Yes. The Taj Mahal is a Despot’s Monument to a Woman. It also Stands for Hindu Cultural Amnesia

Without doubt, the Taj Mahal represents a bigoted despot’s monument to a woman who he treated slightly better than as a sex machine. But we get ahead of ourselves. And it is not just the Taj Mahal, the building, but the mind set and the nature that characterises and subserves almost every single construction built by Muslim sultans and nawabs. The late V S Naipaul elucidates this mind set the best:

the very grandeur of the Mogul buildings is oppressive. Europe has its monuments of sun-kings, its Louvres and its Versailles. But they are part of the development of a country’s spirit; they express the refining of a nation’s sensibility; they add to the common, growing stock. In India these endless mosques and rhetorical mausolea, these great palaces speak only of a personal plunder and for a country with an infinite capacity for being plundered. The Mogul owned everything in his dominions; and this is the message of the Mogul architecture. I know only one building in England with this quality of dead-end personal extravagance…the Blenheim. Imagine England as a country of Blenheims, continually built, destroyed and rebuilt over five hundred years, each a gift of the nation and seldom for services rendered…leaving at the end no vigorous nation…no principle beyond that of personal despotism. The Taj Mahal is exquisite…But in India it is a building wastefully without function; it is only a despot’s monument to a woman, not of India, who bore a child every year for fifteen years. It took twenty-two years to build; and the guide will tell you how many millions it cost. [V S Naipaul: The Indian Trilogy. Emphases added]

To be generous, the Taj Mahal offers a cruel illusion of romance. To the Indian spirit and ethos, romance, love and other tender emotions are living, throbbing springs of life and not something that requires a monument built for the dead. The Indian spirit builds a Brindavana with life-giving Tulasi. To this spirit, building an expensive graveyard using the blood, sweat and tears of thousands of nameless, faceless and unacknowledged slaves is not only revolting, it’s a crime against the divine within.

But some more notable Shahjahanesque exhibits before we proceed further. From the horse’s own mouth. [Emphases added]

Exhibit 1: Circa 1633 CE

It had been brought to the notice of His Majesty [Shah Jahan] that during the late reign many idol temples had been begun, but remained unfinished at Benares, the great stronghold of infidelism. The infidels were now desirous of completing them. His Majesty, the defender of the faith, gave orders that at Benares, and throughout all his dominions in every place, all temples that had been begun should be cast down. It was now reported from the province of Allahabad that 76 temples had been destroyed…  [Badshahnama: Abdul Hamid Lahori]

Exhibit 2: Circa 1635 CE

Shah Jahan’s soldiers captured some ladies of the royal Bundela family after Jujhar Singh and his sons failed to kill them in the time-honoured Rajput tradition. In the words of Jadunath Sarkar, Mothers and daughters of kings, they were robbed of their religion and forced to lead the infamous life of the Mughal harem. Shah Jahan himself made a triumphal entry into Orchha, the capital of the Bundelas, demolished the lofty and massive temple of Bir Singh Dev, and raised a mosque in its place.  [The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India: Sita Ram Goel]

Exhibit 3: Location-wise list of Hindu Temples Destroyed by Shahjahan

Udaypur (Madhya Pradesh): Two mosques built after destroying temples

INLINE AD

Vidisha (Madhya Pradesh): Shãh Jahãni Masjid (1650–51) built after destroying a Hindu temple

Asirgarh (West Nimar district, Madhya Pradesh): Masjid built in the reign of Shãh Jahãn after pulling down a temple.

Nagaur (Rajasthan): Shãh Jahãnî Masjid at Surajpole after converting a temple into a mosque

Asla (Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh): Shãh Jahãnî Masjid built after demolishing a temple. [Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them: Volume 1: Edited by Sita Ram Goel]

More extensive and comprehensive exhibits of the foregoing sort is available in Hindu Temples: What Happened to Them: Volume II. And this is apart from Shahjahan’s reintroduction of the extortionist pilgrimage tax on Hindus, prohibition against Hindus rebuilding their destroyed or damaged temples, making apostasy a crime punishable by death, incentivising Hindus to convert to Islam, and his attempted persecution of the great Sikh Guru Hargobind Singh.

