Mumbai's Taj Mahal hotel a piece of Indian history

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel, which erupted in flames early Thursday after heavily armed men stormed the building, taking guests hostage, is a symbol of national pride for Indians.

The impressive red-domed structure sits opposite the landmark Gateway of India monument on the edge of the Arabian Sea through which the last colonial British troops departed after independence in 1947.

But while the 105-year-old Taj saw off the last of the foreign occupiers, its construction also struck a blow in the fight for self-determination.

Legend has it that its creator, a Parsi industrialist called Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, commissioned the building after being refused entry to the now-defunct Apollo Hotel, which had a strict Europeans-only policy.

Completed in 1903, it quickly became the city's best hotel and has arguably retained that accolade to the present day, as well as an iconic place in Mumbaikers' hearts as a symbol of cosmopolitan sophistication.

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