Taj Mahal

India’s official recorded history says that Mughal (or Mogul) ruler Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in memory of his queen, Mumtaj Mahal.

The Mughals, who originally came from Central Asia, ruled most of what is now India and Pakistan in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

The Mughal empire consolidated Islam in South Asia, and spread Muslim arts and culture as well as the faith through the region.

And the Taj Mahal epitomises their love for fine craftsmanship.

The Archaeological Survey of India, the custodian of the country’s monuments, describes the Taj Mahal as “the pinnacle of Mughal architecture”.

The government’s official Taj Mahal website also says “the period of Mughal architecture best exemplifies the maturity of a style that had synthesised Islamic architecture with its indigenous counterparts”.

“By the time the Mughals built the Taj, though proud of their Persian and Timurid roots, they had come to see themselves as Indian,” it adds.

Historian Rana Safvi told the BBC that “there is no question” of revisiting the history of the Taj Mahal, and that there is no evidence a temple ever existed on the site.

“There was a haveli [mansion] owned by Hindu ruler Jai Singh which existed before the Taj was built there.

“Shah Jahan officially bought the haveli from him. An official farman [order] was issued about this and it still exists. The farman also shows that the Mughals were very particular about recording their deeds and history,” she said.

Ms Safvi says a book titled Taj Mahal: The Illumined Tomb by WE Begley and ZA Desaihas compiled an anthology of these documents.

“From such books I realised how well-documented the building of the mausoleum was. I use these translations to present my arguments that the Taj Mahal was built on the land where Raja Jai Singh had a mansion and that there is no mention of any religious building on that land,” she said.

Another noted historian, Harbans Mukhia, agrees with Ms Safvi.

“Recorded history proves beyond any doubt that the Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his queen,” he said.

School text books and various government websites also describe the monument as an example of Indo-Islamic architecture.

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