Unsurprisingly, Shahjahan followed the same definitive trajectory of almost all Muslim despots who imposed their tyranny from Delhi: rebelling against or overthrowing their respective biological fathers or benefactors. From Ala-ud-din Khilji who backstabbed his own uncle to Muhammad Bin Tughlaq who staged his father’s murder to Jahangir who unsuccessfully rebelled against Akbar, and to the selfsame Shahjahan who followed his father Jahangir’s footsteps only to meet the same fate at the hands of his ultra-bigoted son, Aurangzeb This ungrateful phenomenon applies equally to various Nawabs, mini-Sultans, and the like.

Despite this unflattering record, all that the Taj Mahal-worshippers, the present-day history-denying distortionists can detect is the “sublime,” “poetic,” (insert your preferred adjective here) and eternal love story between Shahjahan and Mumtaz Mahal. It is one thing to admire the Taj Mahal for its architecture but an entirely different thing to qualify it with such epithets which not only suppresses the truth about this tyrant but heaps untold humiliation upon the memories of the abundant Hindu victims of his multifaceted tyranny.

It’s not the Taj Mahal but the mindset of these distortionists that’s the Eighth Wonder of the world. It’s almost as if these eminences have an incurable carnal lust for unmitigated tyrants and imperial debauches like Shah Jahan. The crueller the despot, the greater the lust. Latest case in point: the newly-minted Redeemer of Aurangzeb’s Savagery: Audrey Truschke.

Of the female of this garden-weed species, of the “my body, my womb, my life” Feminist-Bible-thumpers, one only needs to ask this question: would any one among them be willing to take the place of Mumtaz Mahal? She who was betrothed at 13, married at 19 as the fourth wife following which Shahjahan married more women, bringing the grand total to seven wives apart from the uncountable number of concubines and females he acquired as booty. She whose incredibly fecund womb bore him fourteen children. She who died after delivering the fourteenth child.

The aforementioned love for Taj Mahal and the fake halo around the Shah Jahan-Mumtaz “immortal love story” also counts as one of the greatest successes of the Communist brainwashing of at least three entire generations of Indians — mostly Hindus. In an eerie, living, ongoing nightmare of inventing and peddling totalitarian history-writing, this success has been truly unparalleled. To the extent that these generations think that history is either a waste of time or that plunderers and tyrants like Mahmud Ghazni, Shahjahan, Aurangzeb, et al are irrelevant today. Which is entirely consonant with a key Communist goal: memory is a crime against history.

This rings alarmingly true when we contrast this mindless glorification of the Taj Mahal, the dargah at Ajmer and numerous similar Islamic monuments that are zealously protected with the hundreds of grand temples, monuments, and sculptural and architectural marvels of Hindu creativity and accomplishment.

This contrast, nay, this disparity becomes starker when we notice two key factors:

  1. For instance, places like the Ajmer dargah are living sites — the visitor whether a Muslim or no, must show reverence. On the other hand, it is common to spot even Hindus wearing footwear at say, the Kailasanatha and numerous other Hindu temples. These sites have been effectively de-sanctified in the Hindu cultural and civilisational consciousness and are now mere tourist spots: more on this in my latest book.
  2. The wealthier (read: tourist revenue) among these Hindu sites are still poorly (at any rate, inadequately) maintained while nobody knows what happens to that revenue.

And so, we have it right there: the lopsided historical narrative of India literally on stone. Yet, Hindus have travelled so far on the road to civilisational amnesia that vital, physical signs like these staring them openly in the face hardly seems to bother them.

While we’re on this, it’s also interesting to talk to Government-appointed tourist guides at sites that were victims of Islamic vandalism. Here’s a sample of what you will hear for example, in Chittorgarh: “here’s where the Rajput women committed Jauhar.” Ask the guide “why?” He’ll merely say “to save their honour.” Ask further, “from whom?” Silence.

It’s this that anybody who cares for this country’s heritage should be really worried about.

Sandeep Balakrishna
Writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. Author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore," "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History," and "Seventy Years of Secularism." He has translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.