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On Seeing Taj Mahal, Musharraf's First Question Was 'who Designed It': Retired ASI Official

Musharraf, 79, died in Dubai on Sunday after battling an incurable disease.

Pervez Musharraf passes away
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Former Pakistani president Parvez Musharraf was so impressed with the architectural wonder of the Taj Mahal that the first question he asked on seeing the monument was "who designed it", recalled noted archaeologist K K Muhammed.

Muhammed was the superintending archaeologist of the Agra circle in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 2001 when Musharraf visited India for the Agra Summit with the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Musharraf, 79, died in Dubai on Sunday after battling an incurable disease.

"He fell in love with the Taj Mahal the moment he looked at it and the first question he asked me was 'who designed it'," Muhammed told PTI on Sunday, recalling his nearly hour-long tour of the iconic monument with the Pakistani General.

"He might have expected me to say Shah Jahan, but I told him that the designer (of Taj Mahal) was Ustad Ahmed Lahori, who belonged to Lahore in Pakistan," he said.

Muhammed was assigned the official tour guide to Musharraf to apprise him of the beauty and uniqueness of the 'monument of love'. He retired from the ASI in 2012 as its Regional Director (North).

"It was around 3 in the afternoon when he arrived at the eastern gate of the Taj Mahal. After exchanging greetings, the first thing I told him was about the optical illusion of the monument," Muhammed recollected. "He was quite impressed. His next question was 'what is the best time to visit the Taj Mahal?'"

Muhammed said it was then that he went on to tell Musharraf another aspect of the optical illusion that very few people are aware of.

"I told him that it has varying moods. However, the setting sun creates a wonderful effect on the white marbles and it looks amazing at that time. Also, when it is about to rain, it seems that the monument is about it weep," the former ASI official said.

He claimed Musharraf "felt at home" when he came to know that Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal's nuptial ceremony was held at the Lahore Fort, which was also the birthplace of the Mughal emperor.

"He was supposed to stay for 45 minutes but it was extended for 15 more minutes. We left him and his wife together for about five minutes to have a personal moment as they were at the 'monument of love'," Muhammed added.

Later, in his book 'In the Line of Fire: A Memoir' published on September 25, 2006, Musharraf narrated his impression of the Taj Mahal as, "Agra is the site of the Taj Mahal, the famous Mughal monument to love, one of the wonders of the world because of its perfect symmetry and ethereal beauty."

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