The Distorted History of Taj Mahal

By Dr Radhasyam Brahmachari

There is no doubt that Taj Mahal in Agra is the most beautiful architectural marvel in the entire world and hence it is called one of the great wonders of the world. But who is the author of this excellent exhibit of architecture? Opinions in this regard are highly contentious. The general notion is that, it is the creation of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. In previous articles, we have seen how the authorship of excellent pieces of architecture in Delhi, Agra and Fatehpur Sikri are being falsely attributed to the foreign Muslim invaders, who occupied and ruled India for nearly eight centuries. So, the question naturally arises – Is the claim of Shah Jahan’s authorship of Taj Mahal true? Or the said view is merely a part of the process of distortion of Indian history, to appease the Muslims? In this article, we shall try to find a plausible reply to these questions.

In this regard, the Encyclopedia Britannica states, “Taj Mahal is a mausoleum complex in Agra, in western Uttar Pradesh state, in northern India, on the southern bank of the Yamuna (Jumna) River. …the Taj Mahal is distinguished as the finest example of Mughal architecture, a blend of Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles. One of the most beautiful structural compositions in the world, the Taj Mahal was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. It was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahān (reigned 1628–58) to immortalize his wife Mumtāz Mahal (“Chosen One of the Palace”). The name Taj Mahal is a derivation of her name. She died in childbirth in 1631, after having been the emperor’s inseparable companion since their marriage in 1612. The plans for the complex have been attributed to various architects of the period, though the chief architect was probably Ustad Ahmad Lahawrī, an Indian of Persian descent.” [1]

 

The Wikipedia Encyclopedia maintains a similar view and says, “The Taj Mahal (pronounced /tɑdʒ məˈhɑl) is a mausoleum located in Agra, India, built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal (also “the Taj”) is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.” [2]

 

In this context, we should mention what the India ’s historians have to say in this matter. Historian R C Majumdar, in this regard, writes, “The Taj Mahal, a splendid mausoleum built by Shah Jahan, at a cost of fifty lacs of rupees, over the grave of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, is rightly regarded as one of the wonders of the world for its beauty and magnificence.” [3] Another historian S K Saraswati writes, “But all the above architectural creations of Shah Jahan are thrown into shade by that superb conception of the mausoleum that the emperor raised up at Agra to enshrine the mortal remains of his beloved consort, Arjumand Banu Begam, better known as Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal, as it is called after the title of the empress, stands on an elevated ground on a bend of the river Jamuna so that it has a fine view from whatever angle it is seen.” [4]

As a result of this worldwide propaganda, Shahjahan’s authorship of Taj Mahal, mixed with story of romantic love between Shah Jahan and his wife, has become so pervasive that it has become a universal symbol of love between a husband and his wife. Even a common man, at first instance, refuses to admit any other version, even if it is more convincing and rational. Even the Nobel Laureate Poet Rabindranath Tagore, being swayed by the above story, described the Taj Mahal, in one of his poems, as a drop of tears of the grief-stricken Emperor Shahjahan.

The True History of Taj Mahal:

But according to Stephen Knapp, a well known researcher on Taj Mahal, it was not built by Shah Jahan and he writes, “There is ample evidence that the Taj Mahal was never built by Shah Jahan. Some say the Taj Mahal pre-dates Shah Jahan by several centuries and was originally built as a Hindu or Vedic temple/palace complex and Shah Jahan merely acquired it (by brute force) from its previous owner, the Hindu King Jai Singh.” [5] Not only Stephen Knapp but many other researchers like Yogesh Saxena, V S Godbole and Prushottam Nagesh Oak (or P N Oak) hold a similar view and P N Oak is the most prominent and pioneer among scholars who worked to discover the real author of Taj Mahal.

It is well known that Emperor Akbar got Akbarnama, a history of his reign, written by his court-chronicler Abul Fazl and in a similar manner,  Shahjahan had the history of his reign titled Badshahnama written by his court-chronicler Abdul Hamid Lahori. The original Badshahnama was written in Persian using Arabic alphabets and in 1963, P N Oak made a startling discovery the the pages 402 and 403 of the edition of Badshahnama, published by the Asiatic Society of Bengal (see the fascimile of the page 402 and 403 of the edition in Figure-1), contain the true history of the building now known as Taj Mahal. An English translation of the contents from line 21 of page 402 to line 41 on page 403 of Badshahnama is given below.

Meanwhile, we should notice another important point. It is well known that the two British historians, H M Elliot and J Dowson, have done the great job of writing history of India, under Muslim rule, starting from the attack on Sindh by Mohammed bin Kasim in the 8th century to the fall of Marathas in the 19th century, a period, covering nearly 1200 years. It has been written, based on chronicles of the court chroniclers of the Muslim rulers only. The work of Elliot and Dowson’s was published in 8 volumes during 1867 to 1877 and the Volume 7 of their work deals with the reigns of Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. But it is really astonishing that there is not even a mentioning of Taj Mahal in the said work.

Many Muslim chroniclers have described the times of Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, e.g.

