Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vinay Katiyar claimed on Wednesday that Mughal ruler Shah Jahan destroyed a Hindu temple to build the Taj Mahal. This is the second time this week that a BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh has questioned the history of the 17th-century monument.
“Taj Mahal was a Hindu temple known as Tejo Mahalaya,” Katiyar told CNN-News18 in an exclusive interview. “It was a Shiva temple that was demolished by Shah Jahan to build the Taj Mahal.” The Rajya Sabha member said that while it is a “fact that there was a Hindu temple there”, he is not asking for the Taj Mahal to be destroyed.
On Monday, BJP MLA Sangeet Som called the Mughal monument a “blot on Indian culture”, and said it was built by traitors and should get no place in history. Soon after, Uttar Pradesh Tourism Minister Reeta Bahuguna Joshi dismissed Som’s comments as a personal opinion, and said the monument was “part of our cultural heritage”. A day later, Chief Minister Adityanath said he would visit the Taj Mahal on October 25.
Earlier in October, the Uttar Pradesh government was criticised for leaving out the Unesco world heritage site 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”, and that the monument had been “rightly kept out [of the tourism booklet]”.