Empress of the Taj: In search of Mumtaz Mahal by Timeri N. Murari

To start with I am a big fan of Timeri N. Murari. I have read many of his works, both fiction and non-fiction. I have enjoyed his historical fictions and that’s how I ordered this book without realising that it falls in the category Non-fiction/Travel/History. I was skeptical for a start but once I embarked on the journey there was no looking back.

The journey was to know more about Arjumand aka Mumtaz Mahal, about whom history doesn’t have much mention. It is only Shah Jahan who could not part with her even in death and erected the most magnificent monument which people see with awe. The author travels to places where Arjumand spent time, lived and breathed her last. He was trying to understand Arjumand so that he could write a novel, a novel that became a best seller, ‘Taj’.

I love the author’s narratives. The complex scenes of the daily life or the mundane is defined with fluidity. You become part of his world. In fact in this book, I have explored places with him, walked the dusty paths of palaces and forts. He describes each moment with precision. The handling of the government officials and their attitudes are described impeccably. He looks beyond the ‘today’ to understand the lives of people in different parts of India and how their behaviour, their attitude towards life has been shaped by the intruders and tumultuous historical events. He finds the amalgamation of cultures and clans through these historical events.

He trudges through centuries within a span of a sentence, giving due importance to each era. One moment you would be standing with Shah Jahan and the next moment he brings you to the present day, present moment to deal with the sentry posted at the gates of the old forlorn fort. He describes the splendour, the grandeur of not only the Mughal Kings but also the kings associated with them.

I have enjoyed every bit of this excellent account of the journey to find tit-bits about Mumtaz Mahal in Delhi, Agra, Udaipur, Ranthambore, Indore, Asirgarh and lastly Burhanpur. Though this was not what I was looking for in this book but I am left speechless with his honest and frank narratives.

A must read esp. for Timeri fans!!

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