamot. The middle notes are Iris and Opopanax. The base note is vanilla.
This post was inspired by
Shalimar by Guerlain.
Jacques Guerlain drew inspiration from the incredible tale of Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor of India, and princess Mumtaz Mahal. As the story goes, the young prince Khurram met a young girl Arjumand Banu Begum at the bazaar and was mesmerized by her beauty.
After ascending to the title of Shah, he married her on 10 May 1612 as Mumtaz Mahal, The Jewel of the Palace. She was just 14 years old at the time of their engagement and would have to wait five years before they were married on a date selected by the court astrologers as most conducive to ensuring a happy marriage. She would become the unquestioned love of his life.
Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s love for Mumtaz Mahal, his favourite wife, was so great that he built her the Shalimar Gardens (Punjabi, Urdu: شالیمار باغ) in Lahore, modern day Pakistan.
She was his third wife but his favourite. The emperor was so taken with Mumtaz, that he showed little interest in exercising his polygamous rights with the two earlier wives other than dutifully siring a child with each. According to the official court chronicler, the relationship with his other wives had nothing more than the status of marriage.
“The intimacy, deep affection, attention and favour which His Majesty had for the Cradle of Excellence exceeded by a thousand times what he felt for any other”.
Mumtaz Mahal had a very deep and loving marriage with Shah Jahan. Even during her lifetime, poets would extol her beauty, grace and compassion. Mumtaz Mahal was Shah Jahan’s trusted companion, travelling with him all over the Mughal Empire. His trust in her was so great that he even gave her his imperial seal, the Muhr Uzah.
Despite her frequent pregnancies, Mumtaz travelled with Shah Jahan’s entourage throughout his earlier military campaigns and the subsequent rebellion against his father. She was his constant companion and trusted confidante, and their relationship was intense. Indeed, the court historians go to unheard lengths to document the intimate and erotic relationship the couple enjoyed. In their nineteen years of marriage, they had fourteen children together, seven of whom died at birth or at a very young age.
In 1631, during the Mughal Empire’s period of greatest prosperity, the emperor was grief-stricken when Mumtaz Mahal died during the birth of their 14th child.
She had been accompanying her husband while he was fighting a campaign in the Deccan Plateau. The court chroniclers paid an unusual amount of attention to Mumtaz Mahal’s death and Shah Jahan’s grief at her demise. In the immediate aftermath of his bereavement, the emperor was reportedly inconsolable. Apparently after her death, Shah Jahan went into secluded mourning for a year. When he appeared again, his hair had turned white, his back was bent, and his face worn. Then he began planning the design and construction of a suitable mausoleum, the Taj Mahal in Agra, India in memory of his beloved wife. It was a task that would take more than 22 years to complete.
Shah Jahan left behind a grand legacy of structures constructed during his reign but his most famous building was the Taj Mahal, now a wonder of the world, which he built out of love for Mumtaz Mahal. The construction of Taj Mahal started in the year 1631. Masons, stonecutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome-builders and other artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and also from Central Asia and Iran. An epitome of love, it made use of the services of 22,000 laborers and 1,000 elephants. The monument was built entirely out of white marble, which was brought in from all over India and central Asia. After an expenditure of approximately 32 million rupees (approx US $68000), Taj Mahal was finally completed in the year 1653.
It has been said that upon the completion of Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan ordered the hands of the workers to be cut-off and blinded so that the masterpiece could never be recreated.
Upon his death, his son Aurangazeb had him interred in it next to her. The inscriptions in Persian on the sides of the actual tomb of Mumtaz Mahal were “O Noble, O Magnificent, O Majestic, O Unique, O Eternal, O Glorious… “.
I have always been captivated by the love story behind the love story behind the Taj Mahal. The lengths the emperor had gone through to show his love for his beloved wife seems surreal, like it came out from Shakespeare but indeed, it is a true story. Despite everything that has happened in my past, I would like to believe that love and devotion such as this can still exist. And we have the Taj Mahal to remind us that it did.
So just as Jacques Guerlain was inspired by Emperor Shah Jahan and Mumtaz’s love story and named the perfume Shalimar, in honour of Mumtaz’s favourite garden, a fragrance that symbolizes immortal affection and desire, I wanted a piece of that love and history with me too.