Monumental dispute over Taj Mahal

Agence France Presse

Agra, May 18:

An ownership battle has erupted over the world’s most famous monument to love, the Taj Mahal, as it celebrates its 350th anniversary.

The magnificent 17th-century structure built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal, is owned and managed by the Archaeological Survey of India as a national monument.

But the Sunni Waqf Board, which oversees Sunni Muslim graveyards and mosques throughout India, has staked a claim to the white-marbled tomb, saying since the monument houses Muslim graves, the Taj belongs to it.

The Taj in Agra in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh contains the tombs of Shah Jahan

and his queen along with other tombs.

Contradicting the Muslim claim, a hardline Hindu outfit, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), says the Taj Mahal’s builders constructed it after demolishing a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, one of the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon.

The Hindu group says the monument should be declared a temple and adds the key to the mystery lies in a sealed basement in the Taj that it says contains the “pillars and artefact of a temple”.