A Red Taj - From Her to Him

Deep within the old Roman Catholic cemetery in Agra, where few venture, is a two storied mausoleum dedicated to a Dutch adventurer, who was once the Commander of the Agra fort. The locals call it the Red Taj Mahal, as they believe it’s a near replica of the original, much more famous one.

Commissioned by his wife, Anne Hessing, in 1803, the tomb is designed in the Mughal style in red sandstone and stands on a raised platform. It has a beautiful double dome and slender turrets. The grave of Hessing, with engraved English inscriptions stands in the central hall. However, unlike the Taj Mahal, it does not have any minarets or decorative inlay work on the walls.

The actual details of who built the tomb are not known, but Fanny Parks, the famous Welsh travel writer who chronicled British India extensively and visited Agra several times in the 19th century, makes multiple references to it.

The Roman Catholic cemetery in Agra
The Roman Catholic cemetery in Agra|Wikimedia Commons

There are legends of a ‘Black Taj Mahal’ that Emperor Shah Jahan was to build for himself but this claim has never been historically corroborated.

The tomb may be forgotten today, but it is a throwback to an era of European mercenaries and adventurers who came to India and rose through the ranks. John Hessing was one such soldier. He was born in Utrecht, Netherlands in 1739 and entered the service of the Dutch East India Company. Hessing arrived in India sometime after 1763 and took up a job under a local ruler, offering his services for money. He was first commissioned in the army of the Nizam of Hyderabad and later took up service under the Maratha General Mahadji Scindia. After Mahadji’s death, Hessing worked for his successor Daulatrao Scindia and in 1799 was appointed Commander of the Agra fort. It was in Agra that he died on 21 July 1803, after a long illness.

Ann Hessing, his wife was devastated and commissioned a monument in memory of her late husband.


The Hessing Tomb (Red Taj Mahal) is in the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. The nearest railway station is Agra Cantonment which is about 8 kms away from the Red Taj Mahal. The nearest airport is Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Airport which is 12 kms away

The Story of Danteshwari Temple, Chhatisgarh
By Akshay Chavan
Dantewada in Chhatisgarh is home to the sacred Danteshwari temple, considered to be one of the 52 Shakti Peethas.  
Tamil Nadu’s Olakaneswar: A Pallava Temple or Lighthouse? 
By LHI Team
Built by Pallava kings in 600 CE, Olakaneswar lighthouse truly stands out. It was even used by the British!
Bhimakali Temple: Jewel of the Himalayas
By Shabbir Khambaty
This temple complex is also one of the shakti peethas in the country
Grand Palaces of India - Markers of an Era
By Anshika Jain
Join us on a journey through some of the grandest palaces in India.
Each day, Live History India brings you stories and films that not only chronicle India’s history and heritage for you, but also help create a digital archive of the 'Stories that make India' for future generations.

An effort like this needs your support. No contribution is too small and it will only take a minute. We thank you for pitching in.

Subscribe to our
Free Newsletter!

Subscribe to Newsletter!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.