Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Sangeet Som on Monday said the Taj Mahal was built by traitors and should get no place in history, News18 reported. He called the Mughal-era monument a “blot on Indian culture”.
The BJP leader went on to incorrectly claim that the “creator of Taj Mahal had imprisoned his father”. However, it was Shah Jahan, the builder of the Unesco World Heritage site, who had been imprisoned by his son Aurangazeb. He had taken over the Mughal empire only after his father Jahangir’s death.
“He [Shah Jahan] wanted to wipe out Hindus,” Som claimed. “If these people are part of our history, then it is very sad, and we will change this history.”
Soon after, Uttar Pradesh Tourism Minister Reeta Bahuguna Joshi responded to the controversy Som triggered, saying the Taj Mahal was “part of our cultural heritage”, according to CNN-News18.
“It might be his individual opinion,” she said. “Chief Minister Adityanath and I call it part of our cultural heritage. It is heritage and it is a major tourist spot. We are committed to the upliftment of Agra and the Taj. From a tourist’s point of view, we are proud of the Taj Mahal.”
In June, Adityanath had said the Taj Mahal did not “reflect Indian culture”, and that foreign dignitaries in India were now gifted copies of the Bhagvad Gita instead of replicas of the monument.
Earlier in October, the Uttar Pradesh government was criticised for leaving out the 17th-century monument from Uttar Pradesh’s official tourism booklet. The brochure lists destinations such as the temple in Gorakhpur, where Chief Minister Adityanath is the chief priest, and also includes plans for new attractions such as a tour of locations related to the Ramayana.
A week later, the state minister in charge of religious affairs and culture, Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary, had said, “The Taj Mahal was not a symbol of any religion and is nobody’s.” He had said that the monument had been “rightly kept out [of the tourism booklet] and should be replaced with the Guru Gorakhnath peeth”.