Taj Mahal Controversy: Ancient Temple or Royal Tomb?
The Taj Mahal in India has been called one of the most beautiful structures in the world and is said to be a real monument of one man’s love for a woman.
The story most know, especially by the guides if you have ever visited the Taj Mahal, is that it was designed by Ustad Isa of Iran, and built by the Moghul Emperor, Shah Jahan, in memory of his wife who died in childbirth, Mumtaz Mahal. Schools in India teach that it took 22 years to build (1631 to 1653) by 20,000 artisans and workers brought to India from all over the world.
But what if these were lies fabricated by the Indian Government?
Professor P.N. Oak, author of the book Taj Mahal: The True Story, believes that the whole world has truly been duped. He makes claims that the Taj Mahal is not Queen Mumtaz Mahal’s tomb, but an ancient Hindu temple palace of Lord Shiva, (then known as Tejo Mahalaya), worshipped by the Rajputs of Agra.
This would pre-date the structure to 300 years before Shah Jahan’s era.
Oak does not make arbitrary claims and cites his findings with historical evidence and questions.
Oak discovered that a Shiva temple palace had been taken by Shah Jahan from the then Maharaja of Jaipur, Jai Singh. Shah Jahan then remodelled the palace into his wife’s memorial. In his own court chronicle, Badshahnama, Shah Jahan admitted that an exceptionally beautiful grand mansion in Agra was taken from Jai Singh for Mumtaz’s burial. The ex-Maharaja of Jaipur is said to retain in his secret collection two orders from Shah Jahan for the surrender of the Taj building.
This was not uncommon at the time, though. The use of captured temples and mansions as a burial place for dead royalty was a common practice among Muslim rulers. For example, Humayun and Akbar amongst others are buried in these types of mansions.
But it all started really with the name.
Oak says this term, ‘Mahal’ never occurred in any Moghul court papers or chronicles, even after Shah Jahan’s time. The term ‘Mahal’ had never been used for a building in any of the Muslim countries.
He writes: “The usual explanation that the term Taj Mahal derives from Mumtaz Mahal is illogical in at least two respects. Firstly, her name was never Mumtaz Mahal but Mumtaz-ul-Zamani. Secondly, one cannot omit the first three letters from a woman’s name to derive the remainder as the name for the building.”
Taj Mahal is, he claims, a ‘corrupt’ version of Tejo Mahalaya, (Shiva’s Palace).
But then what about the fairy tale love story?
Oak declares that not a single royal chronicle of Shah Jahan’s time corroborates the love story. He also found that Professor Marvin Miller of New York took samples from the riverside doorway of the Taj. Carbon dating tests revealed that the door was 300 years older than Shah Jahan. Plus, German traveller Johan Albrecht de Mandelslo, who visited Agra in 1638 (only seven years after Mumtaz’s death), describes the life of the city in his memoirs, but makes no reference to the Taj Mahal being built.
And with more astounding evidence, the writings of Peter Mundy, an English visitor to Agra within a year of Mumtaz’s death, also suggest that the Taj was a noteworthy building long well before Shah Jahan’s time.
Oak also points out a number of design and architectural inconsistencies in his book that support the belief that the Taj Mahal is a typical Hindu temple rather than a mausoleum.
So how can this be confirmed?
Many of the rooms in the Taj Mahal have remained sealed since Shah Jahan’s time, and they are still inaccessible to the public. Oak asserts the rooms contain a headless statue of Shiva and other objects commonly used for worship rituals in Hindu temples.
So is it an ancient temple or royal tomb?
The only way to find out is to open these rooms to unbiased scholars and explore them for the truth behind this beauty’s origin.