Taj is a Symbol of 1857 Indian Nationalism. It has Two Eniemeis : Sanghi Fascist and the British. It is well known that the British had a hand in promoting RSS and that RSS reciprocated by staying aloof from the Freedom movement. helping the British as informers. RSS and the British also shared dislike for the Mughals.
Taj as as Anti-Colonial, Anti-Fascist Symbol
For the British, Mughals were a threat as, from 1757 to 1857, they symbolised a rallying point for Indian nationalism, anti-colonialism and other anti-British forces.
For the RSS, Mughals, with their syncretic traditions, plurality, and guardianship of Hindu-Muslim unity, are a major stumbling block in way of their non-plural, non-syncretic, Hindutva, corporate-fascist narrative.
The Sangh Parivar created the recent controversy over Taj, the priceless legacy of India.
The 19th Century Story
Back in the 19th century, the British came close to dumping this symbol of Indian and universal values. In 1833, Lieutenant-General Lord William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck became the Governor General of India. To improve the ‘financial state of the government’ he took the decision to auction the Taj. During British Raj, it was a practice of rich British families to visit decorated Mughal buildings and dig precious stones to be taken back as souvenirs.
Lord Bentinck decided to dismantle the Taj Mahal and auction off the precious marble. Part of the marble was to be sold to Indian nobles and rest was to be sent to Britain, for further sale. Idea of trying to sell majority of marble in India rather than in Britain came because an attempt to sell marble from Red Fort of Delhi was not successful. The cost of transporting marble to England came out to be more than the bid.
Selling The Taj
The British had earlier sold the Taj Mahal to Seth Laxmichand of Mathura for Rs. 1.5 Lakh. But the Mathura Seth faced major opposition from the Hindu and Muslim residents of Taj Ganj, the colony established by Emperor Shahjahan, which is said to have the descendants of workers, who made Taj Mahal.
Seth Laxmichand had to retreat and the sale was called off. Bentinck sold the Taj to the same Seth Laxmichand for Rs. 7 lakh. But the cost of dismantling and taking off the marble was so high, that it was practically impossible to make profit out of it.
Once again, the auction had to be called off. Bentinck went back to his thinking table and finally managed to sort out the cost issue.
Peasants Saved Taj
But, as another auction was being planned, Hindu Jats and Gujars, as well as Muslim Ranghars and Mewattis of Rajasthan, West UP, Haryana–mainly peasants–intervened.
British soldiers and retainers of the Agra-Mathura Seths were attacked. During the 1857 uprising, the cry of ‘saving the Taj’ from the British was raised.
Soon, the matter reached the British Parliament. Parliamentarians were in two minds–finally, it was decided upon to recall Bentinck. Taj was seen as too ‘explosive’ an issue to be left in the hands of the ‘India office’.
Curzon and Taj
Curzon is seen as a British Viceroy who ‘protected’ Indian monuments. But, on 7th February, 1900, he called for an auction. That too was unsuccessful. But, many old paintings and precious carved stones, which included some material from Taj Mahal, were vandalised and auctioned. Even Lord Hastings had many precious stones from Taj Mahal sent to London.
To sum up:
- Taj Mahal is not just a monument. It is political-cultural-architectural symbol of India’s nation building as a diverse country. Taj encapsulates Persian, Turkish, Gujarati, Rajasthani, Central Asian, Sindhi, North Indian features. Elements from ‘Jain’, ‘Hindu’, ‘Muslim’ influences interface–thus Taj puts forth India’s unique status and civilisation before the world.
- Naturally, foreign forces trying enslave India have attacked the symbol.
- Any ‘indigenous force’, like the RSS, trying to rule India by reversing the syncretic trend, also finds Taj a hurdle. That is how, in trying to be ‘ultra-nationalist’, RSS ends up being
- Since the 19th century, Taj has been protected by, not the upper classes, but the peasantry and working classes of North India. This makes Taj, also, a symbol of an anti-Imperialist, anti-elite, peoples movement.
‘The Taj Mahal’, by Prof Ramnath
‘Agra and Naibr Hoods’, by HG Cannes
‘The Agra Papers’, British Parliamentary records
‘The Agra dispute’, Archaeological Survey of India records