The Archaeological Survey of India had released pictures of underground cells in the Taj Mahal on May 9, three days before a court hearing on a petition to open 22 locked rooms in the mausoleum to check for the presence of Hindu idols or scriptures.

On May 12, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court dismissed the plea filed by Rajneesh Singh, who is in charge of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s media unit in Ayodhya.

Singh argued that the Taj Mahal is an old temple dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva and is known as the Tejo Mahalaya. He sought directives to the Archaeological Survey of India to constitute a fact-finding committee to open the rooms to study the “real history” of the monument.

The court, however, pulled up Singh and said that such matters should be debated by historians, academicians and scholars.

Before the hearing, the Archaeological Survey of India in a tweet had shared its January 2022 newsletter. Officials from the tourism industry told India Today that the agency tweeted these images to stop the spread of misinformation about the rooms.

The pictures show the maintenance work undertaken in the underground cells of the Taj Mahal.

“The work of maintenance of underground cells on the river side was taken up,” the newsletter said along with two images each before and after the restoration work was carried out. “Decayed and disintegrated lime plaster was removed and replaced by laying of lime plaster and traditional lime processing before application.”

A photo of Taj Mahal’s underground cells. Credit: The Archaeological Survey of India

Two other images showed the repair work undertaken by the conservation body in the outer area of the Taj Mahal.

Mughal king Shah Jahan had commissioned the construction of the Taj Mahal in 1632 and the project was finished in 1653. However, some Hindutva pseudo-historians have propounded the theory that the mausoleum pre-dated Shah Jahan and was built long before Muslim rule began in India.

An official from the Archaeological Survey of India’s Agra Circle unit told The Indian Express that the images published in the newsletter were from December. “Even after that a lot more work was done and pictures were taken,” the official said. “Whether they find space in the next issues of the newsletter will be an editorial decision.”