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The Twentieth Wife (Taj Mahal Trilogy #1)

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  8,417 ratings  ·  998 reviews
An enchanting seventeenth-century epic of grand passion and adventure, this debut novel tells the captivating story of one of India's most legendary and controversial empresses -- a woman whose brilliance and determination trumped myriad obstacles, and whose love shaped the course of the Mughal empire. She came into the world in the year 1577, to the howling accompaniment ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 29th 2002 by Atria Books (first published January 1st 2002)
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NabilaSyifaS The story of Anarkali was originally written by Indian writer Abdul Halim Shahar, and on the first page of the book he had clearly mentioned it to be…moreThe story of Anarkali was originally written by Indian writer Abdul Halim Shahar, and on the first page of the book he had clearly mentioned it to be a work of fiction. But the love story of Jahangir and Nur Jahan (Mehrunissa) is true. Hope it helps!
Source: Wikipedia and some Indian History Books(less)
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Community Reviews

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Yosita Oramahi
I finished reading this book quite some time ago back in 2004 and it left quite a deep impact on me and the way I see things. The genre is still historical fiction, one of my favourites, written by a very talented Indian author, Indu Sundaresan. The story takes us to 15th century Mughal India, about the journey of a remarkable woman that would later in her life play a great role in the ruling of one of India’s greatest emperor, Jahangir, or formerly known as Prince Salim. Like most Indian author ...more
Aug 29, 2009 K rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of Philippa Gregory-style historical romance who don't need great character development
If you like Philippa Gregory and her genre of Harlequin romance-cum-historical fiction, there’s a good possibility you’ll like this book. Personally, I just couldn’t get into it. I read the first 50 pages, skimmed the next 240 just for the sake of writing a better-informed review, and couldn’t make myself plod through the last 90. That should tell you something.

The setting, late 1500s India, was definitely original and interesting but wasn’t enough to carry the story for me, especially when it b
I have listened to the entire audiobook. I deserve four stars for doing this, but I award the book only two.

I think it proper to award two stars rather than one simply because I did learn about the Mughal Empire – historical facts, customs and way of life.


I have listened to about 1/6 of the audio version. It is just totally terrible!
Mehunrissa, the girl that will eventually become the twentieth wife of Jahangir, the fourth Mughal Emperor, is infatuated from the ag
Hypnotic. Intoxicating. Bright & Brilliant. Engrossing.

What can I say about The Twentieth Wife ? I think I may not have enough adjectives in my vocabulary to sing its praises. I loved this book. To the very end I was engrossed and intertwined in this tale of royal romance, tradition, history and struggle for control of the throne in the 1500’s Mogul empire.

I’ve passed this book numerous times. I don’t know why it took me so long to pick it up but if I had known that I would be wonderfull
Dec 20, 2007 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of Memoirs of A Geisha
The first thing that I thought once I put this book down was that it would be great to recommend to people who read "Memoirs of A Geisha" (I work in a bookstore). It has all the same basic elements: girl overcoming difficult childhood, unrequited love, obstacle after obstacle, etc. The setting for this novel is India and while it is similar to "Memoirs" the book is not merely a duplication in a different country. If you do read this book and enjoy it there is also a follow-up book: Feast of Rose ...more
Great summer read with all the pomp and circumstance you'd expect for a novel about the royal court of 15th century Moghul Empire (which included what today is Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and most of India)

Mehrunnisa aka Empress Nur Jahan was one of the most powerful empresses of the Moghul Empire only her story is just now coming to light based on a pulling together of anecdotal mentions in books on the country and famous men at that time.

This is the first of two books on her life. This first,
Shayantani Das
This book is lush in its description of mughal landscapes; from the colourful court life, to the intrigue ridden harems, the attires and festivities, the wars and betrayals, everything is painted in deft strokes and brought to life quite beautifully by Indu Sundaresan. Something remains to be desired from the character building, especially that of Jahangir but the plot kept me hooked through this excruciatingly long journey of courtship. So 4 stars.
It took over a week for me to figure out why I was having such a tough time with The Twentieth Wife, a story of a pair of star-crossed lovers in imperial Mughal India in the 16th century. The protagonist Mehrunnisa is everything a feminist would want: intelligent, head-strong, gorgeous, and independent. However, I'm half-way through the book and it seems to me that the author has marginalized her just as much as the culture she lives in does. Her only act of bravery has been to smile through her ...more
This is the beginning of the story of a Persian family who was immigrating to an unknown country due to the loss of position due to a ruler change in Persia. The mother of the family was about to give birth. The father had no money for milk or food for his family. With great unhappiness, the father took the baby and left her under a nearby tree, to hopefully be adopted. The baby came back to the father due to the generosity of a leader of a caravan, bound for India. He offered to present the fat ...more

