The Twisted Tale of the Taj Mahal
By Louis Palme
We have all read the romantic account of the Taj Mahal – this one published in Medieval and Early Modern Times, a widely-used seventh grade social studies textbook:
Muslims made many contributions to civilization. As you learned in this chapter, these contributions included advancements in math, science, and the arts. Muslims were known for their beautiful buildings, featuring domes and minarets. One famous Muslim building is the Taj Mahal. Originally built as a tomb for a Mogul ruler’s wife, the Taj Mahal is one of the world’s most intriguing buildings. (End note 1)
The problem with this assertion is that it is a lie. What is most disturbing is that the false narrative has persisted for two centuries with the aid and abetment of archeologists and government officials. The essay below will identify the sinister plots, the political intrigue, and the irrefutable facts behind this twisted tale. For brevity, only the basic outline is provided, but all the information is readily available on the Internet.
The British Colonial Conspiracy
The art of colonialism was perfected with the British Empire. A relatively small enterprise, the East India Company, was able to control for over two centuries (1600-1858) the resources and destiny of India – what is today the second largest country in the world. The key to this accomplishment was articulated by Thomas Macaulay in 1835:
We must do our best to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern, a class of persons Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinions, words and intellect. (Note 2)
Macaulay’s brother-in-law, Charles E. Trevelyan, explained the strategy further to a select committee of the House of Lords in 1853:
….. the effect of training in European learning is to give an entirely new turn to the native mind. The young men educated in this way cease to strive after independence according to the original Native model, and aim at improving the institutions of the country according to the English model, with the ultimate result of establishing constitutional self-government. They cease to regard us as enemies and usurpers, and they look upon us as friends and patrons, and powerful beneficent persons, under whose protection the regeneration of their country will gradually be worked out . . . (Note 3)
It must be stated in passing that the British, who took over control of India from the East India Company in 1858, were the most benevolent and beneficial to their subjects of all of the colonial powers. This is evidenced by the greater number of stable, democratic governments emanating from British colonialism than from that of any other power.
Besides creating an educated elite aligned with British objectives, the East India Company and Great Britain had to contend with the potential of an organized revolt of the governed, such as the American War of Independence. Fortunately, India had a long history of religious strife, with Hindus (Brahmans) supplanting Buddhists [This is claimed by some Marxist historians, but is not true. Hindu religion was revived in ancient India at the cost of Buddhism by Adi Shankaracharya, who debated with Buddhist scholars like Mandanmishra on Buddhist and Vedic religion, and defeated the Buddhist scholars, who accepted Shankaracharya’s arguments and became his disciples, causing their Buddhist followers to embrace Vedic i.e. Hindu religion.] and Muslims supplanting the Hindus. So a key strategy for controlling this vast region and population was to promote internal strife among the religious factions. The word “communalism” in South Asia is defined as “attempts to construct religious or ethnic identity, incite strife between people identified as different communities, and to stimulate communal violence between those groups.”
In 1916, Hindus and Muslims resolved set aside their communal prerogatives and work together to achieve greater authority in Indian affairs. The resulting agreement, called the Lucknow Pact between Congress leader B G Tilak and Muslim League’s M A Jinnah, highlighted the effects of the distorted Indian history written by the British and their attempts to demoralize the Hindus: The Pact granted Muslims twice as many seats in proportion to population as the Hindus [For e.g. in UP, 15% Muslims got 30% seats, 85% Hindus got 70% seats]. (Note 4) This significant compromise by the Hindus was needed to win Muslim cooperation, but the precedent has colored Indian politics ever since. The breakdown of common objectives between the British and the Indians reached a tipping point with the Jalianwala Bagh massacre in 1919, when British troops fired on a peaceful demonstration of Baishakhi (Sikh) pilgrims, killing between 379 and 1,000 people. Troops fired at the demonstrators for ten minutes until all of their ammunition was exhausted, some 1,650 rounds in all.
Since India won its independence in 1947, the objective of the government has been to avoid and minimize communalism at all costs, but that hasn’t always been the case. Before delving into that, however, we must first introduce the conspiracies by the Hindus, Muslims, and others.
The Hindu Conspiracy
In 1841, Lt. Colonel W. H. Sykes, the director of the East India Company, wrote a monograph on the religious, moral, and political state before the Muslim invasion. His objective was to correct the mistaken view that the Hindu (Brahman) religion existed in India since “the earliest times.” [It is a mistake to say that Hindu religion is equivalent to Brahman religion. Brahmanism was only 1/4 th of Hinduism. Other castes and communities also made up Hinduism.]
