...fall of an empire
For the sake of a throne, the purse of the earth was emptied of treasure... download to listen: 28k, 56k, ISDN*

Taj Mahal in moonlight
The reign of Mughals from Akbar to Shah Jahan had been an era of relative peace and unrivaled prosperity in India, a time when culture and the arts had flourished, dazzling cities had been constructed, roads for trade and war were built, government was structured, the economy reformed, agriculture promoted, religious tolerance fostered and rebellions scarce. But Shah Jahan's fifth and youngest son, Aurangzeb, had little interest in the arts – he wasn't fond of poetry or music, and as a pious Moslem, painting was too irreligious for his tastes. He also disapproved of his father's lavish lifestyle,
accusing him of squandering the treasury on frivolous constructions.

When the emperor became seriously ill in 1657, Aurangzeb began a two-year-long maneuvering for power. By 1658, he had eliminated his brothers, declared himself emperor and imprisoned his ailing father. He immediately put an end to the patronage of court artists, and revoked many of the policies of religious tolerance that had been in place since Akbar's reign, hoping to impose orthodox Islam on all of India. A hero to the Muslims, he was an oppressor to the Hindus.

Shah Jahan died eight years after Aurangzeb took the throne. Acknowledging the deep love between his parents, Aurangzeb buried his father next to Mumtaz Mahal. "My father entertained a great affection for my mother;" he wrote, "so let his last resting place be close to hers." The emperor's cenotaph, placed to the side of his queen's, is the only apparent imbalance in the entire Taj Mahal complex.

Strained by a diminishing treasury and Aurangzeb's rigid governance, anarchy and dissension reigned, and the empire began to crumble. When Aurangzeb died at the age of eighty-nine in 1707, he was buried in a small tomb by the side of a road.
painting of British troops in Delhi
Between 1707 and 1748, more Mughals occupied the throne than during all the empire's earlier history. In 1739, Persian adventurers raided India and ransacked Delhi, marking the end of any unified Mughal state, and by the beginning of the 19th century India was ripe for conquest. The 19th and last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II, was deposed by the British in 1858, and the British Raj replaced the Mughal dynasty.

romance of the Taj

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young lovers | the Mughal dynasty | Shah Jahan | architectural antecedents
building the Taj | visiting the Taj | fall of an empire | timeline

Mona Lisa
detail from Guernica
Lilies of the Valley Faberge Egg
Hope Diamond
Taj Mahal
scene from Borobudur

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