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This book provides a broad historical context for the building of the Taj Mahal, focusing on the few generations of Mughal emperors that led up to Shah Jahan, its builder, and ending with the death of his son, who imprisoned Shah Jahan. A few chapters are substantially dedicated to the architecture, design and construction of the Taj itself. So, if you're looking for a hyper-detailed physical examination of the structure alone, this book is not for you. On the other hand, it is impossible to understand the place the Taj holds in Indian history and in India's society today without its historical context. The questions of why Shah Jahan built it, what motivated him, what his life experiences and his relationship with his queen were leading up to the day the decision to build was made are all addressed by the authors. The book, written by two British historians, does present the fascinating story of the Mughals from a stubbornly western and British experience, which has both its pluses and minuses. But I confess fascination with the contemporary descriptions of various events and experiences the Prestons included, that came from a few European travelers who had access to their royal hosts' official lives. The authors also did an excellent job of presenting both sides of the evidence when it came to factually contested questions, suggesting their own conclusions but ultimately leaving the analysis for the reader to decide.
The narrative style is entertaining and logical. I found the narration by James Adam to be superb. His British accent was well-suited for the context of the book, although as an Indo-American I did wince at some of his English pronunciations of Indian words at times. That's only natural. I highly recommend this read for anyone who wants to visit the Taj (and if you are a westerner traveling to India, you almost certainly will be), or who wants an introduction to the history of the Mughal empire in India.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
Read this before we saw the Taj. Absolutely good thing to know the historical background (and to know some of the guides tales are merely tall tales). Interesting history and background plus architectural discussion.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful