Taj Mahal

From The Telegraph:

Taj “And the Taj Mahal. How was the Taj Mahal?” Amanda asks Elyot at a particularly sticky moment in Noël Coward’s Private Lives. “Unbelievable,” Elyot replies, “a sort of dream.” Ever since the Emperor Shah Jahan’s tomb for his favourite wife, Mumtaz, was completed in Agra around 1648, people have tried and failed to describe it without resorting to cliché. More often than not they have fallen back on poetic evocations, such as Tagore’s “teardrop on the cheek of time”, while Edward Lear gave up entirely, suggesting that “descriptions of this wonderfully lovely place are simply silly, as no words can describe it”.

The Taj Mahal is nevertheless one of the most instantly recognisable buildings in the world, endlessly painted and photographed, and currently welcoming an average of 8,000 visitors a day. Giles Tillotson’s sprightly account of its structure and history, the stories that have accumulated around it and the impression it has made on tourists down the centuries is a welcome addition to Profile’s “Wonders of the World” series. These books are not only architectural monographs; they are equally concerned with what buildings mean, and few structures have meant more different things to people than the Taj Mahal. It is traditionally seen as a symbol of love, built by a grieving emperor who spent the last eight years of his life gazing on his wife’s tomb from a balcony of the palace where he had been imprisoned by his usurping son.

More here.