Yogi eats his words, asserts Taj Mahal is 'pride of India'.
By Karuna MadanCorrespondent
New Delhi: Amid a verbal rampage against the 17th century architectural marvel Taj Mahal by some leaders and ministers from his own Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath yesterday visited the mausoleum in Agra and described it as the "pride of India".
Wearing a yellow mask, gloves and a baseball cap, he swept a parking lot along with 500 party workers. Later he visited the graves of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal inside the Taj Mahal. Referring to many recent statements on the Taj Mahal, he commented, "there was no need to go into who built Taj and why. More important is that it was built by the blood and sweat of Indians".
Adityanath described the Taj Mahal as the "pride of India" and a "world class monument". However, earlier this year, he had said that the Taj Mahal had no connection with India's culture or heritage. So much so in June, he said that miniature replicas of the Taj Mahal, offered often as gifts to foreign dignitaries, were inappropriate offerings because they are not representative of Indian heritage.
Also the Taj Mahal was recently removed from UP Tourism Department's fresh booklet featuring prominent tourist spots in the state. It was later reinstated after a lot of backlash. The booklet was released on October 10 to mark six months of Adityanath's government in the state. It featured various tourist attractions in UP but, to everyone's surprise, failed to spotlight the Taj Mahal.
Later, UP Tourism Director General Avneesh Awasthi clarified that the booklet was not a compendium of tourist attractions. But last week, state Religious Affairs and Culture Minister Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary commented that the Taj Mahal was "rightly kept out of the booklet and should instead be replaced with Hindu temple Guru Gorakhnath Peeth".
Important to note, after the Taj Mahal did not feature in UP Tourism Department's booklet, senior BJP legislator Sangeet Som stirred a controversy by describing the monument as "a blot on Indian culture built by traitors".
"Many people were worried that the Taj Mahal was removed from the list of historical places in the Uttar Pradesh (UP) tourism booklet. What history are we talking about? The man who built the Taj Mahal imprisoned his father. He wanted to massacre Hindus. If this is history, then it is very unfortunate and we will change this history, I guarantee you," Som said earlier this month.
'It was Tejo Mahal'
Veteran BJP leader Vinay Katiyar also reacted by stating that Taj was Hindu deity Shiva's temple called 'Tejo Mahal' which was converted into a mausoleum by Shah Jahan.
"It was Tejo Mahal, Lord Shiva's temple, where Shah Jahan buried his wife and turned it into a mausoleum. It was constructed by Hindu kings, the rooms and carvings there prove that it was a Hindu monument. it has also been termed as one by historian P.N. Oak," Katiyar said.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy on Wednesday claimed he had access to documents that suggested the property where Taj was built was stolen by Shah Jahan from Hindu kings of Jaipur.
"There is evidence on record that Shah Jahan forced the Raja-Maharajas of Jaipur to sell the land on which Taj Mahal is standing, and he gave them a compensation of 40 villages, which is nothing compared to the property's value. The documents also suggest that there was a temple on the property. But it is still not clear whether Taj Mahal was built after the demolition of a temple," Swamy asserted.
The theories about the Taj Mahal being a Shiva temple began doing rounds when historian P.N. Oak released his book Taj Mahal: The True Story in 1989. Oak claimed the monument was built in 1155AD and not in the 17th century. He claimed that the Taj Mahal was actually a Shiva Temple and Rajput royal palace named Tejo Mahalaya. It was captured by Shah Jahan and then turned into a tomb and as renamed Taj Mahal, he claimed. But in 2000, the apex Supreme Court quashed Oak's petition to declare that Taj Mahal was built by a Hindu king.
Meanwhile, BJP and Congress got engaged in a war of words yesterday over the birth anniversary celebrations of 18th century Muslim ruler Tipu Sultan. The anniversary falls on November 10. BJP describes Tipu as "anti-Hindu" and "mass murderer". However, Congress sees him as the first freedom fighter to take on the British. Back in 2015, Congress government in Karnataka started celebrating Tipu's birth anniversary. Soon the celebrations ran into controversy. However, on Wednesday, President Ramnath Kovind jumped into the controversy by praising Tipu.
"Tipu Sultan died a historic death fighting the British," Kovind said in Karnataka.
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