. . . on the Mussulman (Muslim) conquest of India, the Brahmans destroyed all previous historical documents [all dubious and wrong claims without any basis] ; they seem, nevertheless, to have carefully preserved, or invented, or adapted, such compositions in Sanskrit, as attested their own religious supremacy or established their cosmogony; and which have fettered the minds of Indians, as well as foreigners, to an unreserved admission of such pretensions as in their arrogance, caprice, or selfishness they chose to advance. . . . [However, according to accounts by Chinese historians,] the Brahmans had obtained the supremacy [only] in the sixth and seventh centuries. . . . That there does not now exist an authentic, connected, and chronologically correct Hindu history, and that the absence of that history proceeds, not from original deficiencies of historical data, not their destruction by the ravages of war, but the systematic perversion of those data, adopted to work out the monstrous scheme upon which the Hindu faith is based. . . . I have not met with evidence to satisfy my mind that Brahmanism was ever in the ascendant, until after Buddhism. (Note 5)
The Muslim Conspiracy
Muslim armies attempted to invade India as early as 637, but they were not successful until 712 under Muhammad bin Qasim. Three years later he was recalled to Damascus and summarily executed for violating two Sindhi princesses meant for the Ummayad Caliph’s harem. Islam quickly died out. Later in 998, the Turk Mahmud of Ghaznavi began to launch seventeen expeditions over the course of thirty years to subdue India. Bolstered by the edicts of the Quran, he slayed the idolaters, destroyed their temples, and took tribute in huge quantities to send back to Baghdad. A third invasion of India began under Muhammad Ghauri in 1178. The Muslims ruled India with a heavy hand for five hundred years. (Note 6)
In an effort to wipe out Hinduism, temples were destroyed, defiled, or converted into mosques. Since Hindus cremate their dead rather than bury them, Muslims often defiled the Hindu temples and palaces by converting them into mausoleums. They would also chisel texts from the Quran on the walls of the Hindu temples. As will be demonstrated later in this essay, this is exactly what happened to the Taj Mahal.
The “Communalism” Conspiracy
Having read Lt. Colonel Sykes’ treatise on the competing religious factions in India, a self-appointed archeologist in India named Alexander Cunningham proposed in 1842 a way of using archeology to pit one religious faction against the other.
[An archaeological survey of India] would be an undertaking of vast importance to the [Colonial] Indian government politically, and to the British public religiously. To the first body it would show that India had generally been divided into numerous petty chiefships, which had invariably been the case upon every successful invasion; while whenever she had been under one ruler, she had always repelled foreign conquest with determined resolution. To the other body it would show that Brahmanism, instead of being an unchanged and unchangeable religion which had subsisted for ages, was of comparatively modern origin, and had been constantly receiving additions and alterations; facts which prove that the establishment of the Christian religion in India must ultimately succeed. (Note 7)
In 1861, Cunningham was appointed archaeological surveyor to the government of India and he founded the Archaeological Survey of India. Cunningham was sometimes called the father of Indian archeology. However, more recent views of his role in colonial India are not as flattering. Here is the view of P. N. Oak, a controversial Indian journalist and official in the Indian Ministry for Information:
The main reason for setting up of this archeological department was to keep the Hindus and the Moslems constantly fighting with each other and also to insure (sic) perpetual British rule.
Cunningham’s immediate plan was to ascribe as many of India’s historic remains to Moslems, knowing well that they were Hindu remains. . . .
The tragedy, however, is that although India is no longer under the yoke of the British, because of its long congenital objective and training, the ASI still retains its tradition of functioning clandestinely to sub-serve only Anglo-Moslem interests for political reasons, and to suit the interests of the current [Congress] party in power. That is why, although it is more than 25 years [in 1968] since the discovery was first published that India’s historic monuments ascribed to Moslems are all Hindu in origin, all archeologists and historians continue to maintain a conspiratorial silence about it.
A graphic instance of Cunningham’s diabolic archeological role is provided by the Taj Mahal itself.
Though the Taj Mahal constituted the most conspicuous and enchanting monument in Cunningham’s charge, the ASI has never made a single archeological survey of this edifice, from top to bottom. . . .
