Explained: The persistent theory that Taj Mahal was a Hindu temple called “Tejo Mahalaya”.

Allahabad High Court on Thursday (May 12) a petition dismissed submitted by BJP leader Rajneesh Singh, asking for an investigative panel to determine “the true history of the Taj Mahal” and for the opening of more than 20 sealed “rooms” to investigate the possible presence of idols of Hindu gods to look at the site of the monument.

A day earlier, Diya Kumari, the BJP MP from Rajsamand and a member of Jaipur’s former royal family, said that the land on which the Taj stands belongs to her ancestors and “if there is a need for documents or anything, we provide.” the documents available if the court so orders.”

Over the years, several BJP leaders have repeated and reinforced unhistorical claims that the Taj is in fact a Hindu temple built well before the reign of Shah Jahan. In 2017, Vinay Katiyar, who was then a member of the BJP Rajya Sabha, claimed that the monument was actually a Shiva temple called “Tejo Mahalaya” which was “originally” built by a Hindu ruler.

The “Tejo Mahalaya” claim was first made by a historian named PN Oak in a 1989 book “Bee in His Hood”.

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is considered one of the wonders of the world and has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is a global symbol of India and one of the most recognizable monuments in the world. It was built between 1632 and 1648 by order of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.

The Taj incorporates features of Indo-Islamic and Timurid architecture and is often seen as a natural progression from the Mughal architecture of older monuments such as Humayun’s tomb in Delhi.

The huge white marble mausoleum is set in a garden that is part of a larger complex built along a series of geometric grids surrounded by walls measuring 305 meters by 549 meters. The complex was completed in 1653 after structures such as a mosque, guest house, the main gate and the outer courtyard were built.

The breathtakingly beautiful monument is the burial place of Shah Jahan’s beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan himself was subsequently buried there. Although it is known as an immortal symbol of love, historians have argued that it may have been a memorial to Shah Jahan’s ambition rather than his love for Mumtaz and a declaration of the power and glory of the Mughal Empire. “…The Taj Mahal was built with posterity in mind,” wrote art historian Ebba Koch.

The exterior of the mausoleum is decorated with calligraphy of verses from the Koran inlaid on rectangular tablets. There are minarets at the four corners of the platform on which the mausoleum stands.

South of the tomb is the garden, divided into quadrants by waterways which, according to Catherine Asher, a historian of Islamic and Indian art, resemble the streams of Paradise mentioned in the Qur’an. According to Asher, the garden was modeled on the ancient Persian concept of the Garden of Paradise, which the Mughals adopted.

The theory of the “Tejo Mahalaya”

PN Oak, the writer and founder of the Institute for Rewriting Indian History, believed that monuments attributed to Muslim rulers were actually of Hindu origin. In 1976 he wrote a book entitled “Lucknow’s Imambaras Are Hindu Palaces” and another entitled “Delhi’s Red Fort Is Hindu Lalkot”. In 1996 he published Islamic Havoc in Indian History.

However, it was Oak’s 1989 book, Taj Mahal: The True Story, that continues to shape today’s controversies surrounding the Taj Mahal. Oak argued that Shah Jahan’s Taj was in fact a Hindu temple to Lord Shiva, “built perhaps in the 4th century to serve as a palace”, by a Raja Paramardi Dev.

According to Oak, not only was the Taj built centuries before the arrival of the Mughals, “our research has unequivocally established that the term Taj Mahal is a popular mispronunciation of the ancient Hindu name Tejomahalaya.”

He theorized that “Tejo Mahalaya” was destroyed and raided during Muhammad Ghori’s invasion of India in the late 12th century and that after the defeat of Humayun (mid-16th century) it fell into the hands of the royal family of Jaipur passed and was administered by Jai Singh I, who was a senior Mughal Mansabdar and the Raja of Amber.

According to Oak, the temple was then taken over by Shah Jahan, who turned it into a tomb and renamed it the Taj Mahal.

Oak urged the Supreme Court to “restore the truth and our country’s cultural heritage,” but made no progress. A 2000 PTI report says the court dismissed the petition as “misleading.” “Someone has a bee in their hood, hence this petition,” was the remark of a departmental bench consisting of judges SP Bharucha and Ruma Pal, the PTI report said.

But Oak’s theory lived on

Long before the petitioner Rajneesh Singh in the Allahabad High Court, Oak had called for the “sealed chambers” of the Taj to be opened. “I have a feeling that some very crucial evidence lies hidden within these sealed chambers. They may contain Sanskrit inscriptions, Hindu idols, scriptures and coins revealing the pre-Shahjahan history of this building,” he wrote.

According to a report by legal portal Live Law, Singh’s petition to the High Court reiterated Oak’s theory. “Many history books state that Raja Paramardi Dev built the temple-palace Tejo Mahalaya (now the Taj Mahal) in 1212 AD. The temple was later inherited by Raja Maan Singh, the then Maharaja of Jaipur. After him, the estate was held and managed by Raja Jai ​​Singh, but annexed by Shah Jahan (1632) and later turned into a memorial to Shah Jahan’s wife,” the Live Law report quoted the petition as saying.

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A similar petition was filed with a district court in Agra in 2015. The petitioners had claimed that the Taj Mahal is a Hindu temple and therefore the government should allow Hindus to perform ‘darshan’ and ‘aarti’ in the temple.

While Oak’s theory of the Hindu temple has no historical basis, some historians have claimed that the land on which the Taj stands was in fact originally under the control of the Jaipur kings. This piece of land on the Yamuna, across the river from the Agra Fort, used (and expanded) by Akbar (and by other pre-Mughal dynasties) was confiscated by Jai Singh, duly compensated by Shah Jahan.

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