The World’s Wonder: A Monumental Open Letter From Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal has lately courted controversy over claims about its history. Here, the monument responds.
(This story was first published on 6 October 2017. It has been republished from The Quint’s archives in light of BJP MLA Sangeet Som’s controversial remark that the Taj Mahal was built by ‘traitors’, and should find no place in Indian history.)
Fingers have been pointed, and have pinched my dome, since time immemorial. But I remember it all, because I am a ‘memorial’. Duh!
That pose is really overdone guys, please! Khayr that’s not the point here. I was a bit concerned about the recent controversies related to me.
Recently my home state, Uttar Pradesh, somehow missed out on mentioning me in their tourism brochure. Not finding Taj Mahal in a UP tourism brochure was as bad as finding an elaichi in your biryani. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Hence, I decided to vent here, and show everybody that I haven’t lost my marble(s) yet.
It’s been a fabulous journey of over 360 years. Sometimes, I feel intensely competitive with that MDH wale dada ji, but if not ‘asli masale sach sach’, I have a tea brand named after me.
As history goes, our man Shahjahan was deeply in love with his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal (which means the ‘Chosen One of the Palace’ btw). She died delivering their 14th child, and Shahjahan was evidently upset. He decided to make something memorable for his monumental love. Eureka! A monumental memorial’s idea was born, and I was drafted in 1631.
Before you millennials got romanticised with Shah Rukh’s Raj, love was only defined by Shah Jahan’s ‘Taj’.
Now almost four centuries since, I have seen a lot of weather, and weathering. But one particular heat I have continuously faced is the question about my origins.
I have heard murmurs from my sangemarmar that a few people are adamant on seeking evidence of me being a Mughal monument. Some theories have tried attributing me to a particular faith.
But since when have stones, or love, had a religion? Isn’t love the only true unifier?
Yes, I do say such philosophical stuff sometimes. Deal with it, I’m Taj Mahal.
My entire complex was constructed in 22 years. And back then I was so white that fairness creams would have signed me as a life-changing brand ambassador.
As I remember it, around 20,000 people worked for me. That’s almost like the entire call centre crowd of Noida now! The only little difference being the call centre employees manage to retain their hands when they leave the job. Oops.
In my construction, the top management was a mixed bunch. Ustad Isa and Isa Muhammad Effendi of Persia were the key architects, while a man named Chiranjilal was my chief sculptor and mosaicist. That should explain the mix of Persian, Mughal and Hindu architecture all adorning me. I am a shudh desi heritage site.
There were precious stones in my dome, which the Britishers looted. Now I give it back to them by charging foreigners more than double the price of domestic tickets as their entry charge! Dugnaa lagaan, desi style.
What a lovely story, right? Aansu aagye.
BTW, Rabindranath Tagore described me as “a teardrop on the cheek of eternity”. And the attention has been across the field of arts, sports, commerce and politics.
Not just these, but 62 lakh tourists visited me in 2016. Itna attention! This earned the government a cool revenue of 23 crore rupees.
Also, UNESCO has ranked Taj Mahal as one of the best monuments in the world. No, seriously, this is not from WhatsApp. Just FYI, I’m also among the seven wonders of the world. Talk about elite! #MughalsBeforeMuggles
Though the Mughals were enterprising in their plans, they apparently lacked nomenclature skills. What do you call a huge fort built of red sandstone? Lal Qila! And a palace built of mirrors? Sheesh Mahal! Thankfully they didn’t call me ‘Safed Makbara’ or something. Touchwood. Touchmarble.
But I am humble about it all, and this humility is what I want my sister monuments to have. Because, with great attention comes greater controversies. From a monument of history, I have been dissected as an object of mystery (Yes, the poetry flows just like the Yamuna adjacent to me).
Even if you are a magnificent statue being built somewhere in the bay of a vast sea, make sure you stand for a greater concept than just inflating egos. As a monument, you need to be a representative symbol for centuries to come.
Dear visitors, I hope you agree. You’re all guilty of pinching my dome for a photograph, after all. I know, I am a witness of whiteness.
That’s probably why they say, Wah Taj!
Agree with my message? Please help share it across on social media. Yes, I’m on Twitter too!
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