No Hindu idols in Taj Mahal basement rooms, says ASI – Siraj Qureshi

Taj Mahal

Siraj QureshiFollowing the debate over the 22 locked rooms in the Taj Mahal basement, the ASI tried to diffuse the tension by releasing pictures of the restoration work done inside these rooms. – Siraj Qureshi

After a long-drawn controversy over the alleged presence of Hindu deity idols in the locked basement rooms of the Taj Mahal, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has finally settled the debate with a single-line answer to an Right to Information (RTI) query.

On June 3, a legal notice was sent to the Centre and the ASI by a group of petitioners seeking the relocation of idols of Hindu deities, which they claim are buried under the staircase of an Agra mosque. The notice sent by the petitioners in the Shahi Idgah Masjid-Shri Krishna Janmabhoomi dispute suit said that the movement of the public on the staircase should be stopped immediately.

Trinamool Congress (TMC) spokesperson Saket Gokhale had sought information from the ASI about the monument’s history. Answering the RTI query of TMC leader Saket Gokhale seeking proof that there was no temple on Taj Mahal land and there were no idols in the 20 locked basement rooms under the Taj Mahal, the ASI has clearly said that there are no idols of Hindu gods and goddesses in the basement of the Taj Mahal, nor was the Taj Mahal built on temple land.

The Central Public Relations officer Mahesh Chand Meena replied to this query in one line. He had written only ‘No’ in answer to the first question. In response to the second question, it was written that there is no idol of any deity in the cellars.

Agra Tourist Welfare Chamber President Prahlad Agarwal expressed hope after the reply of the ASI no new religious dispute will be raised regarding the Taj Mahal. He said that due to such disputes, tourism suffers a lot.

“Already, tourism has suffered greatly due to Covid-19 for two years. And in such a situation, constantly raising such disputes not only harms the Taj Mahal but also the image of Agra and the entire country, which should be avoided,” Prahlad Agar

What Is The Controversy Around Taj Mahal?

For the past few months, Hindu organisations have claimed the presence of idols of Hindu gods and goddesses in the basement, describing the Taj Mahal as Tejo Mahalaya temple. A BJP leader from Ayodhya had also filed a petition in the Lucknow Bench of the High Court to open the basements, which was rejected by the Allahabad High Court. The leader had sought to set up a fact-finding committee to probe the history of the Taj Mahal and open the doors of its 22 locked rooms.

What Did The Court Say?

The Allahabad HC said, “The plea to constitute a fact-finding committee to find out the ‘real truth’ behind the Taj Mahal is a non-justiciable issue. The prayers cannot be adjudicated upon by this court.”

The court further said, “For the prayer regarding the opening up of the rooms, the historical research ought to involve proper methodology. This should be left to the historians.”

ASI Releases Pictures

Following the widespread debate over the 22 locked rooms in the basement of the Taj Mahal, the ASI tried to diffuse the tension by releasing pictures of the restoration work done inside [one of] these rooms. The pictures showed the restoration work being carried on in [one of] these rooms.

Agra ASI chief R.K. Patel had told India Today that the pictures are live on the ASI website as a part of the January 2022 newsletter (go to page 20) and anyone can view them by visiting their website. – India Today, 3 july 2022

Siraj Qureshi is a correspondent for India Today in Agra, UP.

Taj Mahal Basement Room

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