Wah Taj! Busting the many conspiracy theories about the monument that represents India

Tejo Mahalay, the right-wing's favourite fan-fiction backed by an ex-Rajasthan royal, plots involving secret rooms, and other Whatsapp university chapters spin a tale about one of the wonders of the world

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Claim: Taj Mahal is a temple ‘Tejo Mahal’

Busted: The Narendra Modi led government had told the Parliament in 2015 that this was not true. In 2000, the Supreme Court rejected a petition by PN Oak to declare that the Taj Mahal was built by a Hindu king.

Purushottam Nagesh Oak, better known as P.N Oak, was a ‘nationalist historian-writer-inventor-of-controversial-claims’ long before such things were discussed in Whatsapp groups. Oak is still remembered for his attempt at rewriting history and floating controversial theories that were later amplified by Hindutva forces for who ‘facts are not facts’ and history is fictional. These include ‘Taj Mahal, is Tejo Mahal temple’, ‘Qutub Minar, is a Vishnu Stambh’, ‘Chritianity is Krishna noti’ etc.

That Oak was a qualified lawyer, and also worked as a journalist for sometime gave power to his theory that ‘Islam and Christianity’ evolved from Hindutva. He put his theory on Taj Mahal down in a book in 1989. He reportedly claimed that it was ‘Tejo Mahalay’, a Hindu temple built by a Rajput ruler. His theory seems to have once again been fanned by Hindutva leaders, and members of a former ‘royal’ clan.

However, way back in 2000, the Supreme Court rejected a petition by Oak to declare that the Taj Mahal was built by a Hindu king. Now in May 2022, the Lucknow High Court, was approached seeking unlocking the Taj Mahal’s “22 permanently locked rooms”, many in its basement, “as they could be housing Hindu idols from ancient times”.

However, according to a report in The Times of India, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials have said that the “plea is wrong on both counts,” and that “the ‘cells’ as the rooms are called are ‘not permanently closed’.” The ASI further said that rooms were recently opened for conservation work. Most importantly the ASI said that all records scrutinised “have not pointed to the presence of any idols.”

A senior ASI official was cited by TOI saying, “100 cells in the monument’s complex that remain locked to the public are located in the basement, the upper storeys of the main mausoleum, the corner ‘burjs’, the four minarets, inside the baolis (near the mosque) and on the Chameli floor on east, west and north sides.”

This too is nothing new. Our friendly neighbourhood Whatsapp uncle and right wing conspiracy theorists need to only read news from 2015, when the Narendra Modi led government had told Lok Sabha that there was “no evidence that Taj Mahal was a Hindu temple.” According to a report in TOI from 2015, “Culture minister Mahesh Sharma told Lok Sabha, the government has not found any evidence that the Taj Mahal in Agra was a Hindu temple. In a written reply on a declaratory suit filed in an Agra court that Taj Mahal be declared a Hindu temple with right to worship for Hindus.” Sharma had said the government was aware of the suit and added that “so far government has not observed any effect on tourism because of the controversy.”

Flash forward to May 12, 2022, and the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court dismissed a plea seeking the opening of those rooms / cells of the Taj Mahal and put to rest the “alleged history” of the monument. According to a report in Bar and Bench, the petition was filed by one Dr. Rajneesh Singh, who claimed to be the media in-charge of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Ayodhya unit. The court however, was not impressed and told him to “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. Please enrol yourself in MA, then go for NET, JRF and if any university denies you to research on such topic then come to us.” The Court ordered, “We are of the opinion that the petitioner has called upon us to give a verdict on completely a non-justiciable issue.”


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