So I knew absolutely nothing about Mehrunnisa before reading this book. I didn’t even know that her niece was the woman the Taj Mahal was built for.
Thanks to this book, I know want to know more about Mehrunnisa.
If one is looking at this book objectively, there isn’t much action – in many ways it is a slow burn romance with the heroine marrying the wrong man. I would have almost liked more intrigue in the harem. Yet, all the characters are well drawn and the conflicting forces of duty vs. fam
I don't like the romance between Mehrunnisa (a.k.a Empress Nur Jahan) and the Emperor much, but the rest of the book: the struggle of a young girl finding a place for herself and her family in a male-centered ancient Indian society, the power struggle within the harem, the politic at the royal court, the description of the Mughal Empire, is pretty intriguing.

Seriously speaking, I can understand somehow Prince Salim(later Emperor Jahangir) developed a strong crush on the young and charming Mehru
This book is based in historical fact although some of the story is the author's fictional account of the characters and their lives. It is ultimately a love story of "soul mates" but also gives the reader a peek at life in the Mughal Empire and the harem of its emperor. I enjoyed this book for it's fairy-tale-like love story and the history behind it. The writer weaves the two effortlessly into one beautiful book.
This is a book that truly takes you away. You can almost smell the flowers in the Indian gardens...that's how good it is. Please trust me and read it. You will find it hard to put down.
Empress Nur Jahan was the twentieth and favorite wife of Mogul Emperor Jahangir. Born into an aristocratic Persian family who had immigrated to India, her birth name was Mehrunnisa. She was a remarkable beauty, with blue eyes and pale skin, who fell in love with Jahangir as a young girl serving Empress Ruqayya Sultan Begam (chief wife of Jahangir’s father, Emperor Akbar) in the Imperial harem. Then a prince, Jahangir was likewise enamored with her, but at seventeen she was married off to a soldi ...more
In The Twentieth Wife, Indu Sundaressen introduces her readers to the opulent court of 16th century India. Mehrunissa, the daughter of a Persian refugee comes to live at the court when she is eight years old. There she encounters the zenana, the royal harem, full of concubines, wives, and female servants of the Emporer. Her first glimpse of the royal palace and the ladies who live there spark in her the ambition to one day rule the zenana as chief wife. In a world where women were always veiled ...more
Cyndy Aleo
Every so often, you'll find a gem in the bargain books section of a bookstore. So it was with The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan, a novel based on actual events in the history of the Mughal Empire of India.

::: The Plot :::

Ghias Beg flees from Persia after his father's estates revert to the government, and he cannot pay his debts. During his journey from Persia, his wife gives birth to a daughter, Mehrunissa (meaning Sun of Women), but there is no way they can afford to care for her as well as
Ashley Arthur
I found out about this book by looking through lists of "read-alikes" for The Far Pavilions. It wasn't terribly easy to find a copy, but I eventually bought a used one off Amazon. Although it took me a few weeks to read, I really enjoyed the story.

This is the first installment in Sundaresen's trilogy about the construction of the Taj Majal. That probably makes it sound supremely boring, but it wasn't! It's the story of how Emperor Jahangir of India met and fell in love with Mehrunnisa, daughter
The Twentieth Wife a historical novel set in India under the Mughal Empire in the 17th century. It chronicles the love between Mehrunnisa and Prince Salim. The author has stated that she based the story in factual information and took artistic license to fill in gaps where information was not available. This book had a list of main characters at the front, which was very helpful. I wish that it had listed all of the characters though – so many of them had similar names that it could get confusin ...more
Hands down, one of the most annoying pieces of writing I've read. I really wanted to get swept up in the story, but the writer was too busy with all the details except the character development. Could Maherunnisa and Jahangir be so love sick all the time? I hope not. After all, they weren't teenagers throughout the entire book. There were also some other cultural inaccuracies that I just couldn't get past. I find it really hard to believe Jahangir courted her the way Sundaresan described. It jus ...more
Sebuah kisah kehidupan seorang wanita keturunan persia, yang diceritakan kembali secara apik oleh Sundaresan.

