Global Scan

Was the Taj Mahal built out of love ... or guilt?

Taj_Mahal_2012.jpg

The Taj Mahal is one of the biggest tourist attractions in India. But why was it built?

Credit:

Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Wikimedia Commons

India's Taj Mahal is known as a monument to love — built by 17th-century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died while giving birth.

But what if it's not actually a monument to love? A play that has recently debuted in India explores just that possibility — that all wasn't well in the emperor's marriage and Shah Jahan built the Taj to appease his guilt.

Historians agree that the wives of the ancient emperors exercised far more political power than they were long given credit for — giving some historical basis for the play's plot. To be sure, the play is still fiction, but perhaps not improbable, as the BBC explains.

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The US-Germany World Cup match was as much soap opera as sport

When the US squared off against Germany in a World Cup match this morning, winning and losing wasn't all that was on the line. Sure, the US lost and still managed to advance to the knockout round of the World Cup — but there were other compelling subplots playing out, as well.

Among them, how the US team fielded five players born in rival Germany. And then there's the view of the match as a test pitting master versus apprentice. Team USA coach Jürgen Klinsmann is a legend of German soccer. He was once coach of the German national team, and his assistant at the time is today's coach for Germany's team.

Quartz outlines these and other storylines that were playing out on the field Thursday.

The world's longest race takes place on a single city block

Runners often take on the New York City marathon to test their limits. A group in Queens is taking it many steps further. PRI's The World looked at the 14 competitors who came to New York from across the world to run in circles around a city block — for a month and a half.

It is the Sri Chinmoy Self-Transcendence race, which calls on the participants to push themselves over 3,100 miles of running. It takes six weeks of 6 a.m. to midnight days on the pavement.

The race is is inspired by the teachings of Sri Chinmoy, an Indian spiritual leader who wanted to give his followers "an opportunity to go beyond what their conception is that their capacity is," said one runner who's been taking on the challenge since the 1970s.

A short tour of gay Jerusalem

A group of 40 young LGBTQ adults made a trek to Israel recently — part of the Birthright program that has brought thousands of teenage Jews to Israel since 1999. But this group was different — they were going to the land that gave birth to the Abrahamic religions, and they said they weren't sure how their LGBTQ identities squared with their religious heritage.

But, it turned out, those in the group found shared struggle in their Jewish and gay identities. While Jerusalem was a bit "straight," the group found, Tel Aviv was more welcoming of a group of young LGBTQ adults. One of the participants wrote about the experience — the pros and the cons — for The Atlantic.

Hitting ISIS where it counts — in the pocketbook

ISIS may be the world's richest terrorist group, but terrorism expert Matthew Levitt tells PRI's The World how the US can fight the jihadis on the economic front. The group often relies on hawala dealers, a kind of primitive Western Union network of informal bankers that allows them to move money without violating Islam's ban on charging interest. 

Levitt says he's depressed to see how much financial support ISIS has accumulated. But, he also says we now have a more sophisticated understanding of how their finances work, and a better chance of punishing them — both on the battlefield and in the wallet. "We can do these in tandem, and in ways we apparently didn’t really do very well over the past few years," he says.

What we're seeing on social

Weather around the world

The US-Germany World Cup match was played in a driving rain, but the rain actually started hours before the opening kick. The torrential rain fell for so long and so hard that Recife, where the game was played, was practically under water. The Washington Post has pictures from around Recife in the hours leading up to the game.

This post is a regular feature of PRI.org. It's a daily brief and email newsletter of stories, events and graphics that are catching the attention of our news staff. The World's Leo Hornak kicks it off from London and various folks on our editorial team around the globe contribute from there, like Cartoon Editor Carol Hills in Boston. Don't expect anything near the standard wrap of major news stories. This blog post and its email companion will be as idiosyncratic as our staff... and we'll want you to tell us what you like and don't like. Sign up for a PRI.org account and subscribe to our newsletter to get it delivered to your inbox. The newsletter arrives during the US morning hours.