Taj Mahal: From Golden Age to Distorted Fact
The Taj Mahal in Agra is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. This magnificent mausoleum was built by Indian Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, (Mirza Shahab-ud-din Baig Muhammad Khan Khurram, 5 January 1592 -22 January 1666) in 17th Century as an attribute to his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal (Arjumand Banu Begum, 27 April 1593-17 June 1631), who passed away in 1631. Mumtaz Mahal was born in Agra to Persian noble family. Shah Jahan fell head over heels for her at the age of 14. Later both got married in the year 1612 AD.
After her sudden death, the emperor Shah Jahan was in great shocked. To give his love, a long lasting and heart touching symbol, decided to build a tomb, so that his love should be visible remarkable for the world. In supervision of Ustad Ahmad Ali lahori, the construction of Taj Mahal was commenced. It took approximately 22 years to be come into existence. Since then, this epitome of love continues to shine and attract people from all over the world. It is regarded as the most valuable and attractive love symbol of world.
Dignitaries from all over the world have visited this outstanding and gorgeous monument. They have paid their good attributes to this alluring sign of love. Their unforgettable remarks concerning Taj Mahal, are worthy to be written by golden words. Whoever comes to visit India, his overwhelmed desire is to visit Taj Mahal. Former US President Bill Clinton’s remark shows how inspired he was. He said that the world may be divided into two categories, first, the one who has seen the Taj Mahal and, the second, who did not see this magnificent and remarkable love icon. Recently former US President Donald Trump visited here along with him family members and was welcomed by Uttar Pardesh Chief Minister with a beautiful picture of Taj Mahal.
Apart from it, it has one more aspect in it. Almost all the visitors who have ever visited there neglected it. Either they were so mesmerized by white marble beauty that their sight did not capture it or they never paid attention to it.
Dr. Zafar Mahmood, President of Zakat Foundation of India has described in his article, “Taj Mahal is known all over the world for its singular beauty and as a symbol of ardent love. But, the third aspect of its celestial revelatory panorama remains mostly obscure from the public cognizance. On the gigantic double arches in all four sides of the Taj facade, carefully selected verses from the holy Quran are calligraphed each beginning from lower right side going all the way up, running to the left and creeping down till the left lower side. The calligraphy is made by jasper inlaid in white marble panels. Higher panels are written slightly larger to reduce the skewing effect when viewing from below. Inside the main chamber also such verses as well as ninety nine Arabic names of God are inscribed”.
All Quranic verses calligraphed by the Persian calligrapher Abdul Haq who came to India from Shiraz, Iran, in 1609. Written selected verses of the Qur’an on White and Black marbles give spiritual message to the visitors. Shah Jahan not only created an attractive Mausoleum in memory of his beloved wife, but also left the message for all human being, who pay visit to that fine-looking monument. An alluring Masjid in the premises of Taj Mahal is the testimony for the spiritual message. Since then, the daily prayer is being held regularly, a royal Imam was appointed by Emperor, so far his descendent are serving there as an Imam.
Taj Mahal is the most visited tourist place in India. Approximately, 8, million tourists come every year to see it. As London is known by Big Ben, Paris is known for the Eiffel Tower and the Rome by the Coliseum. In the same way, whenever India is shown to the world, the Taj Mahal always comes on the front, as the symbol of India and its culture and heritage.
Despite of all its glory, it is no stranger to controversy. Some so-called historian and harbinger of hatred tried their level best to distort its shining golden history. Even though, it is universal truth, its veracity, being a mausoleum of Mumtaz Mahal (the wife of Shah Jahan) has clear evidences throughout the history. There is no doubt that both of them are buried inside the Taj Mahal. Even their annual Anniversary is celebrated for a long time in Rajab (seventh month of Islamic calendar). All kind of documents regarding its construction, land and material which were brought from different parts of the world are available, and one who has interest in history and wants to know the truth of its glory can browse through these pages.
Purushottam Nagesh Oak (2 March 1917-4 December 2007), has written in his book, Taj Mahal: The True Story, 1989, Oak claims that the Taj Mahal was originally a Shiva temple and a Rajput palace named Tejo Mahalaya seized by Shah Jahan and adopted as a tomb. He argues that may be this temple was built by Indian King Jai Singh. He says that Mahal is a word to describe a royal palace and not a tomb and after seizure by Shah Jahan, the name was changed to Taj Mahal. Going ahead, he expunged the famous story of Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, he said, this famous story is nothing but a fairy tale, which has been spread to make glowing their names in the history. In the year 2000, P N Oak took his case to the Supreme Court, but it was thrown out.
Hari Shankar Jain, a lawyer, took this case to the Agra court, looking forward to be listened. He wanted; Hindu must be permitted to perform their Puja in premises of Taj Mahal, for originally it was a Hindu Temple. During hearing, when he was asked, what will he do with the dead bodies of late Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan, will he disinter them? Without thinking, he replied, none is buried there.
Purushottam Nagesh Oak, well known so-called history writer, famous for distorting the history, choosing separate way to nominate all the architectures of the world, and famous religious cities and buildings as Hindu Temples or Vedic symbols. He has targeted the Ka’aba (Makkah city) and Vatican City as Vedic symbols. People like Oak have no any agenda except getting some limelight in the news paper.
2017 witnessed land sliding victory for BJP; BJP took over Uttar Pradesh where the Taj Mahal is located. After few months the news spread that UP government has expunged the Taj Mahal from its tourist places. After being criticized from every corner of the world, the government justified its step saying: “we omitted it not to expel from tourist places, but we wanted to promote other historical places that have no place in tourist guide earlier. As far Taj Mahal is concerned, we have fixed a huge amount of money for Taj Mahal”.
