The Taj Mahal: How to leave a legacy worth living for?
Last year I visited the Taj Mahal in Agra in India and it left a lasting impression in my mind. Having been born in India, it was sad that I got to see it when I was way past 35 but still it is a monument that lives up to its reputation many times over.
Whilst observing the near perfect architecture of the Mughal dynasty, I couldn’t help but think how big this project must have been at that time, and the mindset behind such a ‘dream’, and the need to leave an immortal legacy for generations to come.
A few facts about the Taj Mahal that I got to know which you may find interesting: it’s a tomb dedicated to Mumtaz Mahal who’s real name was Noor-Jahan, the 13th wife of the then Mughal emperor Shah-Jahan. It is mistaken by some tourists to be a mosque due to its Islamic design but there is a mosque and a guest sanctuary on either side of it, within the walls.
It took over 20 years to be built with the best of marble and other resources, including the finest artisans in the world at that time. Romantically coined the labour of love but it was surely more blood, sweat and money. Based on estimates, it cost 32 million rupees (in 17th century) which equates t0 52.8 billion rupees (in 2015) – approx. $850 million USD.
From the gardens to the fountains to the entrance gates, everything carries a uniqueness to its construction to bring together a massive WOW moment when you see it for the first time in reality.
Without sounding like a tourist guide, it is by far the most beautiful building I have ever seen in my life. From every angle, from every detail and from a construction point of view, it has many marvels that make it truly one of the wonders of the world.
But taking a step back from the architectural brilliance, what’s more astonishing is the ability of the rulers and his team of 20,000 artisans lead by court architect Ustad Ahmad Lahauri, at that time to create something so perfect and a culmination of their collective lifetime of vision, knowledge, art, skill and dedication to this ‘heavenly yet human’ creation.
How does this relate to what we aim to do in our lives and business?
In life and in business, it’s vital to aim to be the best and keep plugging away to achieve those levels of growth, be it relationships or revenue. But the common theme I find in people who leave a legacy is this ability to think beyond their times. Very few are actually able to leave anything substantial or notable behind, but those that do, build a path for millions to follow, and billions to admire.
There are many billionaires, politicians, scholars, scientists, artists, sports and movie stars but there are a handful that have learnt to value their existence on this planet for a brief time, and want to create, build and share a dream with others, so they can be remembered with love, as masters of their own destiny.
Here’s the 13 common traits that I believe are worth aiming for, if we are to leave our own legacy, no matter how great or small, be it for our own families, or communities, or country or the world.
1. Selfless givers
3. Never give up attitude
4. Ability to find, generate and mobilise resources
5. Long term vision
6. Think Big Aim High approach
7. Make or build or create the best possible product, service, solution (whatever)
8. Clarity in purpose – the why above all else
9. Investor mindset
10. Eccentric with their demands
11. Honest to their goals
12. Lifelong learners
13. Never ending focus on completing their dream
In the case for Shah-Jahan, he was overthrown by his own son Aurangzeb who felt that his old father had gone mad, and was spending everything he owned behind this dream project which seemed like never-ending. The old emperor spent his last years imprisioned in Agra Fort from where he could see the Taj Mahal, but not visit it.
The Taj Mahal has one imperfection – the grave of Shah-Jahan was not meant to be there, as he was busy building a mirror Taj Mahal in black marble which would sit on the opposite bank of the Yamuna river that runs behind the tomb. The foundations were laid but it couldn’t be completed, and possibly serves as a lesson for all of us to have dreams but be realistic about it, or else we may not be able to complete it to the end.
To my friends and connections reading this, I strongly urge you go visit the Taj Mahal once in your lifetime with your family or loved ones, as it was beautifully described by Indian Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore as, “the tear drop on the cheek of time”.