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The Red Taj of Agra: Another undying symbol of love

By Dhrubaa Ghosh,

Did you know Agra had another Taj, and that it also has a romantic history?

The Red Taj Mahal, built by John Hessing, is also a symbol of love like the original Taj Mahal in Agra.

As we all know, Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in memory of his beloved Begum, Mumtaz Mahal. But very few know that Agra has another Taj, also built out of love? What’s more, it’s red in colour, and is actually the tombstone of a Dutch man! If that has you surprised, read on.  

What is the Red Taj?

The Red Taj is also known as Hessing Tomb. It is the final resting place of a Dutch soldier called John Hessing who died in the service of an Indian king. His wife greatly admired the original Taj Mahal. The Red Taj is inside the Catholic Cemetery of Agra. It is not very well known, and has very few visitors.  

Who was John Hessing?

John Hessing was a Dutch traveller who was also a good fighter. He came to India on an adventure trip and joined the service of the Marathas, rising to become an army officer. He was posted at Agra and known for bravery. Happy with his loyalty and dedication, Daulatrao Scindia gave him the command of the Agra Fort in 1799. The British attacked the fort in 1803 and John Hessing died in trying to defend it. Heartbroken at the death of her husband, his wife Ann Hessing commissioned a replica of the Taj Mahal in red sandstone, the material used to build the Agra Fort. 

What is the architecture of the Red Taj like?

The Red Taj, displays the typical Mughal architecture as seen in Taj Mahal. It stands on a square platform with a corridor all around, while there’s the signature dome on top. Pavilions surround the central structure. Of course, it is not as ornate as the Taj Mahal, lacking in the filigreed windows and inlay inscriptions and floral decorations on the walls. The grave of John Hessing is inside the central hall with an inscription marking it.  

Today, the Red Taj is yet another dusty and forgotten structure, though it is quite intact. In a city dominated by the Taj Mahal, it is also a symbol of love.