In a fresh controversy over the Taj Mahal, BJP leader Vinay Katiyar claimed that the 17th century monument was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan after destroying a Hindu temple. Katiyar claimed the Hindu temple which existed there earlier was called “Tejo Mahalaya” and it housed a Shivling. This was, however, not the first time a member of the BJP had made similar claims. In 2014, BJP leader Lakshmikant Bajpayee also said the “Tejo Mahalaya” existed before the Taj Mahal.
In April 2015, Agra District Court admitted a petition by six lawyers who claimed the Taj Mahal was a shiva temple. They wanted Hindu devotees to be allowed inside the premises to perform ‘darshan’ and ‘arti’. The Court asked the Centre, Culture Ministry, Home Secretary and Archaeological Survey of India to submit their replies in the case. The ASI had meanwhile challenged the district court’s authority to rule in the matter since the case of ownership of Taj Mahal was already in court since 2005. It also gave a written reply to the Agra court in August saying the monument, which is widely regarded as an architectural marvel, is a only a tomb and not a temple.
While replying to a question in Parliament in November 2015, then Union Minister of Culture Mahesh Sharma said the government has no evidence of the Taj Mahal being a Shiva temple.
The theories about Taj Mahal being a Shiva temple began doing rounds when historian P N Oak released his 1989 book Taj Mahal: The True Story. Oak claimed the monument was built in 1155 AD and not in the 17th century, as stated by the ASI, which is responsible for archaeological research, conservation and preservation of historical sites, monuments, artefacts etc. Oak propounded the structure was built centuries before the Mughals invaded India, and claimed the name Taj Mahal was an obscure corrupted form of a Sanskrit term “Tejo Mahalay”.
The theories have been widely discussed on internet forums for several years but most discussions centre their arguments around Oak’s theory. His theory says Taj Mahal was most likely built by Hindu ruler Jai Singh I, and the Taj Mahal was actually a Shiva Temple and Rajput royal palace named Tejo Mahalaya. It was captured by Shah Jahan and then turned into a tomb and as renamed Taj Mahal, he claimed. The Supreme Court quashed Oak’s petition in 2000 to declare Taj Mahal was built by a Hindu king.