Magazine article Newsweek International

Monument to Love; Tracing the Colorful History of the Taj Mahal

Magazine article Newsweek International

Monument to Love; Tracing the Colorful History of the Taj Mahal

Article excerpt

Byline: Jack Livings

In 1631, mogul empress Mumtaz Mahal died giving birth to her 14th child. Court histories tell us that during her 19-year marriage to the Emperor Shah Jahan, she had been the "light of his bedchamber"; within days of her death, the emperor's beard had turned noticeably grayer. The mausoleum that he built in memory of his beloved--the Taj Mahal, completed in 1648--has stood for centuries as a symbol of sorrow and beauty.

Recent scholarship has questioned the role that love played in the construction of the monument. But for better and worse, Diana and Michael Preston's "Taj Mahal: Passion and Genius at the Heart of the Moghul Empire" (319 pages. Walker Books ) makes an argument for the commingling of love and architecture. It's unfortunate that this comprehensive history of the Mogul Empire is coated with a romantic patina (if rotting bodies ever gave off the "sweet stink of death," it must have been a localized incident), but not everything has been sanitized. …

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