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Friday, June 18, 2021

The Legend of Taj Mahal: A Historical Bluff? By Adv  Vinayak D. Porob





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Taj Mahal is historically considered to be a symbol of love, constructed by Shahjahan, the Moghul emperor in memory of his consort Mumtaz. However historian Shri. P.N. Oak has a different opinion and has in his book “The Taj Mahal is a Temple Palace” disclosed some very crucial historical facts which create a reasonable doubt whether the Taj Mahal is a Tomb or a Rajput Palace. In the city of Agra in North India on the banks of the river Yamuna stands a beautiful majestic building complex known as the Taj Mahal. History reveals that in a garden pavilion of a mansion in Burhanpur about 600 miles Southwest of Agra, Mumtaz was buried in 1631 A.D after her death while delivering for the fourteenth time during her eighteen years of married life. After six months Mumtaz’s body was brought to Agra and the same could have been brought only if a tomb was ready and handy. If Shahjahan had yet to dig the very foundation of the new tomb it would not be brought from its repose in the grave at Burhanpur. If Shahjahan was to build a new tomb, Mumtaz’s body would have been taken to Agra for consecration in the new tomb only after a period of twelve to thirteen years which is the period required in constructing such a majestic building as the Taj Mahal. The period of six months that had to elapse before Mumtaz’s body was taken to Agra from Burhanpur is explained by the time taken in scheming to confiscate the Jaipur ruler’s palace in Agra under the pretext of Mumtaz’s urgent reburial in it. Since Raja Jaisingh was a vassal of the Moghul ruler, he surrendered the Taj Mahal to the Moghul ruler.

   According to Shahjahan’s own court chronicle known as the Badshahnama of Abdul Hamid Lahori which explains the history of the first twenty years of the reign of Shahjahan, clearly asserts that it was Raja Jaisingh who was given land while Shahjahan got Raja Mansingh’s garden palace in exchange. Taj Mahal was known as Raja Mansingh’s mansion which does not necessarily mean that it was built by him; however it only means that during  Raja Jaisingh’s time it was known as Raja Mansingh’s mansion as Raja Mansingh was the last famous occupant. Taj Mahal perhaps devolved on Raja Mansingh not necessarily through direct line of descent, however being the grandson of Raja Mansingh the Taj Mahal devolved on Raja Jaisingh.