That Cunningham during his entire tenure of 25 years as head of the ASI should not have surveyed the best historical monument in India, is unthinkable and an indication enough that he did not want its Hindu origin to be detected or get widely known. (Note 8)
So-called historical revisionists like Professor Oak are not the only sources condemning the communalism conspiracy. In 2011, a research thesis was published by the Archaeology Department of Bangor University (UK) by Rebecca Jones which prominently featured Alexander Cunningham as an example and listed the following archeological study impacts adverse to a national heritage:
• Promoting a foreign religion (Christianity) by allowing ideas of division and religious acceptance to circulate
• Appropriating native archeological artifacts to diminish national identity
• Using archeology to denigrate the indigenous societies and justify the need for colonists
• Blurring the distinctions between race, language, and culture
• Reinterpreting archeological evidence to legitimize certain political positions
• De-contextualizing artifacts to diminish their historical significance
• Monopolizing the access to archeological sites to prevent divergent interpretations (Note 9)
The impact of communalism in India has been significant. The partition between India and Pakistan at the time of independence in 1947 was driven by communal animosities and fears. Some 14.5 million people were displaced, and 500,000 died in the ensuing riots over territory and housing. Communal riots have continued long after Independence and the partition. A well reported horrific one occurred in 2002 in Gujarat, where some 1169 Muslims and Hindus lost their lives, but India has seen far worse communal riots in the past in many other incidents, quite contrary to what the Leftist media wanted the world to believe that the 2002 Gujarat riots were the ‘worst’. As far as the communal strategy helping to advance Christianity in India is concerned, after 350 years of British presence in the country, the Christian population is only 2.3% in India and even smaller in Pakistan. By comparison, Christianity in South Korea grew in just 65 years from 2% in 1945 to 31.6% in 2010.
Arabic Inscriptions – a Mourning or a Warning?
Emperor Shah Jahan’s wife Mumtaz died in 1631 in Burhanpur during the childbirth of her 14th child. She had accompanied Shah Jahan there on a military campaign. Initially, she was buried in a garden in Burhanpur, but meanwhile Shah Jahan was preparing a new palace for himself in Delhi and a mausoleum for Mumtaz 120 miles away using the existing Taj Mahal in Agra. She wasn’t moved to the Taj Mahal until 11 or 22 years later, according to the most widely-distributed accounts. Why would her memory be preserved so far away from Shah Jahan’s new palace?
Also, the Taj Mahal is located next to a busy market center. In the 17th Century, French jewel merchant Jean Baptiste Tavernier observed there was “a large bazar consisting of six large courts, all surrounded with porticos under which there are chambers for the use of merchants and an enormous quantity of cotton is sold there.” (Note 10) Many writers have questioned why Shah Jahan would locate his wife’s mausoleum next to a market center. Perhaps the answer lies in the inscriptions chiseled onto the exterior walls of the Taj Mahal. Twenty-eight citations from the Quran had been added to the structure, but the nine exterior inscriptions were intended for viewing by the passers-by. (Note 11)
Here are the exterior locations, the citations, and excerpts from the text of the Quran:
1. South Arch – Surah 89 “The Dawn” –
“Have you not heard how the Lord dealt with [evil tribes]? . . They had all led sinful lives, and made the land teem with wickedness. Therefore your Lord let loose on them His scourge; for from His eminence your Lord observes all… But on that day none will punish as He will punish, and none will bind with chains like His.”
2. North Arch – Surah 93 “The Daylight” –
“The Life to come holds a richer prize for you than this present life. You shall be gratified with what your Lord will give you.”
Surah 94 “Comfort” —
“Have we not lifted up your heard and relieved you [Muhammad] of the burden which weighed down your back? Have We not given you high renown? Every hardship is followed by ease. Every hardship is followed by ease.”
Surah 95 “The Fig” –
“We created man in a most noble image and in the end We shall reduce him to the lowest of low: Except the believers who do good works, for theirs shall be a boundless recompense. What then after this can make you deny the Last Judgment? Is Allah not the best of judges?”
3. Building Arches — Surah 36, Verses 1 – 21, “Ya Sin” –
“This [Quran] is revealed by the Mighty One, the Merciful, so that you may forewarn a nation who, because their fathers were not warned before them live in heedlessness. . . [Messengers] said: ‘The evil you forbode can come only from yourselves. Will you not take heed. Surely you are great transgressors.’ Thereupon a man came running from the far side of the city. ‘My people,’ he said, ‘follow those who have been sent to you. Follow those who ask no reward of you and are rightly guided. Why should I not serve Him who has created me and to whom you shall all be recalled?’”
