Row over Taj Mahal ownership

A descendant of India’s Mughal emperors has staked a claim to ownership of the world’s most famous monument to love, the Taj Mahal, amid a row between Hindus and Muslims over its custody, a report said today.

Prince Yaqub Habeebuddin Tucy, whose family traces its lineage to the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan who built the white marble tomb, staked the claim saying he wanted “to protect the monument from falling into the wrong hands”, the Asian Age newspaper said.

The magnificent 17th-century Taj Mahal built by the emperor as a tomb for his beloved queen, Mumtaz Mahal, is owned and managed by the Archaeological Survey of India as a national monument.

However, the Muslim community’s Sunni Waqf Board recently claimed ownership of the monument, saying since it housed Muslim graves, the Taj belonged to it.

The structure in Agra in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh contains the tombs of Shah Jahan and his queen along with other tombs.

After the Muslims laid claim to the monument, a hardline Hindu outfit, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council said the Taj Mahal’s builders constructed it after demolishing a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, one of the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon.

The Hindu group said the monument should be declared a temple and added that the key to the mystery lay in a sealed basement in the Taj that it said contained the “pillars and artefact of a temple”.

“What I am interested in is this: If at all the custodianship of the Taj Mahal has to be transferred, it must go to the rightful descendant” of Emperor Shah Jahan, the prince said.

Even though members of India’s royal families were formally stripped of their titles in the early 1970s, many still use them.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
The Australian, Australia
June 25, 2005
Correspondents in New Delhi, India

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday June 29, 2005.
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