Who built the Taj Mahal?

The building of the Taj Mahal is a fascinating tale which Ben Kingsley is about to explore in film – but you can get your hands on the story first…

Photograph by Vinish K Saini
Photograph by Vinish K Saini

A visit to the Taj Mahal is often cited as a highlight for anyone visiting India.  But apart from being a magnificent construction, the Taj has the most romantic of stories behind it.

In 17th century Agra, the grief stricken Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan decided to build a fitting memorial to his dead wife Mumtaz Mahal. More than twenty years later and with the labor of 20,000 workers, ‘The Taj’ was built.

The story has so intrigued veteran actor Ben Kingsley, he has announced he will produce and act in a film to be called ‘Taj’ in 2010. Much respected in India after his 1982 biopic ‘Gandhi’, Kingsley describes the building as ‘an indelible monument to passion and love’.

But you don’t have to wait until the film is released to find out more about the story.

Timeri Murari’s Taj: A Story of Mughal India explores the love Shah Jahan had for his wifeTaj by Timeri Murari as well as the political struggle of the time. With so little known about Mumtaz Mahal, the detail of the love story is necessarily fictionalized, but it is surrounded by historical fact.

At the time of writing this post, customer reviews on Amazon consistently give the novel five stars, with some delighting in the extra insight it gave them before visiting the mausoleum itself.

A second novel, Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors tells the tale from the perspective of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal’s daughter, Jahanara.

Beneath a Marble Sky by John ShorsShe recounts the story of her parent’s love, giving us a Mumtaz who is her husband’s political advisor and sometimes companion in battle.  But before she dies while giving birth to her 14th child, Mumtaz passes on her many skills to her daughter, preparing her to pick up from where her mother left off.

This novel gives us another view of Shah Jahan’s grief and the political intrigue of his court. It contrasts the opulance of Jahana’s world with the poverty that surrounds it – but most importantly for anyone interested in the Taj Mahal, we get an inside look at the building of the mausoleum itself.

While there will no doubt be many interpretations of the story behind the building of the Taj Mahal, including that which will be given to us in Kingsley’s film – why not read one or both of these novels to bring this UNESCO World Heritage Site alive for you right now. What a difference it will make when you finally have the chance to visit the Taj Mahal itself.

Have you been to the Taj Mahal? What can you tell us about the love of Shah Jahan? Let us know in the comments….

Here are some links to articles about the film:

The Guardian

The Huffington Post

And if you’d like to discover more books set in India, take a journey to our main site…

The team at packabook



Disclosure Policy If you click on the links in the posts to buy books, then I will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and I am grateful for your support. Every little bit helps! Thank you. (Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com)


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Please note - if you read our reviews and click on our links to buy books, we will receive a tiny commission for referring you. This does not affect the price you pay for the books, and we thank you for your support! Packabook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com