Karan Thapar: Why the iconic Taj Mahal is a victim of prejudice

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Karan Thapar: Why the iconic Taj Mahal is a victim of prejudice

Post by Rashmun on Sun Oct 08, 2017 5:33 am

It could either be rank ignorance or plain prejudice and I have a hunch I know which it is. The UP government’s attitude to the Taj Mahal is more than negligence. It suggests deliberate disregard. And the chief minister’s belated reassurance – from Kerala of all places – does little to dispel my doubts.

The Taj is unquestionably India’s biggest tourist attraction. It’s renowned as one of the seven Wonders of the World. Tagore called it “a tear drop on the cheek of time”. Unesco considers it a World Heritage Site. Many travel to India just to see it. And a picture by the Taj is what everyone wants.

Yet, when the Yogi Adityanath government presented its first budget it didn’t allocate any cultural heritage funds for the Taj. In June the chief minister said: “The Ramayana and The Geeta represent Indian culture not the Taj Mahal”. He also claimed gifting replicas of the Taj to foreign visitors is “not a part of Indian culture”. Finally, a recently released 32-page glossy brochure, called ‘Uttar Pradesh Paryatan-Apaar Sambhavanaayein’ translated as ‘Uttar Pradesh Tourism – Unlimited Possibilities’, which is intended to promote tourism, ignores the Taj Mahal altogether. Leave aside a photograph, there’s isn’t even a reference to this iconic monument. Yet a whole page has been devoted to the Gorakhnath Temple, of which the Yogi is the head priest....

This brings me to the concern I started with. Are the Yogi and his government ignoring the Taj because it was built by the Mughal Empire? Is it viewed as a symbol of Muslim conquest? Is their treatment of the Taj revenge for 1,200 years of invasion, conquest and rule?

When questioned the Yogi glibly states “the Taj is an integral part of our heritage”. Of course it is and even he can’t deny that. Yet when asked about the allocation of funds all he will say is money for its “conservation has been allocated.” So the Yogi won’t let the Taj fall into rack and ruin. But what about promoting it? What about using its magic to attract visitors? What about boasting the Taj is Indian and we’re proud of it?



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