The Taj Mahal may be the only Indian monument to be counted among the wonders of the world and figure in the list of the world's top tourist destinations, but the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh doesn't think that the majestic white marble mausoleum in Agra built in 1653 reflects "Indian culture", reports The Telegraph.
At a public meeting in Darbhanga in Bihar, Yogi Adityanath said, "Foreign dignitaries visiting the country used to be gifted replicas of the Taj Mahal and other minarets which do not reflect Indian culture." So, the Modi government, according to Adityanath, brought about a change and began giving copies of the Bhagvad Gita and the Ramayan to visiting foreign dignitaries.
Watch Yogi's speech here. At 0.35 seconds, you will be able to hear his comments come on the Taj Mahal.
The UP chief minister was in Darbhanga, traditionally home to the Maithili Brahmin community, to showcase Modi government's achievements upon the completion of three years of the NDA government at the Centre. Party sources told the Times of India that the venue had been chosen to appeal to Hindu sentiments in the region.
This is not the first time that there has been controversy related to the Taj Mahal, the 17th century mausoleum built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. In December last year, the government was dragged into a bizarre row over whether the Taj Mahal should be converted into a Hindu temple.
In 2015, a group of lawyers had gone to court claiming that the monument was originally an ancient shrine dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva. The debate quietened down when Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said in Parliament that, "the government has not found any evidence which can suggest that Taj Mahal was a Hindu temple of Shiva."
Speculation about the mausoleum's supposed Hindu heritage has been going on for decades. Many Indian and some British historians in the late 19th century claimed that the Taj was not built during Shah Jahan's reign. PN Oak, a writer fascinated by Hindu revisionist theories, claimed in his book, Taj Mahal: The True Story, that the monument was built in 1155. He wrote that the 'temple' was built by Raja Paramdari Dev in the 12th century and the name of the monument was a corrupt form of the Sanskrit term, Tejo Mahalay, signifying a Shiva Temple. Historians have dismissed Oak's theory.
A Dawn article notes how the Taj Mahal became part of the campaign to erase India's Islamic heritage. In a lecture titled 'Outsider As Enemy', historian KN Panikkar, has said that the BJP is "saffronising research institutions". He said that the ruling party was revising school textbooks "to introduce a communal view of the past, highlighting the achievements and contribution of the Hindus and undermining or misrepresenting the role of others."
While some have tried to appropriate the Taj Mahal as a Hindu structure, Yogi Adityanath doesn't want it to be associated with India at all.
Reacting to Adityanath's comment, Daisy Narayan, who teaches history in Patna University, told the Telegraph that some people, "especially of a particular political stripe" consider the period from 1206 to 1760 as the 'Islamic era' in Indian history. "These people, in doing so, are trying to rewrite history and distort facts. It is very shocking that the Taj Mahal, which is our national heritage monument, is being claimed as not a part of our culture."
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