Taj Mahal Passion and Genius at the Heart of the Moghul Empire


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Walker & Company


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0802716733

9780802716736

336 Pages

$16.95

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Built by the Moghul emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the Taj Mahal’s flawless symmetry and gleaming presence have for centuries dazzled everyone who has seen it, and the story of its creation is a fascinating blend of cultural and architectural heritage. Yet, as Diana and Michael Preston convey in the first narrative history of the Taj, it also reflects the magnificent history of the Moghul Empire itself, for it turned out to mark the high point of the empire’s glory at the same time as it became a tipping point in Moghul fortunes. With the storytelling skills that characterize their previous books, the Prestons bring alive both the grand sweep of Moghul history and the details that make it memorable. The story of the Taj has the cadences of Greek tragedy and the ripe emotion of grand opera, and puts a memorable human face on the marble masterpiece.

REVIEWS

Praise for Taj Mahal

“Filled with quotes, anecdotes and evocative prose, this true tale has, at times, the texture of a historical novel.”—Seattle Times

“In describing the Moghul Empire, the Prestons tell tales of Sunni and Shiite tensions; battles that are won by bribery as much as by force; and religious and clan wars that sweep from Kandahar to Kabul to Kashmir.”—San Diego Union-Tribune
 
"The Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, has been beautifully exalted in the hands of the Prestons, Oxford-trained historians living in London. They skillfully unveil the history of the 16th-19th-century Mogul Empire, especially its architecture, campaigns, and court life. Drawing on Mogul and Indian original sources, individual accounts of European travelers to the Indian Subcontinent, and various scholarly sources, the authors set the Taj Mahal in context and acknowledge the existence of unresolved questions, such as who the architect was. The map of India, genealogy, and pictures of Mogul architecture and gardens will help novice historians to understand better this era in India. The Prestons' occasional use of contemporary and later poetry enriches the work . . . a reliable source for readers wanting to understand the splendor of the Taj Mahal in historical context. Recommended for academic and public libraries with collections in Indian history."—Uma Doraiswamy, Library Journal
 
"The legendary shrine to love and power viewed as a defining statement of two centuries of Moghul rule in India. The Prestons brook no casual approach to appreciation of the architectural masterpiece in Agra, India, long known as one of the world's wonders . . . A century of conquests, internecine rivalries and political intrigues, plus the melding of the Moghuls' Islamic customs with the Hindu ways of their Indian subjects, is given considerable detail before the emergence of Shah Jahan, the grandson of the emperor Akbar, who was Babur's grandson. The familiar tale of the tragic death in childbirth of Jahan's beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal ensues, along with the enduring passion of his grief and the erection of an extraordinary monument and tomb in her honor. The authors['] . . . statement that the Taj not only incorporated both Muslim and Hindu elements but synthesized them into 'a building that is much greater than the sum of its influences' seems well buttressed by generations of breathless observers glimpsing its marble and sandstone exterior in the changing light of late afternoon."—Kirkus Reviews
 
“Built in 1631 by the Moghul emperor Shah Jahan after the death of his wife, Mumtaz, the Taj Mahal is one of the world's few instantly recognizable architectural landmarks, 'an expression not only of supreme love but also of confident power and opulent majesty.' To tell its story, the Prestons, British historians, trace several generations in the violent family history of India's Moghul rulers and the elaborate mausoleums they built. Though Shah Jahan—who ascended to the throne after killing his brother—undoubtedly loved Mumtaz dearly, their lives turn out to have been slightly less romantic than the legend. Mumtaz died while delivering the 14th child of their 19-year marriage, after which her husband honored her wish that he never take another wife but relied on the constant companionship of concubines. It's the family saga and the exotic palace life that hold the Prestons' attention, but they supply just enough architectural details to satisfy those who might be more interested in how the building supports its massive central dome . . . this small history breaks through the legendary facade to reveal a powerful backstory.”—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads

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Diana and Michael Preston are Oxford-trained historians who live in London, England. Diana is the author of A First Rate Tragedy, The Boxer Rebellion, Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy, and Before the Fallout: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima, which won the 2006 Los Angeles Times prize for Science & Technology. She and Michael coauthored A Pirate of Exquisite Mind, a biography of the great seventeenth-century adventurer William Dampier.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


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  • Diana and Michael Preston are Oxford-trained historians who live in London, England. Diana is the author of A First Rate Tragedy, The Boxer Rebellion, Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy, and Before the Fallout: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima, which won the 2006 Los Angeles Times prize for Science & Technology. She and Michael coauthored A Pirate of Exquisite Mind, a biography of the great seventeenth-century adventurer William Dampier.
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