(1) Badshahnama by Abdul Hamid Lahori,

(2) Wakiyat Jahangiri by emperor Jahangir,

(3) Shahjahan-nama by Enayet Khan,

(4) Tarikh-i- Mufajjali by Mufajjal Khan,

(5) Mirat-i-Alam by Bakhtyar Khan,

(6) Alamgirnama by Muhammad Qazim and

(7) Mustakhab-ul-Lubab by Kafi Khan.

But in none of above works, there is even mentioning of Taj Mahal, except Badshahnama by Lahori and that too as a palace of Jai Singh

While commenting on this point, Dr Yogesh Saxena, writes, “The authors should have said, “Though we have presented history of Shahjahan based on his official chronicle Badshahnama, we did not find any reference to Taj Mahal in it.” They did no such thing. And Historians have kept even this information from us for the last 130 years.” [6] It was Professor P N Oak, who, for the first time, made the startling discovery that there is mentioning of the building now called Taj Mahal, but as a palace of the Hindu king Jai Singh, in Badshahnama.

There is another important point to note. There is a well established rumour that Shah Jahan engaged 20,000 labours who toiled for 20 (or 22) years to complete the construction of Taj Mahal, originates by the French traveler Jean Baptiste Tavernier. It is really unthinkable that, Shah Jahan completed such a gigantic job, spending so much money, employing so many people throughout so many years, but it escaped the attention of his sycophant chroniclers, and they did not even say a single word about the said job in their works. So, the logical conclusion is that, the said gigantic construction never took place during the reign of Shah Jahan and Badshahnama confirms this fact.

The original Badshahnama was written in Persian using Arabic alphabets and the pages 402 and 403 of the edition published by the Asiatic Society of Bengal (see the fascimile of the page 402 and 403 of Vol-I of the edition given above) contain the true history of the building now known as Taj Mahal. Professor Oak got the two pages translated into English by a scholar of Persian language and said trnslation of the contents from line 21 of page 402 to line 41 on page 403 of Vol-I of Badshahnama is given below.

“Friday, 15th Jamadiulawal, the sacred dead body of the traveller to the kingdom of holiness Hazrat Mumtazul Zamani, who was temporarily buried, was brought, accompanied by Prince Mohammad Shah, Suja bahadur, Wazir Khan and Satiunnesa Khanam, who knew the pemperament of the deceased intimately and was well versed in view of that Queen of the Queens used to hold, was brought to the capital Akbarabad (Agra) and an order was issued that very day coins be distributed among the beggers and fakirs. The site covered with a majestic garden, to the south of the great city (of Agra) and amidst which the building known as the palace of Raja Man Singh, at present owned by Raja Jai asingh, grandson of Man Singh, was selected for the burial of the Queen, whose abode is in heaven. Although Raja Jai Singh valued it greatly as his ancestral heritage and property, yet he agreed to part with it gratis for Emperor Shahjahan, still out of sheer scrupulousness and religious sanctity, he (Jai Singh) was granted Sharifabad in exchange of that grand palace (Ali Manzil). After the arrival of the deadbody in that great city (of Agra), next year that illustrious body of the Queen was laid to rest and the officials of the capital, according to royal order, hid the body of that pious lady from the eyes of the world and the palace so majestic (imarat-e-alishan) and capped with a dome (wa gumbaje) was turned into a sky-high lofty mausoleum”. [7]

Many historians try to convince that Shah Jahan purchased a piece of land from Raja Jai Singh and erected Taj Mahal on that land. But the lines 29 and 30 of page 403 of Vol-I of Badshahnama reads, “Pesh az ein Manzil-e-Rajah Mansingh bud wadari waqt ba Rajah Jaisingh (29) Nabirae taalluq dasht barae madfan e an bahisht muwattan bar guzeedand .. (30).” According to experts, the correct translation of the phrase “Manzil-e-Rajah Mansingh bud wadari waqt ba Rajah Jaisingh”is “.. the building known as the palace of Raja Man Singh, at present owned by Raja Jai asingh”. So, it is evident that it cannot be a transaction of land but of a magnificent palace. In line 37, further clarification has been made and said that it was a transaction of an imarat-e-alishan (i.e. a gigantic building) and not of land

In 1964, when Prof P N Oak started to disclose his doubts about Shah Jahan’s authorship of Taj Mahal and presented the document in Badshahnama as the proof, many of his opponents said that his translation of Badshahnama was not correct. One of his bitter critiques was a Kashmiri Pandit. He was also a scholar of Persian language. To narrate the incident Dr Yogesh Saxena writes, “One of his opponents was a Kashmiri Pandit. Eventually they went to Government of India Archives. At the suggestion of the Librarian there the Pandit started to read Badshahnama, soon he came to Volume I, page 403. One line read – va pesh azin manzil-e-Raja Mansingh bood, vadari vakt ba Raja Jaisingh. He confessed that Shah Jahan took over Raja Mansingh’s palace for burial of Mumtaz. We owe so much to this honest opponent of Mr Oak. He gave word by word translation of pages 402 and 403 to Mr Oak who promptly published it in his book Taj Mahal is a Hindu Palace (1968). However, Mr Oak never stated that the translation was his. It was done for him by a Persian expert.” [6]

