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Why is the Right-Wing so obsessed with the Taj Mahal?

Taj Mahal is a mausoleum, known the world over as a monument of love and one of the most defining images of India, but right-wing groups claim it's a ‘temple’

Sabrangindia 17 Feb 2022

Taj Mahal
Image Courtesy:ahmedabadmirror.com

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists were detained after they made an attempt to enter the Taj Mahal premises to recite the Hanuman Chalisa there. This was their bizarre attempt at “a counter-protest” to add their two bits to the ongoing Saffron shawl versus hijab controversy in Karnataka. Perhaps it was also their way to stay visible as a disruptive and polarising force in Uttar Pradesh where Assembly elections are now underway.

According to news reports, Ashish Arya, who claims the designation of “vice president of the VHP Braj region", led the group, and told the media that they had planned to enter the Taj Mahal and recite the Hanuman Chalisa after wearing “saffron scarves” to counter the Hijab row.

The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum, known the world over as a monument of love and one of the most defining and recognised structures of India. However, for some right wingers it's a “Shiva temple”. They believe in a theory propounded by PN Oak, who claimed that “the Taj was constructed in 1155 AD by a Hindu king’s chief minister called Salakshan.” Oak even approached the Supreme Court, which dismissed the petition.

However, for the Vishwa hindu Parishad (VHP) and others, even an attempted ‘protest’ at Taj Mahal, is a sure shot way to be visible to the powers that be as many also seek a political career. Even when such attempts are foiled by local Police these “protesters'' will claim they tried to “enter Taj Mahal premises to chant 'Hanuman Chalisa'” for days to come. This group wearing saffron had “demanded that people be restrained from wearing dresses according to their faith in schools and colleges” and had also “sought strict action against those creating ruckus in the name of 'hijab'.”

Circle officer, Sadar, Rajeev Kumar said that the protesters were stopped from entering the Taj Mahal at Shilpgram parking. He said, "We have received a memorandum and forward it to the competent authority. The memorandum was presented about the ongoing 'hijab' protest."

Asheesh Arya added, they consider the Taj Mahal to be 'Tejo Mahalay' (as they name the ‘Shiva temple’ they claim it to be) while wearing saffron clothes. But the police stopped us." He added that “workers of VHP, Sewa Bharti and Durga Vahini were stopped by the police. I along with members of Sewa Bharti and Durga Vahini chanted 'Hanuman Chalisa' at Hariparwat police station after being detained by police." Bhawna Sharma, from 'Sewa Bharti' said, as the group wanted to chant 'Hanuman Chalisa' in the Taj Mahal premises peacefully, they “told the police that we would buy tickets, but we were stopped ahead of the Taj Mahal at the parking. The aim was to register a protest against the ongoing 'hijab' row because schools have a dress code and every student should follow it.”

Why is Taj Mahal on the right wing agenda

In 2017, six months after Adityanath took over as chief minister, Taj Mahal was in the spotlight, when it was left out of a brochure of Uttar Pradesh government’s tourism department booklet. Social media outrage followed and the commission was seen in the context of Hindutva agenda. The booklet had reportedly detailed many other destinations and also ongoing and future tourism projects and even mentioned the Gorakhpur temple, which is headed by Adityanath as the main priest.

BJP MLA Sangeet Som had then reportedly stated that Taj Mahal was a “blot on India” because it was built by a Mughal emperor, and BJP leader Vinay Katiyar re-circulated the theory, claiming that the 17th century monument was “built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan after demolishing a Hindu temple — ‘Tejo Mahalaya’—  that housed a Shivlinga.” 

According to an India Today report, “UP Chief Minister Adityanath’s attempts to deny the Taj Mahal its place on the global map by claiming that the monument could not be India's icon” had “irked the local population eliciting angry remarks from the tourism industry as well.”

 

According to a news report from that time, “a small group of Hindu right-wingers even chanted Shiva Chalisa on the Taj Mahal’s premises” that week. As per media reports, in 2015, Agra district courts admitted a petition filed by a group of lawyers who claimed the Taj Mahal was a Shiva temple. The petitioners wanted that Hindu devotees be allowed to perform ‘darshan’ and ‘aarti’ inside the monument. The Court asked the Centre, Culture Ministry, Home Secretary and Archaeological Survey of India to submit their replies in the case.

