By V.S. Godbole


Summary of Events and Explanatory Notes

  1. Politics and Archaeology
    1. 1.1 Politics

      British rulers were taken aback by the Great Indian Revolt of 1857-59. The Crown took over the administration of India from the hated East India Company. But the Company rulers remained the same. They decided to separate Muslims from Hindus. Very soon after the Great Revolt, recruitment to the Indian Army was to be drawn disproportionately from the Muslims of North West Frontier Province and Punjab. [Ref : Pakistan or Partition of India by Dr B R Ambedkar, 1946, pp 54-85]

      Persons like Syed Ahmed Khan who would keep Muslims away from the freedom movement, were patronised. It also became imperative for the British to keep secret, the true nature of Taj Mahal and other monuments. It had to be emphasised that they were the works of foreigners. The natives could not have even thought of building such structures.

      1.2 Archaeology

      Against this background, Archaeological Survey of India ( ASI ) was started in 1860. It was closed in 1865, restarted in 1870 and has continued ever since. Major General Sir Alexander Cunningham was in charge of ASI from the beginning till 1884. He was aware of the enormous political importance of Archaeology as early as 1842.

      It is important to note that the appointment of Cunningham in 1870 was sanctioned by the Duke of Argyll, the then Secretary of State for India, after consultation with Lord Mayo's Government of India.

      It was the unwritten policy of the Survey to neglect all Hindu emblems of heroism and glory and keep intact the historical places of Muslim association or dominion.

  2. History of Architecture
    1. James Fergusson's Handbook of Architecture came out in 1855. It was a formidable work indeed. No one had tried to write the history of architecture of all the countries before. He supplied footnotes for books on architecture of various provinces, by others. The Royal Institute of British Architects elected him as a Fellow of their Institute in 1865, and awarded him the Royal Gold Medal in 1871. Unfortunately, because of all this, his blunders went unquestioned and remained so for more than a century. We list them as follows :

      ( A ) If a building is used as a mosque or a tomb it must have been built by the Muslims. When that looked silly he proposed that Muslims demolished a Hindu building piece by piece and re-erected a mosque/tomb from it. He was so obsessed with this hypothesis that he even says, "..thus without a single new column or carved stone being required they obtained a mosque which for convenience and beauty was unsurpassed by anything they afterwards erected from their own designs." But he would not accept the simple fact that Muslims forcibly occupied Hindu buildings and misused them as tombs and mosques. In addition, he does not say, exactly when, the Muslims started to build from their own design.

      ( B ) Hindus did not build arches and domes. And yet he says on p 418," ....all show the same system of taking down and rearranging the materials on a different plan. ... The same is true of the domes, all which being honestly and firmly fitted, would suffer no damage from the process of removal." Where did the domes come from ? Moreover even today, taking down and reerecting buildings requires considerable skill and forethought.

      ( C ) Fergusson however confesses on p 420, " Besides this, a roof is by no means an essential part of a mosque, a wall facing Mecca is all that is required, and frequently in India is all that is built......."

      ( D ) Fergusson agrees that the Architects were Hindu and NOT Muslim.

      ( E ) Fergusson says on p 432, " The architectural peculiarity of the Tartar or Mongolian races is their tomb-building propensity...Nowhere is this more forcibly illustrated than in India. [But why in India ?]...the tombs being far more numerous than the mosques [why ? Because there were so many temples which could be easily converted into tombs. Muslims are buried in India lying north-south, feet towards the south. The faces are turned towards west. Shiva Lingum is also laid north-south, the water dripping on it flows to the north.]

      ( F ) Fergusson creates a false impression by using the phrase "Mahomedan conquest of India "

  3. British Attitude
    1. This is best illustrated by Max Muller. In 1868 he wrote to the Duke of Argyll, Secretary of State for India, " ....the ancient religion of India is doomed - and if Christianity does not step in whose fault will it be ? ....India has been conquered once, but India must be conquered again and that second conquest should be a conquest by education..." Under such conditions, true Indian history just could not be explored.

  4. British official suppression of truth
    1. Cunningham obtained a complete plan and sections of Taj Mahal in 1871, but these were never published. [Same thing applies to many other so called mosques and tombs.] British scholars do not mention this fact even today. They are also silent about why the British Authorities bricked up several rooms in Taj Mahal, which are seen in the pre-1837 painting of Captain R Elliot.

  5. Evidence ignored
  6. 5.1 Taj Mahal Cross-section

      Fergusson produced the North-South cross-section through the central edifice in 1855. This shows quite clearly that there are several chambers around the so called real graves [but they have been sealed up] and that there is at least one storey 17 ft deep below the so called real graves and extending right across the 300 ft width [but also sealed up].

      Fergusson offers no explanation. We must suspect his motives, especially when we consider his long stay in India and his association with the ASI for 20 years.

      Henry Beveridge, Keene and Encyclopaedia Britannica refer to Fergusson but do not reproduce the cross-section.