According to Jean Baptista Tavernier a French jeweler who toured India for trade between 1641 A.D and 1668 A.D has recorded in his book titled as “Travels in India” that he saw commencement and accomplishment of this great work. He in his very illuminating statement said that the cost of the scaffolding itself was more than that of the entire work. Had Shahjahan constructed the Taj Mahal as we see it today it would be absurd for any foreign visitor like Jean Baptista Tavernier to say that the cost of the scaffolding was costlier than that of the entire work. According to Jean Baptista Tavernier, Shahjahan purposely made the tomb near the Tasimacan. The word Tasimacan is Taz-i-macan i.e royal residence which is synonymous with Taj Mahal and which goes to show that the Rajput palace was known as Tasimacan alias Taj Mahal even before Mumtaz’s burial. Jean Baptista Tavernier’s remark that Shahjahan had used bricks even to support arches indicates that the arches existed already when the original stone slabs were removed by Shahjahan and were substituted by other slabs, the arches so tampered with had to be supported with bricks which also proves that the Taj Mahal with its arched entrances existed even before Mumtaz’s death. Jean Baptista Tavernier’s noting make out four points namely: (i) That Shahjahan purposely buried Mumtaz near a bazaar known as Tasimacan, (ii) That he could not get any timber for the scaffoldings, (iii) That the cost of the scaffoldings was more than that of the entire work and (iv) That twenty thousand laborers worked incessantly for twenty two years.Jean Baptista Tavernier’s statement makes sense as when he arrived in India in 1651 A.D Mumtaz had already been buried in the Taj Mahal for twenty years. The work of raising a scaffolding around the Taj Mahal and engraving stanzas then commenced and ended while Jean Baptista Tavernier was in India , If that took two years than Jean Baptista Tavernier’s observation that Mumtaz’s tomb was by that time twenty two years old and the work began and ended in his presence proves to be correct. Jean Baptista Tavernier’s observation that because of the unavailability of timber Shahjahan had to erect a scaffolding of bricks all around the Taj Mahal and that work was completed after twenty two years indicates that the whole of the marble Taj Mahal building which we see today was curtained off from public view for twenty two long years by a wall of bricks used as scaffolding. It is to say that the Taj Mahal lay hidden from the world for around twenty two years and when the bricks folding were dismantled the Taj Mahal came into view once again and therefore people started believing that it was Shahjahan who had commissioned it. Prince Aurangazeb who was the son of Shahjahan in 1652 A.D recorded a letter which is found in three contemporary Persian chronicles wherein he reports to Emperor Shahjahan that while proceeding from Delhi en route to Deccan to assume the charge as the Governor in 1652 A.D when he happened to visit his mother’s i.e Mumtaz’s burial place in Agra to pay homage, he noticed that the cenotaph and the grave are in good shape and strong but the dome over the grave leaks at two or three places during the monsoons on the northern side. Similarly according to him several royal rooms on the second storey, the four smaller cupolas, the four northern portions, the secret rooms, the tops of the seven storey ceilings and the jamposh of the bigger dome have all absorbed water through seepage and through drip water during the current monsoon season at several places and which he claims to have got temporarily repaired. He further mentioned that during subsequent rainy seasons the various domes, the community hall etc needed more elaborate repairs. Further he felt that the second storey roof needs to be opened up and redone with mortar bricks and stone. From Aurangazeb’s noting it is apparent that in 1652 A.D itself the Taj Mahal building complex had become so ancient that it needed elaborate repairs though there is no exact date when Mumtaz died, she is considered to be dead between the years 1629 A.D to 1632 A.D. Considering the time of twenty two years claimed to construct the Taj Mahal building it would be around 1653 A.D that the same would be completed. Had the Taj Mahal building being completed in 1653 A.D it would not have fallen to the lot of a chance, lone visitor like Aurangazeb to notice the defects and order repairs in 1652 A.D. The defects should have been noticed by the thousands of workmen and the hundreds of court supervisors who were supposed to be building the Taj Mahal. Since serious defects had been in fact noticed a year before completion of the Taj Mahal is utterly unjustified more so as the principal workman would have been punished severely for having wasted millions of rupees of the Moghul treasury by building a complex which leaked and cracked even a year before its alleged completion. Another noteworthy point in Aurangazeb’s letter is that he confesses to a sense of mystery and wonder that while the garden seemed all flooded and the nearby Yamuna river was in high spate, its stream yet flowed quite a respectable distance away from the rear wall of the Taj Mahal. Even today at the peak of the rainy season when one sees nothing but water everywhere, the Yamuna still flows about 100 feet away from the Taj Mahal wall .Had Aurangazeb’s father Shahjahan commissioned the Taj Mahal, the secret of the Yamuna stream keeping away from the Taj wall shouldn’t have been a mystery to Aurangazeb because the Taj builders if any would have easily explained the secret to Aurangazeb.

