on 29 January 2008
Diana and Michael Preston succeed in bringing the Mughal era to life in this book.
Though the title of the book suggests that it deals with the building of the Taj, the authors describe the whole Mughal dynasty in depth.
The book starts with how Babur invaded the Delhi Sultanate and set up his empire in Northern India. The story goes with the exploits of his descendants - Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangazeb.
The book is extremely well written, with a narrative style less like a documentary and more like a romantic tale - describing the rise of one of the most powerful and richest empires the world has known .... and how its eventual downfall came about.
The most interesting feature of the book, in my opinion, is the descriptions of the court life of the emperors. The Prestons give details of the reforms carried out by Akbar, life in the imperial harems, filial rivalries leading to bloody battles for the throne and the love lives of opulent rulers. What makes all of this truly fascinating is that it was all true - at least to a large extent.
The book quotes most of its sources and very little is based on the authors' conjectures.
I found it difficult to put the book down once I started reading it.
The only negative thing I can say is that the book could have included more pictures and diagrams of Mughal buildings. Many people who have not seen the buildings being written about will find it difficult to imagine the scale of these structures without some pictures.
All said, this is a fantastic buy for any history buff. Even if you aren't the most avid fan of history - it's a great read - just for learning about how a powerful dynasty rose and fell , and what life was like in the Indian subcontinent during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.