    5.2 Basements

      In 1874 Keene admits that there are basements under the 1000 ft by 300 ft platform. He neither offers any explanation nor does he try to explore them.

    5.3 Taje Mahal

      Despite the attitude of the British to twist the Indian names, Fergusson ( 1855 ), Bayard Taylor ( 1859 ) and Henry Beveridge (1862 ) use the term Taje Mahal when it was lot easier to say Taj Mahal.

    5.4 Palaces on the river bank

      In 1874 Keene referred to De Laet Joanne's book [in Dutch] Empire of the Great Moghul, published in 1631. He says that all the great nobles had built their houses on the river bank and gives a list of owners of palaces, on leaving the Red Fort. Raja Mansingh's palace being the last one, which is now Taj Mahal. Thus the river bank was not barren as successive historians have been telling us.

      Ruins of these palaces have been mentioned by Bayard Taylor in 1859.

    5.5 When used as a Barrah Durrie...

      Unaware of its significance, Fergusson confessed in 1855, " when used as a Barrah Durrie or pleasure palace, it must have been the coolest and the loveliest of garden retreats.." Henry Beveridge, Keene and Encyclopaedia Britannica refer to Fergusson but do not quote the above sentence.

    5.6 In 1867 Sir H M Elliot warned, " true picture of Muslim rule was far from what was generally believed. It was full of murders and massacres, razing of temples, forcible conversions and marriages, sensuality and drunkenness. Common people were plunged into the lowest depths of wretchedness and despondency."

    5.7 Name of the lady

      Bayard Taylor says - her name was Noor Jehan whom a poet calls Noor Mahal.

      Marshman ( 1869 ) gives her no name.

      Encyclopaedia Britannica ( 1875 ) calls her Mumtaza Mahal.

    5.8 Badshshnama

      Persian text of Badshshnama, Shahjahan's own official chronicle, was published by the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1867. But nobody studied it let alone mention it.

    5.9 Keene informs us in 1874 that according to Tavernier the scaffolding is said to have cost more than the entire work. This information was not generally known till the 1889 edition of Tavernier's Travels by Dr Ball. We can conclude that Keene read the original French edition of Tavernier's book.

    5.10 Use of Jawab

      B. Taylor says in 1859 that the Jawab was of no use whatever.

      Keene says in 1874 that Jawab was used for the use of travellers and parties of pleasure.

    5.11 Keene makes a distinction between authoritative history and legendary account of the building of the Taj.

    5.12 Keene also tells us for the first time that Mumtaz died at Burhanpur and not Agra.

  7. Blunders of the travellers
  8. B Taylor says that Taaje Mahal was created in the year 1719 by Shah Jahan, when in fact he died in 1666!

    He also says that ashes of Shah Jahan are covered by a simple cenotaph.

  9. Education and Hindu Leaders
  10. The first batch of graduates of Bombay University came out in 1862, Justice M G Ranade being one of them. Tilak graduated in 1876, G K Gokhale in 1886, Gandhi in 1889. All these leaders were busy for the rest of their lives with political awakening and struggle for freedom. They had no time for anything else, least of all the History of Indian Architecture.

  11. How the legend grew
  12. 8.1 20,000 men worked for 22 years

      Henry Beveridge repeats this sentence and refers to Tavernier. Keene ( 1874 ) and Encyclopaedia Britannica ( 1875 ) do the same.

    8.2 Shahjahan's intended tomb

      Fergusson said, " Shahjahan...meaning to erect a more splendid mausoleum for himself on the opposite side of the river. But this was not carried into effect. " It is interesting to note that Fergusson does not refer to Tavernier.

      Bayard Taylor said, " it is said, Shah Jahan intended to erect a tomb for himself, of equal magnificence...A Shekh who takes care of the Taaje told me, that had the emperor carried out his design the tombs were to have been joined by a bridge, with a silver railing on each side. "

      Keene does repeat this story, but quotes from Tavernier's book.

    8.3 The Architect

      Bayard Taylor dismisses the story of Italian Architect but fancies that Moorish Architects may have helped in the construction of Taj Mahal. He also says that the name of the architect is engraved in stone, but gives no name or location of engraving, but does not give the location..

    8.4 Cost

      Bayard Taylor thinks that the cost was 3 million.

      Henry Beveridge quotes the figure of 3,174,802 and refers to Sleeman for the figure.

    8.5 False accusation - Jats looted the silver doors.

      Keene said in 1874, "...two silver doors cost Rs 1,27,000 studded with 1100 nails each having a head of a sonat rupee ( these were looted by the Jats ) "

      Referring to Bernier Keene says, " the screen it will be observed is not mentioned. " But the same logic was not applied to silver doors which were alleged to have been looted by the Jats.

    8.6 B Taylor noticed bas-relief on the marble panels. The flowers being Iris. But contrary to his belief it is a well known Indian poisonous flower Dhatura.

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