Author: Sandra Wilson
Publisher: Amundson Davis
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0976057549
The easily-recognized Taj Mahal has a story as complex and fascinating as its perfect architectural form. The people of the Taj come alive in this novel even as the events of time become compelling.
Taj follows the man who built the Taj Mahal and the woman he built it for from the time they met on their wedding day until after the building was completed.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
Agra, India ~ 1666
Shah Jahan’s shrunken body was covered with silken sheets and fine blankets as he lay without moving. Along the walls of his room, shrouded women were ready to wail their grief at the moment of his death. The former emperor had ordered his bed placed on the exquisite octagonal marble balcony, an extension of the large, airy rooms that had confined him for eight years. With effort, he looked past the nearby white pillars and low marble parapet inlaid with semiprecious stones. How many times he had walked onto this same open spot and gazed a mile down the river to admire the marble domes he had built as they reflected the color of the day—the golden orange of sunrise, the rose of sunset, the brilliant white of midday or, his favorite, the pearlescence of the moon’s reflection. Though he intensely longed to visit them again, he knew he never would.
He smiled at the structure that meant more to him than any other. Even though his architectural genius was responsible for many changes in the skyline of his empire, Shah Jahan’s dimming eyesight lingered on this favorite accomplishment of all: the Taj Mahal.
Knowing he had come to his final day on earth, his eyes sent a silent goodbye to his beloved daughter, Jahanara. She had chosen to stay with him during his humiliating years of house arrest when his son, her brother, had usurped him and begun his own rule as emperor. She stood close to her dying father as though she had the power to ward off the approach of the Angel of Death. Shah Jahan knew it would not be long before he would be free of his physical imprisonment. He no longer raged with the turbulent and agonizing anger that had pulsed through him years ago when he was suddenly transformed from Ruler of the World to prisoner. He had eventually found peace, assisted by the influence and memories of Mumtaz Mahal. He allowed Jahanara to gently feed him sharbet to relieve his thirst and help his soul resist Satan’s tempting cup of sweets on the other side of life’s curtain.
Surely, the angel who had been recording the good deeds of his seventy-five years would remember that he had been he emperor of a magnificent empire, had loved deeply and completely, fathered many children, and left a striking architectural legacy. This angel would be busier than the angel on his left shoulder who simultaneously recorded the bad he had done. The Islamic Tree of Life held a leaf with his name on it, and even now this leaf was fluttering to earth. Azreal, the Angel of Death, would read what the angels wrote before deciding if Shah Jahan was qualified to spend eternity with Allah.
As the Great Mughal he had created exceptional buildings, constructed an entire city of unprecedented lavishness and size, and sat upon a costly gem-studded throne. But it was not these accomplishments he remembered most vividly. His final memory was the deeply satisfying love he had shared with Mumtaz Mahal for the nineteen years they had been wed.
Thinking about his wife, the old man sighed and gazed again in the direction of the mausoleum he had built for her in his attempt to create a monument as lovely, as changeable, and as mesmerizing as she had been. It was his memory rather than his sight that filled his mind with pictures of the fine decorative inlay, the imposing yet delicate harmony of the entire complex, and the sound of the splashing fountains.
When the former emperor closed his eyes once more and squeezed his fist around a smooth yellow stone, he remembered a woman who exceeded even the beauty of the building which was already gaining fame throughout the world. She had made two promises to him the last time they met. One she had already kept. He would soon discover if her second promise, the most important, would be fulfilled.
He contentedly remembered the first time he had seen her. She was called Arjumand Banu Begum then. It had been their wedding day.