The Taj Mahal again came out in limelight. This time not because of any individual or any organization, the reason was the district magistrate of Agra who issued an order on 24 January 2018 that only Agra residents will be allowed to perform Juma prayer. And non-residents will not be permitted because of security purpose. For entering the premises of Taj Mahal to perform Jum’a prayer valid identity card must be needed and it would be examined.
The order was challenged in Supreme Court by Taj Mahal Masjid Management Committee. Syed Ibrahim Hussain Zaidi, the president of the committee said, “Why discrimination is being done with residents and non-residents in worship place.” We are offering Salah here for 400 years; we will continue to perform Salah.
Refusing to overturn the ban, the Supreme Court said, Taj Mahal is among the Seven Wonders of World, and it needs to be protected. Judges AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan said there are several other mosques in Agra and people from outside the town could offer prayers there. "Why, for such prayers, should they go to the Taj Mahal,” they questioned.
The matter went off, and Masjid Committee was planning for further step to be taken on Supreme Court order, but on 14 November 2018, Archaeological Survey of India restricted local people from daily prayers. On Wednesday, the ASI officials placed a gazette notification at the eastern and western gates of Taj Mahal, specifying that permission to offer prayer in the Masjid will be granted only on Fridays. This is in accordance with the direction of the Supreme Court.
Traditional Imam of Taj Mahal Royal Masjid Maulana Sabir Ali, whose forefather had been appointed as an Imam by Mughal Emperor said that we are offering three times daily prayer from hundreds year. We were never prevented to offer prayer, as it has been a worship place too for Muslim community. After Supreme Court dismissed the petition, only non-residents were prevented to enter the Taj Mahal Royal Masjid, but now ASI has put the gazette describing prevention for all the prayers except Friday prayer.
Sarvdaleey Muslim Action Committee president Syed Irfan Salim said that ASI referencing the Supreme Court orders which yet to be shown. If the Supreme Court order contains on this point then why ASI is not putting it into public domain so that it could be shown the people who are considering it against the order of Supreme Court. Due to all these conflicts between ASI and local Muslims, the matter has become very sensitive, and some right-wing people tried to make it communal, and somehow, communal tension rose in Agra City.
Some radical Hindu outfits have threatened; if Muslims do not follow the order of Supreme Court we would hold Puja in premises of Taj Mahal as originally it is a Shiva Temple. Though, district administration continuously saying that communal tension would not be tolerated, if any news comes about it, the strong step will be taken against them.
A video went viral where three women from Anter Rashtriya Hindu Preshad (ARHP) right-wing outfit were performing Puja inside Taj Mahal on Saturday, 19 November. Later they were prevented and were taken out of the premises by security guards.
It should be noted, people do not perform prayer in TajMahal, there is a Masjid situated in the premises of Taj Mahal, where Muslims have been performing prayer since it was built. There are many Masjids across the country where performing prayer is forbidden due to security reason. Now, one more has been added in this list.
Agra Tourist Welfare Chamber president Prahalad Agarwal said that the Taj Mahal should be kept free from such disputes and the ASI should find an amicable solution to this problem as soon as possible since this is the peak tourist season in Agra. Ongoing dispute may affect the fame of Taj Mahal as well as fame of Agra City.
Shakil Shamshi a well-known Urdu writer expressed his experience in this regard. He has written in his Daily Column of Urdu Newspaper Inquilab that once I was passing through the Chandni Chowk Delhi, all of a sudden someone handed over me a booklet, the booklet was published by Asa Ram (recently in jodhpur jail), it was shocking to me that Lal Qila (red fort) was regarded as Lal Kot and it was attributed to Raja Ang Pal, built in 1060 AD. It was ridiculous and blunder lie, which was spread by self-styled Baba.
Recently a PIL was filed by Rajneesh Singh, according to The Print Media report published on: 12 May, 2022: “Singh’s petition read: “some Hindu groups and reputable saints are claiming this monuments as old Shiv temple supported by many historians, some people also believe that Tejo Mahalaya @ Taj Mahal appears to be one of the Jyotirling i.e. the outstanding Shiva Temple”. The petitioner asked the court to open the rooms under the “freedom of information”. “The Lucknow Bench of justices DK Upadhaya and Subhash Vidhyarthi took strong exception to this and said: “tomorrow you will ask us to go to the chamber of Honorable Judges, please don’t make a mockery of the PIL system” the court further said: “Go and research. Do M.A, Do PhD. Then choose such a topic and if any institute disallows you to research on such a topic, then come to us”. According to The Indian Express published on: 17 May 2022: “after the court order, ASI officials had maintained that there is no secret in those rooms, they are just part of the structure, and are not unique to the Taj Mahal, but several Mughal-era mausoleums built at the time including Humayaun’s Tomb in Delhi”.
The worry is that Taj Mahal, which once was a symbol of love and Indian culture, is turning into disputed place. Almost all Mughal or Muslim Architectures are deliberately being put in trouble, from Taj Mahal to Imambara Lucknow and Qutub Minar including Lal Qila and some more heritage buildings. If outfit is not prevented to spread rumor then it will turn ugly face in near future, those who never contributed in the Indian history, now struggling to change the history. The City that is well known to the world for love has turned into one of the disputed places of India. Taj Mahal, it is not a matter of religion rather it has to do with Indian history and heritage. As an Indian, we ought to be proud of this alluring beautiful mausoleum of 17th Century.