No Hindu Idols Inside Taj Mahal, Cells Sealed for Security Reasons: ASI
The Allahabad High Court had dismissed a plea seeking the unlocking of the Taj Mahal's 22 permanently locked rooms.
Amid the ongoing controversy surrounding the Taj Mahal in Agra, officials from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) rejected Hindutva groups' claim that the monument was once a Hindu temple called Tejo Mahalaya.
The Allahabad High Court on Thursday, 12 May, dismissed a plea seeking the unlocking of the Taj Mahal's "22 permanently locked rooms as they could be housing Hindu idols from ancient times."
An official from the ASI told The Times of India that these rooms, officially called "cells," were "not permanently closed" and were only recently opened for conservation work. The official stated that based on the review of various records, the claim that there were idols inside was also false.
The ASI also debunked the contention that the structure was built on a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Periodic Repair Work Undertaken: ASI
Restoration work was done three months ago and periodic repair work, including the filling of cracks, re-plastering, and anti-aging treatments were taken up, a senior ASI official said.
Records suggest that there are 100 public cells located in the basement, higher levels of the main mausoleum, corner 'burjs', the four minarets, inside the baolis (near the mosque), and on the Chameli floor on the east, west, and north sides of the monument. Most of the rooms have been closed to the public for years due to security concerns.
KK Muhammed, former Regional Director (North) of the ASI told India Today that the rooms at Taj Mahal were not sealed and only placed under a lock to prevent tourists from venturing into the basement. "The ASI maintains all these basement rooms. When I was the ASI Agra chief, I never saw any religious motifs inside these rooms," he was quoted saying.
Wednesday's Hearing in the Case
The Lucknow bench of Justices DK Upadhyay and Subhash Vidyarthi on Wednesday questioned the petitioner Rajneesh Singh, the media incharge of the BJP's Ayodhya unit, for filing the PIL in a "casual" way without adequate legal research.
"If they have said that rooms are closed because of security reasons, then that's the information. If you're not satisfied, then challenge it," the bench stated.
On the day of the hearing, BJP's Lok Sabha MP from Rajsamand constituency of Rajasthan Diya Kumari claimed that the land on which the Taj Mahal stands belonged to Jaipur's ruler Jai Singh and that Mughal emperor Shah Jahan had acquired the same from Singh.
It is to be noted that the ASI had told a court in Agra in 2017 that the Taj Mahal was a tomb, and not a temple, as claimed by a group of petitioners then.
A 1920 notification to protect the Taj was the basis for the affidavit.
(With inputs from India Today and The Times of India.)
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