On page 14 of the guide to the Taj at Agra printed by Azeezoodeen in Lahore, it is found recorded that the labour was all forced and very little payment in cash to the twenty thousand workmen who were said to have been employed for 17 years and even the allowance of corn was cruelly curtailed by rapacious officials placed over them. It is claimed that the hands of the skillful artisans were amputated in order to avoid constructing another skeptical like the Taj Mahal. The above legend is not analyzed and silly according to historian Shri. P. N. Oak as firstly could a monarch with such a highly refined aesthetic sense as to conceive and build the Taj Mahal ever have the heart to treacherously bite away the hands which toiled for him? Secondly would a monarch disconsolate in his bereavement be so stone hearted as to maim those who built a tomb for his beloved wife? Thirdly is commissioning a Taj Mahal such a cheap joke that anyone with a dying wife could summon the same set of laborers and order them to build a rival Taj Mahal? Who would have the money, similar legendary love for his wife and the power to even dream of a Taj Mahal for his own wife? Obviously the romantic twist given to the cruel amputation is a brazen-faced concoction in an attempt to shroud Shahjahan’s cruelty .Historian Shri. P. N. Oak further emphasizes that another concocted legend is that Shahjahan intended to build a black marble Taj Mahal for himself on the other side of the river and as corroboration some ruins on the other side of the river are shown. Remains of Rajput pavilions on the other side of the river Yamuna when the Taj Mahal was a Rajput temple palace got destroyed during successive invasions when enemy forces forded the river Yamuna to capture the Taj Mahal complex which Rajput building ruins too are claimed to be Shahjahan’s construction.

 Taj Mahal is a seven storey structure with four or five stories in marble and the rest underneath in red stone which can be observed from the rear river bank. The garden level is two stories above the river level and to reach the river stream one has to go out of the peripheral wall by the eastern gate and turn left in the northern direction along a gradient. By standing on the sandy river bank one sees the towering two stories high red stone wall with arches all along its length whose ventilators have been crudely walled up from inside. Thirty three arches in the marble plinth are seen in front in between the two towers on the left and the right. The marble platform is a square and the breadth too has thirty three arches thus consequently the marble plinth itself encloses 33×33=1089 rooms, which is the ground floor. Most people content to see Mumtaz’s grave inside the Taj Mahal, fail to go to the rear river side. From the river side view one may notice that the four storied marble structure on top has below it two more stories in red stone. In addition to the four stories in marble, the fifth storey has red stone arches which are comprising of 22 rooms and the sixth storey lies in the plinth. A doorway can be seen in the left corner of the plinth indicating the presence of apartments inside from where one could emerge on the river for a bath. The seventh storey is surmised to be under the plinth below the ground just as every ancient mansion had a basement. There is a massive octagonal well with palatial apartments along its seven stories and a royal staircase descends right down to the water level. As one stands on the red stone pavement facing the marble plinth of the Taj Mahal, the red stone octagonal tower at the left hand extremity, houses the well. On being besieged if the building had to be surrendered to the enemy, the treasure chest used to be pushed into the water  to salvage later after recapture and therefore treasure chests used to be stacked in lower stories of the well and accountants, treasurers, cashiers sat in the upper stories. Had the Taj Mahal been a Tomb this octagonal multi storied well would have been superfluous. The Taj Mahal has seven stories, six of them lies sealed. The marble building at the centre is flanked by two symmetrical ones and the one in the foreground is the eastern one and the one in the background is to the west. The tiny tower at the left near the western building encloses the huge octagonal seven storied well. From the sanskrit inscription according to historian Shri. P. N. Oak the Taj Mahal is the king’s palace built during Raja Paramadidev’s regime 500 years prior to Sahahjahan.

   All the rooms and staircases closed are to be opened; as if the public knew that the Taj Mahal is a structure hiding hundreds of rooms, being a citizen of India would insist on seeing the whole of it and not only to peep in the grave  chamber and walk away. All the sealed rooms should be opened to the public by the Archaeological Survey of India and by the Tourism Department of India considering the revelations made by historian Shri. P.N.Oak in the said book and in order to reveal the secrets concealed in the sealed rooms of the Taj Mahal. Further for real research water should be pumped out from the seven storied octagonal well to reveal the evidence that lies at the bottom or else the legend of Shahjahan and/or the historical truth of the Taj Mahal will always remain an enigma.

 (This article is written with a historical perspective being a history lover and inspired by the historical findings of Shri. P. N. Oak, the author of the book “The Taj Mahal is a Temple Palace”. The writer of this article does not intend to hurt the religious sentiments/ feelings of any person/persons, religion, caste or community.)

 (The writer is an Advocate practicing at Mapusa – Goa.)

 

                                                 

 

 

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