4. South Door – Surah 81 “The Cessation” –
“. . . when Hell burns fiercely and Paradise is brought near: then each soul shall know what it has done. . . .This is but an admonition to all men: to those among you that have the will to be upright; yet you cannot will, except by the will of Allah, Lord of the Universe.”
5. West Door – Surah 82 “The Cataclysm” –
“O man! What evil has enticed you from your gracious Lord who created you . . ? The righteous will surely dwell in bliss. But the wicked shall burn in Hell upon the Judgment-day; nor shall they ever escape from it. . . Would that you knew what the Day of Judgment is! It is the day when every soul will stand alone and Allah will reign supreme.”
6. North Door – Surah 84 “The Rending” –
“Why then do they not have faith, or kneel in prayer when the Quran is read to them? The unbelievers indeed deny it; but Allah knows best the falsehoods they believe in. Therefore proclaim to all a woeful doom, save those who embrace the true Faith and do good works; for theirs is an unfailing recompense.”
7. East Door – Surah 98 “The Proof” –
“The unbelievers among the People of the Book and the pagans shall burn forever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures. But of all creatures those that embrace the Faith and do good works are the noblest. Their reward in their Lord’s presence shall be the gardens of Eden, gardens watered by running streams, where they shall dwell forever. Allah is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him.”
As can be seen, most of these texts are not verses of comfort for the departed Princess, but warnings to unbelievers of the doom they face if they do not become Muslims. Thus, the Taj Mahal was turned into a huge billboard for warning the shoppers at the marketplace in Agra.
Eight “Proofs” that the Taj Mahal is of Hindu origin
1. The name is Hindu
Taj means “crown” and Mahal means “palace.” Both words together mean “Crown Palace.” The pure Sanskrit name is Tejo Mahalaya. There is no Arabic name that would sound anything like this. Furthermore, the name of the deceased wife of Shah Jahan was never Mumtaz Mahal, but Mumtaz-ul-Zamani. You cannot delete the first three letters of “Mumtaz” and derive the name of a building. Muslims generally just refer to the Taj Mahal as “Mumtaz’s mausoleum.”
2. Architectural features have no Muslim analogues
The basic floor plan of the Taj Mahal is a central octagon with quadrangular chambers radiating outward from circular passageway. The dome rises four stories, and the building contains 38 rooms on three stories. That many rooms would be normal for a palace, but not for a mausoleum. Most of these rooms have been sealed from the view of visitors. The octagon is a basic motif of Hindu temples, and each of the eight compass directions has a special name. The number eight is also reflected in Hindu music and art. Neither the octagon nor the number eight is a component of any Islamic religious practice.
The orientation of the Taj Mahal also betrays its Hindu origin. The mosque that is part of the mausoleum faces due West, an orientation typical of a Hindu temple. Mosques are always built so the prayers may be made towards Mecca, which in Agra would be almost 15 degrees south of West.
The Taj Mahal trishul can be seen on the top of the dome, also inlaid at the apex of the main marble entrance, and inscribed in the stone of the courtyard. This is a Hindu Lord Shiva “missile” or trident spear, and it is oriented vertically. While it looks like the Muslim “moon” seen on the top of many mosques, it is not Arabic or Islamic. The Islamic crescent moon is always tilted like the natural inclination of the moon.
3. Muslim history is replete with reclaimed structures built by others
Many of the examples of “Muslim architecture” are actually captured churches or were built on the ruins of, and with the remnants of, other religious structures. The Cordoba Mosque in Spain was originally the Visigoth Catholic Church of St. Vincent. The Hagia Sophia in Turkey was originally a Greek Orthodox basilica captured in the fall of Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453. The Great Mosque of Damascus was originally a Christian basilica dedicated to St. John the Baptist. Two mosques were built on top of the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem. These precedents should make one skeptical that the Taj Mahal was built from scratch by a Muslim ruler.
Shah Jahan, the supposed builder of the Taj Mahal, destroyed 76 Hindu temples in the Benares district alone during his 30 year reign. These exploits were all proudly reported by his court chronicler Mullah Abdul Hamid Lahori. This deliberate destruction was all in a concerted campaign to wipe out Hinduism in his domain.
