INDIA: The Allahabad High Court dismissed a petition filed by BJP leader Rajneesh Singh seeking the formation of a fact-finding panel to determine “the true history of the Taj Mahal,” as well as the opening of more than 20 sealed “rooms” to investigate the presence of Hindu god idols on the monument’s grounds.
Diya Kumari, a member of the erstwhile royal family of Jaipur and a BJP MP from Rajsamand, had earlier stated that the land on which the Taj stands belonged to her ancestors and that “if there is a need for any documentation or anything, we will submit the documents if the court orders so.”
Several BJP politicians have repeated and magnified unhistorical assertions that the Taj is a Hindu temple erected long before Shah Jahan’s reign.
In 2017, then-BJP Rajya Sabha member Vinay Katiyar claimed that the structure was a Shiva temple called “Tejo Mahalaya” that was “originally” built by a Hindu king.
P N Oak, a historian, originally stated the “Tejo Mahalaya” assertion in a book published in 1989. He worked tirelessly to substantiate his theory, even petitioning the Supreme Court, which reportedly declared in 2000 that he had a “bee in his bonnet.”
Interestingly, ‘Tejo Mahalaya’ is considered a conspiracy theory by many people. However, the truth has not been uncovered yet. In this article, we will dig deeper into the Taj Mahal vs Tejo Mahalaya controversy.
Taj Mahal’s history
The Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a global icon of India and one of the world’s most well-known monuments. It was constructed under the direction of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1632 and 1648.
The Taj contains Indo-Islamic and Timurid architectural elements and is frequently viewed as a natural continuation of Mughal design from earlier monuments such as Delhi’s Humayun’s Tomb.
The massive white marble mausoleum is placed in a garden part of an enormous complex designed along with a series of geometrical grids within 305-by-549-meter walls.
After constructing a mosque, a guest house, the main gateway, and the outer courtyard, the complex was finished in 1653.
Mumtaz Mahal, Shah Jahan’s loving wife, is buried in this breathtakingly gorgeous mausoleum. Following that, Shah Jahan was buried there. Despite its immortality as a symbol of love, historians contend that it was more of a monument to Shah Jahan’s ambition than his love for Mumtaz and a declaration of the Mughal empire’s might and splendor.
The mausoleum’s facade is decorated with calligraphy of Quranic passages inlaid on rectangular panels. Four minarets surround the platform on which the mausoleum stands.
The idea of “Tejo Mahalaya”
The writer and founder of the Institute for Rewriting Indian History, P N Oak, felt that monuments attributed to Muslim kings were Hindu in origin. He published two books in 1976: ‘Lucknow’s Imambaras are Hindu Palaces’ and ‘Delhi’s Red Fort is Hindu Lalkot.’ He authored ‘Islamic Havoc in Indian History’ in 1996.
However, Oak’s 1989 book, ‘Taj Mahal: The True Story,’ has shaped modern-day debates over the Taj Mahal. According to Oak, Shah Jahan’s Taj was a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva that was “perhaps built in the 4th century to serve as a palace” by Raja Paramardi Dev.
“Not only was the Taj Mahal constructed centuries before the Mughals arrived, but our study has shown that the phrase Taj Mahal is a widespread mispronunciation of the old Hindu name Tejomahalaya,” according to Oak.
He theorized that “Tejo Mahalaya” was destroyed and raided during Muhammad Ghori’s invasion of India in the late 12th century and that it passed into the hands of the Jaipur royal family after Humayun’s defeat (mid-16th century) and was managed by Jai Singh I, a senior Mughal mansabdar and the Raja of Amber.
According to Oak, Shah Jahan took over the temple and transformed it into a tomb, renaming it the Taj Mahal.
Oak tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Supreme Court to “reestablish our country’s truth and cultural legacy.” According to a source from 2000, the petition was dismissed as “misconceived.”
According to the newspaper, a Division Bench comprising of Justices S P Bharucha and Ruma Pal said, “Somebody has a bee in his bonnet, hence this plea.”
Oak had requested the opening of the Taj’s “locked apartments” long before the Allahabad High Court petitioner Rajneesh Singh. “It is my feeling that some very decisive evidence lies hidden in those sealed chambers. They could contain Sanskrit inscriptions, Hindu idols, scriptures, and coins laying bare the pre-Shahjahan history of that building,” he wrote.
According to a report on the law portal Live Law, Singh’s plea at the High Court repeated Oak’s theory.
“Many history texts state that Raja Paramardi Dev built Tejo Mahalaya temple palace in 1212 AD” (presently Taj Mahal). Raja Maan Singh, the Maharaja of Jaipur at the time, later inherited the temple.
After him, Raja Jai Singh possessed and administered the property, but it was conquered by Shah Jahan (in 1632) and later converted into a memorial for Shah Jahan’s wife.
In 2015, a plea was filed in Agra district court. The petitioners stated that the Taj Mahal was a Hindu temple and that the government should enable Hindus to visit the temple and perform “darshan” and “aarti.”
While Oak’s theory regarding the Hindu temple is unfounded, historians have claimed that the site on which the Taj stands was once under the control of the Jaipur royals.
This piece of land along the Yamuna River, across the river from the Agra fort, was requisitioned from Jai Singh, who Shah Jahan appropriately rewarded.