The name of the Queen, in whose memory the Taj Mahal is being said to have been erected, was Arjumand Banu. She was married to Shahjahan in 1612 A.D. and within 18 years of her married life she gave birth to 14 children and in fact she died in 1630 (or in 1631) while she was delivering her 14th child. According to Badshahnama she was buried temporarily at Burhanpur and in the same year her body was brought from Burhanpur to Agra and the next year her body was permanently buried at the majestic palace of Raja Man Singh.. From the Badshahnama it becomes evident the edifice, now known as Taj Mahal, was not authored by Emperor Shahjahan.

Who was The Author of Building called Taj Mahal:

So, according to the narrations of Badshanama and from other evidence, it becomes clear that the edifice, now known as Taj Mahal, was not authored by emperor Shah Jahan. The question, therefore, naturally arises – Who built that magnificent building?

A locality, nearly 4 km away from Taj Mahal, is called Bateswar and in 1900 A.D., General Alexander Cuningham, the then Director of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), conducted an excavation at Bateswar and discovered an edict, now known as the Munj Bateswar Edict and kept at the Lucknow Museum. The epigraph contains 34 verses written in Sanskrit, out of which 25th, 26th and 34th verses are important in the present context. The original Sankrit text and English translation of the above verses are given below -

Prasādo vaiṣṇavastena nirnimitotavahan hari /

Murdhn āspriśati yo nityaṃ  padamasaiva madhyamam // (25)

“He built a marble temple which is the abode of Lord Vishnu and the King bows down to touch His feet” (25).

Akāryacca sphatikāvadātamasāvidam mandiramindumauleḥ /

Na jātuyasminnibsnsadevah kailāsvasayacakara cetaḥ  //  (26)

“The King has built another marble temple which has been dedicated to the Lord Who has the moon as His ornament on His forehead and Who, getting such a beautiful abode, has forgotten to return to Kailash ” (26).

Pakṣa tryakṣamukhāditya saṃkhye vikramavatsare /

Aśvina śukla pańcmyāṃ  bāsare vāsave śitu //  (34)

“Today, the 5th day of the bright half in the month of Ashwin, the Sunday, in the year 1212 of the Vikram Samvat, the edict is being laid” (34).

Mr. D. J. Kale, a well known archaeologist, has mentioned the said Munj Bateswar Edict in his celebrated work Epigraphica India. On page 124 of the said work, Mr. Kale writes, “The sais Munj Bateswar Edict was laid by King Paramardidev of the Chandratreya dynasty on Sukla Panchami in the month of Ashwin, in the year 1212 Vikram Samvat (or A.D. 1156).  …  King Paramardidev built two magnificent temples with white marble , one for Lords Vishnu and the other for Lord Shiva and they were desecrated later on by the Muslim invaders. Perhaps a farsighted man took the edict to a safer place at Bateswar and buries it beneath the ground”.[8] Perhaps, after the said desecration, the temples were no longer used as religious places and due to this reason Abdul Hamid Lahori mentioned them as palaces, not as temples. According to the renowned historian Mr. R. C. Majumdar, the other name of the Chandratreya or Chandel King Paramardidev was Paramal and their kingdom was known as Bundelkhand, a.k.a.Jejakabhukti [9]

Today, there are two marble palaces in Agra, one is the Mausoleum of Idmat-ud-Daula, the father of Noorjahan and the other is Taj Mahal, and it is evident from the Munj Bateswar edict that, once upon a time, one of them was the temple of Lord Vishnu and the other was a temple of Lord Shiva. Experts believe that it is the temple of Lord Vishnu that has been made the mausoleum of Idmat-ud-Daula, and the temple of Lord Shiva has been converted into the mausoleum of the queen Arjumand Banu. There are so many evidence that support of this conclusion and we shall try to discuss them in future installments of this article.

 

 References:

 [1] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/581007/Taj-Mahal

[2] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taj_Mahal)

[3] R. C. Majumdar, H. C. Raychaudhury and K. Datta,  An Advanced History of India, MacMillan & Co (1980),586..

[4] R. C. Majumdar (Gen Ed), History & Culture of the Indian People (in 12 Volumes), Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai (1996), VII, 793.

[5] Stephen Knapp,Taj Mahal: Was it a Vedic Temple ? The Photographic Evidence ( http://www.stephen-knapp.com/was_the_taj_mahal_a_vedic_temple.htm )

[6] Yogesh Saxena Taj Mahal – It is time to tell the truth, (http://agrasen.blogspot.com/2009/04/hidden- facts-in-indian-history.html )

[7] P N Oak, Tajmahal – The True Story, Published by A Ghosh, p 9-12.

[8] D J Kale, Epigraphica India , published by S D Kale & M D Kale, I, 270-274.

[9] R C Majumdar, ibid, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Vol-5, p-122

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