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The greatest asset

Lord William Wintock, British governor-general in India from 1828 to 1835, has the dubious distinction of being remembered as the man who ordered the destruction of the Taj Mahal in Agra–an order which happily–he was never able to have carried out. This was re­vealed at the turn of the century by the then viceroy, Lord Curzon. The East India Company had been going through hard times, Lord Curzon explained, and it was suggested to Lord Wintock that a sale of the Taj would fetch Rs 1, 00,000, enough to extricate the company from its financial crisis.

News of the Company’s intentions circulated, and there was stiff opposition to such a move. This infuriated Lord Wintock who now went one step further and gave orders for the total destruction of the Taj. Opposition to the imperial command stepped up, with both Hindus and Muslims joining in one massive voice of the protest. The danger that full-scale rebellion would ensue if the Taj was destroyed prompted the governor-general’s advisers to persuade Lord Wintock to withdraw the order.

The people did not save the Taj Mahal, it was saved by its own beauty. If the Taj Mahal had not been beautiful, it would not have won such overwhelming support; Hindus and Muslims would not have united behind it to foil the British government’s designs. 

The Taj Mahal’s virtue lies in its beauty, while man’s beauty lies in a virtuous nature. But man’s beauty should not be like that of a snake–a beautiful appearance marred by a venomous sting. 


Had the constructors of the Taj Mahal been able to reproduce in themselves the beauty which they produced so perfectly in their work of construction, they too would have been protected by their own quality. Just as virtue in a thing wins support for its cause, so virtue in humans has the same effect. It wins one friends from the enemy camp, appreciation even from strangers.

The Taj Mahal’s virtue lies in its beauty, while man’s beauty lies in a virtuous nature. But man’s beauty should not be like that of a snake–a beautiful appearance marred by a venomous sting. How do people ‘sting’? By presenting a challenge to people’s political and economic interests; by repeatedly resorting to violence in their deal­ings with others; by constantly alienating people with senseless, impul­sive actions. Any virtue that one might have is cancelled out by such a ‘sting,’ and prevents one from winning people’s affection.

It is the Taj Mahal’s silent beauty that has won people’s hearts. Who would have time for it if, in all its beauty, it tormented those who looked upon it?

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