The best books on the Taj Mahal

Giles Tillotson Author Of Taj Mahal
By Giles Tillotson

The Books I Picked & Why

The Complete Taj Mahal

By Ebba Koch

The Complete Taj Mahal

Why this book?

It really is ‘complete’ as it claims: this is the most thorough and authoritative account of the design and construction of India’s most famous building. Underpinned by robust scholarship, the story is engagingly told and wonderfully illustrated with many photographs and diagrams. The author visually reconstructs the larger (now lost) series of riverside gardens in Agra, and explains how the Taj Mahal fitted into this unique built environment. 


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Romance of the Taj Mahal

By Pratapaditya Pal, Janice Leoshko, Joseph M. Dye III, Stephen Markel

Romance of the Taj Mahal

Why this book?

Published to coincide with an exhibition held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art back in 1989, this book still offers one of the best introductions to the cultural world of the Taj Mahal. Written by the curators at LACMA, the various chapters place the design of the tomb in the wider context of the decorative arts of Mughal India and show how it has also inspired later artists around the world. 


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Taj Mahal: The Illumined Tomb- An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Mughal and European Documentary Sources

By W.E. Begley, Z.A. Desai

Taj Mahal: The Illumined Tomb- An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Mughal and European Documentary Sources

Why this book?

This is an anthology of all of the written sources on the Taj Mahal from the period of its construction in the 17th century. It brings together translations of every description or mention of the building in Mughal court histories, or accounts by foreign travellers, and explains all of the historical and religious inscriptions that are written on the building itself. The book is meant for the serious student and lacks narrative flow; but the focus exclusively on written sources dating from the same time as the Taj really helps you understand it in its own time. 


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The Moonlight Garden: New Discoveries at the Taj Mahal

By Elizabeth B. Moynihan

The Moonlight Garden: New Discoveries at the Taj Mahal

Why this book?

This slim but well illustrated book gives an account of archaeological excavations that the author and others carried out in the mid-1990s. They unearthed the large but previously lost garden called the Mehtab Bagh on the far bank of the River Yamuna, facing the Taj Mahal. In so doing they debunked the long-standing myth about Shah Jahan’s plans to build a black replica Taj on that spot and showed instead what the real original garden scheme was like. Fascinatingly told, the story fully lives up to the claim to reveal ‘new discoveries’. 


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Architecture of Mughal India

By Catherine B. Asher

Architecture of Mughal India

Why this book?

This is a survey of all Mughal architecture, in which only a few pages are devoted to the Taj Mahal directly, but for anyone who wants to understand the Taj not as something unique and inexplicable, but as a logical part of a longer tradition of design, this book is essential reading. While there are other surveys of Mughal architecture on offer, a major strength of this one is the author’s inclusion of many minor and provincial buildings that provide a wider context for the famous stand-out masterpieces like the Taj. 


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