Answering a question in Parliament in November 2015, the then Union Minister of Culture, Mahesh Sharma, had said the government has no evidence that the Taj Mahal was ever a Shiva temple. The ASI too had given a written reply to the Agra court saying the monument is “only a tomb and not a temple”, said the news report.

PN Oak's Taj/Tejo claims have been officially denied

The Statesman had reported how the theory about Taj Mahal being a Shiva temple began doing rounds when historian PN Oak released his book — Taj Mahal: The True Story — in 1989. Oak claimed Taj was built in 1155 AD by Hindu ruler Jai Singh-I and not in the 17th century by Mughal ruler Shah Jahan.  Oak’s theory that the structure was “Tejo Mahalaya” before it was given the name of Taj Mahal by the Mughal emperor, still does the rounds of social media and WhatsApp, especially in the right-wing ecosystem. 

The theory is also recycled and reused often by Hate Offenders such as Deepak Sharma, a self proclaimed Hindutva ‘leader’ seeking political attention in UP. In January this year, Sharma declared he “will do a freelance campaign everyday,” for “bulldozer baba” as he fondly refers to UP’s CM Adityanath. In 2018, CJP’s Hate Watch team analysed his acts of disruption and his hate speeches in Uttar Pradesh to expose his many avatars. Even back then, he had as much hate for Muslims as he does now. He has tried to offer Hindu prayers at Taj Mahal, verbally abused Muslims in his video rants, and tried his hand at poetry seeking “another Godhra”. Watch his past report card here which exposes how the mother of Shivam Vashisht, one of his associates who was killed in an accident, sees Sharma. “He is a traitor, he made money in my son’s name after his death… I didn't know he was such a low life,” she says. As SabrangIndia and team CJP track, verify, every hate video, whatsapp forward, hate speech and those spreading hatred in India.

Related:

Hijab ban case: Hijab in line with freedom of expression, submits petitioner
Chhattisgarh: School removes 'Cross' from its 30-year-old uniform logo "under duress"
The Communalisation Project: The Tamil Nadu story

Why is the Right-Wing so obsessed with the Taj Mahal?

Taj Mahal is a mausoleum, known the world over as a monument of love and one of the most defining images of India, but right-wing groups claim it's a ‘temple’

Taj Mahal
Image Courtesy:ahmedabadmirror.com

Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists were detained after they made an attempt to enter the Taj Mahal premises to recite the Hanuman Chalisa there. This was their bizarre attempt at “a counter-protest” to add their two bits to the ongoing Saffron shawl versus hijab controversy in Karnataka. Perhaps it was also their way to stay visible as a disruptive and polarising force in Uttar Pradesh where Assembly elections are now underway.

According to news reports, Ashish Arya, who claims the designation of “vice president of the VHP Braj region", led the group, and told the media that they had planned to enter the Taj Mahal and recite the Hanuman Chalisa after wearing “saffron scarves” to counter the Hijab row.

The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum, known the world over as a monument of love and one of the most defining and recognised structures of India. However, for some right wingers it's a “Shiva temple”. They believe in a theory propounded by PN Oak, who claimed that “the Taj was constructed in 1155 AD by a Hindu king’s chief minister called Salakshan.” Oak even approached the Supreme Court, which dismissed the petition.

However, for the Vishwa hindu Parishad (VHP) and others, even an attempted ‘protest’ at Taj Mahal, is a sure shot way to be visible to the powers that be as many also seek a political career. Even when such attempts are foiled by local Police these “protesters'' will claim they tried to “enter Taj Mahal premises to chant 'Hanuman Chalisa'” for days to come. This group wearing saffron had “demanded that people be restrained from wearing dresses according to their faith in schools and colleges” and had also “sought strict action against those creating ruckus in the name of 'hijab'.”

Circle officer, Sadar, Rajeev Kumar said that the protesters were stopped from entering the Taj Mahal at Shilpgram parking. He said, "We have received a memorandum and forward it to the competent authority. The memorandum was presented about the ongoing 'hijab' protest."