4. The Shah Jahan’s chronicler confirmed it
Muslim rulers typically employed court reporters to record their exploits and business affairs so their accomplishments could reported back to the Caliph. Shah Jahan was no exception. His chronicler was Mullah Abdul Hamid Lahori, who wrote Badshahnama in Persian using Arabic script. Here is what he reported regarding the Taj Mahal:
The site [for Mumtaz’s burial was] covered with a majestic garden, to the south of the great city (of Agra) and amidst which the building known as the palace of Raja Man Singh, at present owned by Raja Jai Singh, the grandson of Man Singh, was selected for the burial of the Queen, whose abode is in heaven. Although Raja Jai Singh valued it greatly as his ancestral heritage and property, yet he agreed to part with that Grand Palace gratis for Emperor Shahjahan, still out of scrupulousness and religious sanctity, he (Jai Singh) was granted Sharifabad in exchange for that grand palace. (Note 12)
(Sharifabad was a plot of land of unknown size. There is a region in Kashmir about 500 miles away bearing that name, but it is not clear if that was the same place.)
It is significant that Badshahnama contains no reporting on the construction of the Taj Mahal, which would have been a major project for Shah Jahan’s administration.
5. European visitors described the later phase of embellishment as work in progress
One of the most widely-quoted descriptions of the construction of the Taj Mahal was by Jean Baptiste Tavernier, a French jewel merchant who visited India several times from 1641 to 1668. He described how 20,000 laborers worked 22 years to complete the magnificent tomb. He claimed to have seen the commencement and accomplishment of the great work. While it is clear that Tavernier saw work being done on the Taj Mahal, it is also apparent that his account was a mixture of occasional direct observation and Islamic exaggeration. For example, if he saw the commencement of the project, that would mean the project started not sooner than ten years after Mumtaz’s death. Furthermore, if he saw the accomplishment of the project, it would not have been completed until five years after Shah Jahan had been deposed and thrown into prison by his son Aurangzeb in 1658. What Tavernier did observe, however, was brick scaffolding piled around the building which would have allowed workers to inscribe the Arabic texts from the Quran on the building. Here is Tavernier’s account:
I witnessed the commencement and accomplishment of this great work on which they expended 22 years during which twenty thousand men worked incessantly. This is sufficient to enable one to realize that the cost of it has been enormous. It is said that the scaffolding alone cost more than the entire work, because, from want of wood, they had all to be made of brick as well as the supports of the arches. (Note 13)
This observation also sheds light on the primitive construction methods used by the Muslims for the application of the Arabic Quran texts. Bamboo is indigenous throughout Asia and particularly in Uttar Pradesh where Agra is situated. It is commonly used as scaffolding for the construction of multi-story buildings, even in the 21st Century. That Shah Jahan would use bricks instead of bamboo for scaffolding suggests that the work was supervised by people from regions in the Middle East where bamboo does not grow. Middle Eastern scaffolding would be brick or ramparts. That the cost of the scaffolding was more than the cost of the work suggests that Tavernier saw only the work of inscribing Arabic on the walls of the already-existing Taj Mahal. Tavernier only visited Agra twice- in the winter of 1640-41 and in 1665. He therefore could not have been present at either commencement or accomplishment of the Taj Mahal, and hence his claim of 20,000 workers working for 22 years has to be dismissed. Shah Jahan’s wife died in 1631 and the ‘work’ began in 1631, so 22 years later would have been finished in 1653. Tavernier was not present at Agra either in 1631 or 1653, so his claim has to be dismissed.
6. A plaque identifies the calligrapher who added the texts from the Quran, but not the architect who would have deserved even more credit.
At the base of the interior dome is an Arabic inscription that reads, “Written by the insignificant being, Amanant Khan Shirazi.” If the construction of the building and the insertion of the Arabic texts from the Quran were accomplished in the same time period, a plaque recognizing the calligrapher would also include the name of the architect or builder of the Taj Mahal. Or at the very least, there would be another plaque identifying the architect or builder.
There is actually no historical record of who built the Taj Mahal. Neither Shah Jahan’s chronicler, Mullah Abdul Hamid Lahori, nor the French jewel merchant, Jean Baptiste Tavernier, mentions the name of who built the Taj Mahal. Here is a short list of some of the people who have been identified by various chroniclers over the centuries: Austin de Bordeaux (French silversmith), Aesa Muhammad Effendi (Turkish), Verroneo (Italian), Ustad Ahmad of Lahore (an engraver), “a council of architects from India, Persia, Central Asia, and beyond” (according to the 1964 Encyclopedia Britannica).
