Taj Mahal, the symbol of eternal love, described by Rabindranath Tagore as ‘A teardrop on the cheek of time’ becoming a subject of controversy can only be seen as a sign of dark times.
The ivory-white sepulchre that is counted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World found place in the list of the same after it was voted by over a million people in a poll in 2007. It’s a reminder that the concepts of beauty always has a timeless value. When a space craft Voyager 1 was launched by NASA in 1977, the only image chosen from India was that of the Taj Mahal, included with immense pride that if there exists any intelligent species in any other part of the universe, in a different world, then let them know of such a stunning monument existing on Earth. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan build the marble mausoleum in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal on the banks of River Yamuna in the city of Agra, Uttar Pradesh. The Taj Mahal that took almost 22 years (1632 – 1653) to finish construction, which has been recognised by the historians and architects as the finest architectural wonder of all times, has now become the bone of contention due to the extremely intolerant stance adopted by the BJP government that rules Uttar Pradesh as well as the Sangh Parivar leaders. A particular section, though minority in its size, has always looked down at the Mughal Sultanate that lasted seven to eight centuries. The section has always tried to belittle the cultural advancements and the achievements in arts the country attained during that period. However, that section being at the helm of the government leading the country has made that narrow mentality of theirs the policy of the government. This in turn has tarnished the image of the country before the world.
The new controversy erupted after those functioning in the tourist sector and the unbiased few took note of the fact that Taj Mahal which is a much coveted tourist destination was missing from the 32-page booklet featuring the top tourist centres in UP released by the Uttar Pradesh Tourism Department last month. Communal and inane rhetoric that rejects the Mughal history and the monuments built during that period, has been raised by the Hindutwa forces for quite some time. Although Tourism Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi came up with a justification that dropping Taj Mahal was not part of government’s policy and that only new tourism attractions were included in the booklet, the remarks of those including Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath proves that their approach towards the Taj is contemptible. The remarks of Yogi Adityanath that the Taj Mahal ‘did not reflect Indian culture’ and the practice of gifting small replicas of the monument needn’t be continued are not forgotten. When the debate exacerbated, BJP MLA Sangeet Som had the courage to lash out that the Taj was even ‘a blot on Indian culture’. In the beginning of 60s, writer and historian PN Oak who was inclined to the far-right win had claimed that Taj Mahal had originally been a temple called Tejo Mahalaya dedicated to Hindu deity Shiva. This has now been taken up by the BJP president of Uttar Pradesh Lakshmikant Bajpayee, who has been polluting the atmosphere with idiotic claims.
It’s actually the political agenda that is behind the shameful move of manipulating and distorting history and the historic monuments as well as knocking them down according to their narrow-minded agenda. Those who spit venom and spread hatred refusing to recognize the contributions of Mughal emperors are the people who are reluctant to digest the diversity of the country and its contributions which enriched our civilization and culture. They won’t be able to refute the authentic data that over 80 lakh tourists reach Agra to visit Taj Mahal every year.More than Rs 200 crore flow to our exchequer in the form of entry fee to the monument from those coming to visit the tomb of Mumtaz Mahal. A tourism industry of Rs 3000 crore rely on the Taj Mahal. Rajeev Tiwari, president of Travel Federation of Agra says that about four lakh people depend on the Taj for livelihood through overt or covert jobs. He complaints that the BJP government allots only a trivial amount for the maintenance of this historic monument that tops the list of UNESCO world heritage sites. At the same time, crores are being spent for transforming Ayodhya, Varanasi and Gorakhpur into tourist centres. One could comprehend the extent of venom in the minds of those with the Sangh Parivar ideology from their approach towards the Taj Mahal. The only positive aspect of this tragedy is that the people could easily understand how bestowing power into the hands of those who are reluctant to recognise and respect the public heritages of our country, would lead the nation to chaos.