Mehrunnisa, puteri Banu Begam keturunan bangsawan Persia yang karena keadaan negaranya harus mengungsi bersama keluarganya ke India. Kehidupan keras yang dijalani Mehrunnisa telah menempanya menjadi gadis yang berambisi, cerdik dan kuat.

Cinta yang dipendamnya semenjak kecil kepada Raja India Salim memberikannya kekuatan yang tak ternilai dalam menjalani hidup. Dan menjadikannya sebagai is
The Twentieth Wife is an epic tale of the early 16th century in Mogul India. The story follows Mehrunissa, a Persian girl that eventually marries Emperor Jahangir and rules the empire with him for the next 14 years. Indu Sundaresan does a fantastic job of bringing this time in history to life. I have visited Agra and seen many splendid Mogul buildings including the Fatehpur Sikri, where Jahangir and Menrunissa held court. I have also seen many works of art from the Mogul empire, but until I read ...more
Anupama Mazumder
An engrossing book. Dripping in history.. it brings back many memories of history lessons in school. It is a story of how Mehrunnisa sees the world, her dreams, her marriage to a much older guy, her family and finally her marriage to Emperor Jahangir. And the historical facts are woven in the story very well. Lot of research has gone in. And human emotions have been very well portrayed. What I didn't like is although it is essentially a love story, it appears that she longs to be an Empress to e ...more
Felt like a nice authentic read with enough drama to hook you in..I like how her progression is portrayed, from naive to romantic to power hungry..
A beautifully written book. After a long long time, I've found a book which was exciting. Always been fascinated by Mughal history and the role some women played. It showed ambition-not only of men, of the lower classes, of children- but also women. I liked how the women(as they often are) were not either idealized or degraded but portrayed as flesh and blood. I liked also the logical, intelligent remarks made from time to time and how fact and fiction combined with history and romance to give a ...more
Took me a long time to read. It was interesting to learn about the Mogul Empire, but because there is a sequel (Feast of Roses), I don't know if I can comment on the entire story yet since this story ends so abruptly. I would recommend this for people who want to learn more about that time, but I don't think I would classify this as a 'must-read.' I don't think I will read the sequel. Her third book, Splendor of Silence, is much better. You can really see how her writing as improved. I would rec ...more
I wanted to like it more than I did - there may not be enough skeleton for the story or it may be that the actions of some of the characters are morally reprehensible and distance a contemporary reader quite far from the characters preventing immersion on the story itself ?
Loved this book! I read this book before going to India. It's the perfect combination of story and history. I love stories about women and the main characters are as interesting as they are dynamic. A must read for those interested in ancient India.
Sruthi Menon
Great Narration....
Worth reading....Kaash I got this book during my high school.. I wouldn't have to eat tons and tons of Brahmi Ghee for memorizing the history of Mughal Empire. Not even a single moment I felt out of the loop.Thumps the author..!!!!
Pooja T
I loved this book. I adore history in general and am drawn to stories with a good dash of history. I really enjoyed this book, it's immensely well written and engaging.
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Indu Sundaresan was born in India and grew up on Air Force bases all over the country. Her father, a fighter pilot, was also a storyteller—managing to keep his audiences captive and rapt with his flair for drama and timing. He got this from his father, Indu's grandfather, whose visits were always eagerly awaited. Indu's love of stories comes from both of them, from hearing their stories based on i ...more
More about Indu Sundaresan...

Other Books in the Series

Taj Mahal Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Feast of Roses (Taj Mahal Trilogy, #2)
  • Shadow Princess (Taj Mahal Trilogy, #3)
The Feast of Roses (Taj Mahal Trilogy, #2) Shadow Princess (Taj Mahal Trilogy, #3) The Splendor of Silence In the Convent of Little Flowers The Mountain of Light

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“No, no, don’t touch your mother just before the baby is born. Now it will be a girl child, because you are one. Run along now. Take your evil eye with you.”

“Ghias, we must be careful not to teach the girls too much. How will they ever find husbands if they are too learned? The less they know, the less they will want of the outside world.”
“This great Mughal Emperor [Akbar] was illiterate; he could neither read nor write. However, that had not stopped Akbar from cultivating the acquaintance of the most learned and cultured poets, authors, musicians, and architects of the time - relying solely on his remarkable memory during conversations with them.” 5 likes
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