Asheesh Arya added, they consider the Taj Mahal to be 'Tejo Mahalay' (as they name the ‘Shiva temple’ they claim it to be) while wearing saffron clothes. But the police stopped us." He added that “workers of VHP, Sewa Bharti and Durga Vahini were stopped by the police. I along with members of Sewa Bharti and Durga Vahini chanted 'Hanuman Chalisa' at Hariparwat police station after being detained by police." Bhawna Sharma, from 'Sewa Bharti' said, as the group wanted to chant 'Hanuman Chalisa' in the Taj Mahal premises peacefully, they “told the police that we would buy tickets, but we were stopped ahead of the Taj Mahal at the parking. The aim was to register a protest against the ongoing 'hijab' row because schools have a dress code and every student should follow it.”

Why is Taj Mahal on the right wing agenda

In 2017, six months after Adityanath took over as chief minister, Taj Mahal was in the spotlight, when it was left out of a brochure of Uttar Pradesh government’s tourism department booklet. Social media outrage followed and the commission was seen in the context of Hindutva agenda. The booklet had reportedly detailed many other destinations and also ongoing and future tourism projects and even mentioned the Gorakhpur temple, which is headed by Adityanath as the main priest.

BJP MLA Sangeet Som had then reportedly stated that Taj Mahal was a “blot on India” because it was built by a Mughal emperor, and BJP leader Vinay Katiyar re-circulated the theory, claiming that the 17th century monument was “built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan after demolishing a Hindu temple — ‘Tejo Mahalaya’—  that housed a Shivlinga.” 

According to an India Today report, “UP Chief Minister Adityanath’s attempts to deny the Taj Mahal its place on the global map by claiming that the monument could not be India's icon” had “irked the local population eliciting angry remarks from the tourism industry as well.”

 

According to a news report from that time, “a small group of Hindu right-wingers even chanted Shiva Chalisa on the Taj Mahal’s premises” that week. As per media reports, in 2015, Agra district courts admitted a petition filed by a group of lawyers who claimed the Taj Mahal was a Shiva temple. The petitioners wanted that Hindu devotees be allowed to perform ‘darshan’ and ‘aarti’ inside the monument. The Court asked the Centre, Culture Ministry, Home Secretary and Archaeological Survey of India to submit their replies in the case.

Answering a question in Parliament in November 2015, the then Union Minister of Culture, Mahesh Sharma, had said the government has no evidence that the Taj Mahal was ever a Shiva temple. The ASI too had given a written reply to the Agra court saying the monument is “only a tomb and not a temple”, said the news report.

PN Oak's Taj/Tejo claims have been officially denied

The Statesman had reported how the theory about Taj Mahal being a Shiva temple began doing rounds when historian PN Oak released his book — Taj Mahal: The True Story — in 1989. Oak claimed Taj was built in 1155 AD by Hindu ruler Jai Singh-I and not in the 17th century by Mughal ruler Shah Jahan.  Oak’s theory that the structure was “Tejo Mahalaya” before it was given the name of Taj Mahal by the Mughal emperor, still does the rounds of social media and WhatsApp, especially in the right-wing ecosystem. 

The theory is also recycled and reused often by Hate Offenders such as Deepak Sharma, a self proclaimed Hindutva ‘leader’ seeking political attention in UP. In January this year, Sharma declared he “will do a freelance campaign everyday,” for “bulldozer baba” as he fondly refers to UP’s CM Adityanath. In 2018, CJP’s Hate Watch team analysed his acts of disruption and his hate speeches in Uttar Pradesh to expose his many avatars. Even back then, he had as much hate for Muslims as he does now. He has tried to offer Hindu prayers at Taj Mahal, verbally abused Muslims in his video rants, and tried his hand at poetry seeking “another Godhra”. Watch his past report card here which exposes how the mother of Shivam Vashisht, one of his associates who was killed in an accident, sees Sharma. “He is a traitor, he made money in my son’s name after his death… I didn't know he was such a low life,” she says. As SabrangIndia and team CJP track, verify, every hate video, whatsapp forward, hate speech and those spreading hatred in India.

Related:

Hijab ban case: Hijab in line with freedom of expression, submits petitioner
Chhattisgarh: School removes 'Cross' from its 30-year-old uniform logo "under duress"
The Communalisation Project: The Tamil Nadu story

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