India’s government has refuted claims by a group of lawyers that the Taj Mahal monument was a Hindu temple. Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said the government had not found any evidence to support the claim.
The lawyers filed a petition in a court last year saying that the monument should be handed over to Hindus. The Taj Mahal, a 17C mausoleum built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan after his wife’s death, attracts about 12,000 visitors a day. Six lawyers belonging to the city of Agra, where the monument is located, had told a court there was “substantial evidence” to prove that the famous monument was originally a temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva.
They had urged the court to declare the monument a Hindu temple. The Taj Mahal was completed by Shah Jahan in 1653 as a mausoleum for his third and favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. The monument’s complex structure of white marble domes and minarets inlaid with semi-precious stones and carvings is considered the finest example of Mughal art in India. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a Unesco World Heritage site and attracts millions of visitors each year.