7. Carbon-14 dating places the Taj Mahal three centuries earlier in history
In 1972, Marvin Mills, a professor of history of architecture with degrees from Columbia University, took a sample from a river-level wooden doorway of the Taj Mahal for Carbon-14 dating. This sample was tested by Dr. Evan Williams, director of the Brooklyn College Radiocarbon Laboratory. The date of the sample was determined to be 1359 with a spread of plus or minus 89 years and a probability of 67%. Thus, the wood in the doorway was milled nearly 300 years before Mumtaz’s death. (Subsequent to this report, the door in question was removed to prevent future testing.) Note 14
Numerous historians and archeologists have called for a systematic Carbon-14 survey of the Taj Mahal, but they have been refused access by the Muslim waqf that controls the historical site.
8. Hindu metrics belie an Arab/Muslim design
It can be demonstrated that a Mercedes car was designed by Germans and a Jaguar car was designed by British merely by the fact that the former contains only metric measurements and threads, while the latter contains only inch measurements and threads. With this in mind, R. Balasubramaniam, a professor in the Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (Kampur), undertook in 2008 a dimensional study of the Taj Mahal complex using the two possible measuring systems – Hindu and Mughal (Muslim). Hindus used a system based on the angulam which equals 1.763 centimeters, a vitasti which is twelve angulams, and a dhanush which is 108 angullams. Muslims, at that time, measured in terms of the gaz or the zira (both of which are about 1 yard).
When these metrics are applied to the grounds of the Taj Mahal, the Hindu system results in measurements that are evenly divided by 10 – helping to realize symmetrical plans and also making calculations by the decimal system possible. The Muslim measurements were determined to be illogical and imprecise. The same Hindu measurement plans were detected in the basic structure of the Taj Mahal. While this measurement problem had been recognized in the past and was simply ignored as imprecise workmanship, that argument falls apart when it comes to buildings with domes and arches – just as those domes and arches would fall apart if they were not precisely fitted.
Concluded Professor Balasubramaniam:
Traditional design principles and civil engineering skills of the Indian subcontinent [i.e., Hindu systems of measurement] were utilized in the construction of the Taj Mahal. (Note 15)
9. Aurangazeb’s letter of 1652 AD to Shah Jahan pointing out leaks and cracks in the Taj Mahal and urging repairs
There is another major positive proof of the Taj Mahal pre-dating Shah Jahan. In 1652 AD, Prince Aurangazeb (who later became Emperor Aurangazeb ruling from 1658-1707) happened to be passing by Agra in the rainy season i.e. in August. The dome of the Taj Mahal was leaking, and the entire building was in cracks, leaking and needing repairs. Aurangazeb wrote a letter to Shah Jahan who was then ruling in Delhi pointing out cracks, leaks and many other problems which all show that the building was very ancient and urging Shah Jahan to carry out repairs. He also mentioned that there are royal rooms in the Taj Mahal, and that the master builders are unable to suggest any major repairs to the main dome. Aurangazeb, just like Shah Jahan and the entire Mughal records, avoids mentioning the Sanskrit-origin term Taj Mahal and simply refers to it as the ‘holy tomb’. The matter was of such importance as to catch the attention of a Prince who happened to be passing by.
“The dome of the holy tomb leaked in two places towards the north during the rainy season and so also the fair semi-domed arches, many of the galleries on the second storey, the four smaller domes, the four northern compartments and seven arched underground chambers which have developed cracks. During the rains last year the terrace over the main dome also leaked in two or three places. It has been repaired, but it remains to be seen during the ensuing rainy season how far the operations prove successful. The domes of the Mosque and the Jama’at Khana leaked during the rains…The master builders are of the opinion that if the roof of the second storey is reopened and dismantled and treated afresh with concrete, over which half a yard of mortar grout is laid the semi-domed arches, the galleries and the smaller domes will probably become watertight, but they are unable to suggest any measures of repairs to the main dome…”
The letter is eloquent enough. In 1652 AD, the dome of the holy tomb, the fair semi-domed arches, the four smaller domes and the domes of the Mosque and the Jama’at Khana all had developed serious defects. How does it compare with the supposed period of its construction 1631-53 AD?
