The Central Information Commission (CIC) has received a Right To Information (RTI) plea asking it to clarify the history of the Taj Mahal. Some historians have claimed that the Taj Mahal was a temple of Lord Shiva gifted by a Rajput King to the Mughal king, Shah Jahan. The CIC has forwarded the query to the union culture ministry seeking clarification in the matter.
The CIC is an authorized body established in 2005 by the Government of India under the Right to Information Act to act upon grievances of those persons who are unable to submit information requests to the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer either due to non-appointment of officer or whose application has not been received by the respective officer.
The information commissioner, Sridhar Acharyulu, has recently issued an order saying that the ministry should put an end to the controversy and clarify the doubts surrounding the provenance of Taj Mahal, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. So far, the white marble building has always been considered a mausoleum built by Shah Jahan.
Acharyulu has recommended that the ministry provide information about its stance on the cases regarding the provenance of the Taj Mahal and the claims of historian PN Oak and writings of advocate Yogesh Saxena who have claimed that it was originally a temple of Lord Shiva.
Oak had written a book named ‘Taj Mahal: The True Story’ in 1989 which argues that Taj Mahal’s original name was Tejo Mahalay which signifies a Shiva Temple and that it was built by a Rajput king and was later adopted by Shah Jahan.
In 2015, a case was filed by six lawyers of Agra demanding the handing over of the building to Hindus for worship. The litigation also demanded that all the religious activities performed by Muslims in the monument be stopped and the graves it houses be removed.
The information commissioner, in his order, has also pointed out that some cases in the Supreme Court of India, surrounding the origin of the Taj Mahal have been dismissed while some are still pending. According to him, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was also a party in some of these cases, therefore, it must be holding the affidavits filed on its behalf and also by the culture ministry. Acharyulu has directed the ASI to share the copies of these affidavits with the appellant by August 30, at an additional fee which is the cost of copying.
Acharyulu also asserted that research and investigation into the history of Taj Mahal are beyond the purview of RTI Act and ASI. NDTV quotes him saying,
It is unreasonable to ask for opening of closed rooms, bringing out hidden things, and for excavations underneath the protected monument of Taj Mahal and rewriting the history under an RTI application. Before Taj Mahal was declared as such protected monument, people should have filed their objections. Those who wanted Taj Mahal to be declared as Tejo Mahalaya should have filed objections. Decision regarding excavation has to be taken by the concerned competent authority and Commission cannot give directions to excavate or open the hidden or closed rooms in Taj Mahal. Oak claiming himself to be a historian not only wrote a book but also approached Supreme Court in 2000 to declare Taj Mahal as Shiva Temple. However, Supreme Court reprimanded him for having ‘a bee in his bonnet’ about the Taj Mahal.