Friday, August 03, 2007

Taj: The Woman and the Wonder by Sandra Wilson

Taj: The Woman and the Wonder is the fictional account of the very true story behind the building of one of the Seven Wonders, the Taj Mahal. Although it's fiction, Sandra Wilson keeps the facts real, and all I can say is, if all my history textbooks read like this, I would've aced all my exams.

We all know about the Taj Mahal as one of the most famous monuments in history. It is beautiful, enchanting, and ever changing. Just like a woman. I've never had the opportunity to see the Taj Mahal in person, but those who are lucky enough to have seen it and be enchanted by it, will be just as enchanted by Wilson's Taj.

Wilson brings history to life with her book Taj. The descriptions are so vivid and colourful, I felt as if I traveled back in time and was actually there. When Shah Jahan was betrayed by his scheming stepmother and lost his father's favour, I was so frustrated I wished I could've beheaded his stepmother or at least tell his father that it was all a misunderstanding so that he would behead her. When Shah Jahan's beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, passed away and he was so heartbroken and distraught, I felt my heart break too for the loss of such a wonderful woman. Wilson's portrayal of Shah Jahan and his wife were brilliantly written, and it showed how true the saying was, that 'behind every great man there is a great woman.'

Mumtaz Mahal stood by her husband through everything, even when he was forced to go to war with his father, because her aunt, Shah Jahan's stepmother, was power-hungry and wanted to rule the empire. Her devotion to her husband never wavered, although she was forced to be on opposing sides with her own father, who was brother to Shah Jahan's stepmother.

There is so much to the story behind the Taj Mahal. Before I read Taj, all I knew about the Taj Mahal is that it is one of the Seven Wonders, and that it was built by an emperor for his wife whom he loved very much. A touching story in itself.

Now that I've read the book, I see that there's so much more to it than that. The Taj Mahal is a testament of an emperor's love for his wife, yes, but it is also the testament of her devotion to him, his struggle to regain what was rightfully his against all odds, and the power of a love that transcends time and death. I understand more clearly now this love between an ordinary man who was emperor, and his exceptional wife who was completely devoted to him and stood by him through all the best and the worst of times, that led to the building of one of the Seven Wonders of the world.

Kudos to Sandra Wilson, for writing such a compelling story about Taj; the woman, and the wonder.


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