And do the master builders of Shah Jahan who were “unable to suggest any measures of repairs to the main dome” appear to be the original architects of the edifice?
This letter is recorded in at least three contemporary chronicles such as ‘Yaadgaarnama’, ‘Aadab-e-Alamgiri’ etc.
Indian opposition to changing the Taj Mahal mythology
The motto of India is Satyamev Jayate – Truth Alone Prevails. Outside observers may wonder how serious the government is about the truth when it has so adamantly refused to discover or see the truth regarding the Taj Mahal. The extremes to which the Indian government has gone to hide the truth are illustrated by the actions taken to suppress the publication of P.N. Oak’s book, Taj Mahal – The True Story. The book was first published in 1968 and was well-received by the public. However, the government under Indira Gandhi suppressed the book and other findings out fear of antagonizing the Muslim minority. The publisher was threatened with a lawsuit if he did not stop publication and recall all unsold books. Later, the book was published in the United States. The author of this article could only obtain a copy of the U.S. edition from an Indian source at a hefty price. Needless to say, the book is still well-known in India despite efforts to suppress it.
Why correcting the Taj Mahal story is needed today
In May 2014, Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister of India, defeating the candidate of the Congress Party which had been in power since 1947. Modi is a Hindu Nationalist and former Chief Minister of one of the fastest-developing states in India. He was elected on his promise to improve the economy of India and the conditions of all citizens regardless of religious background. While it might be argued that now would be the wrong time to embrace a “truth” that would overturn a Muslim myth, it could also be the best time to announce to all factions that “truth” in all situations must take precedence over fables which only enflame communal animosities. While their influence still lingers in India, the British are no longer calling the game. Between the Muslims and the Hindus, no religion can claim superiority over the other. Both are relatively recent arrivals in India, and both have some dark histories. They must coexist and respect each other’s differences if India hopes to be a world-class nation.
There are at least 22 major rooms that have been sealed off since the time of Shah Jahan. Another 1000 chambers are evident in the layout of the multi-story structure. (Note 16) The best way to move forward would be for Modi to open up the sealed rooms and chambers in the Taj Mahal to unbiased archeologists. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said in 1913, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”
The Taj Mahal – as an original Hindu structure — has been desecrated beyond repair by turning it into a mausoleum and by inscribing condemnations of non-Muslims on the walls and arches of the building. There is no way of returning it to its original owners or condition. The best thing to do would be to continue preserving it for the benefit of visitors and archeologists, but there should be an inscription clearly stating the provenance and the checkered history of the building. Truth alone should prevail.
4. V.S. Godbole, Taj Mahal and the Great British Conspiracy, 1996, page 146.
5. W.H. Sykes, Notes on the Religious, Moral, and Political State of India Before the Mohomedan Invasion, London, 1841, pages 2, 8-9, 196, 202
6. K.S. Lal, The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India, New Delhi, 1992, Chapter 3.
7. A. Cunningham, “An Account of the discovery of the Ruins of the Buddhist City of Samkassa,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1843, pages 246-247.
8. P.N. Oak, Taj Mahal – The True Story, A. Ghosh, Texas, 1989, pp. 262-265.
9. Rebecca Jones, “Objects, Archaeology and the Influence of Nationalism and Colonialism,” 6-5-2011, https://www.academia.edu/5757326/Objects_Archaeology_and_the_Influence_of_Nationalism_and_Colonialism
10. Jean Baptiste Tavernier, Travels in India,(translated by V. Ball, London, 1889), Vol. 1, pp. 109-111.
11. Wayne E. Begley, “The Myth of the Taj Mahal and a New Theory of Its Symbolic Meaning,” http://www.collegeart.org/pdf/artbulletin/Art%20Bulletin%20Vol%2061%20No%201%20Begley.pdf , page 36.
12. Badshahnama, Asiatic Society of Bengal, pages 402 and 403
13. Jean Baptiste Tavernier, loc cit.
14. Marvin H. Mills, “Re-examining Origin of Moslem Monuments,” presented to the 17th Annual Meeting of the Middle East Studies Association of North America, and quoted in Taj Mahal – The True Story by P.N. Oak, (1989), page 284.
15. R. Balasubramaniam, “New insights on the modular planning of the Taj Mahal,” Current Science, Vol. 97, No. 1, (10 July 2009), page 49.