There was another (yes, many have been filed in the years gone by) petition filed in the Allahabad High Court by a member of the BJP in May 2022, which was dismissed, to open the closed rooms of the Taj Mahal to ascertain presence of Hindu idols and motifs. One needs to see facts in totality here.
Purushottam Nagesh alias P. N. Oak (2 March 1917- 4 December 2007) is a well-known scholar of Indian history. Oak had no formal degree in history, and was often dubbed by his critics as a ‘self-proclaimed historian’ and a ‘self-styled professor’, who however, conceded that he was a man who made a deep study of history.
From 1963 onward P N Oak had been propagating that many (well, according to him, ‘each and every’) monuments supposed to have been built by foreign invaders are actually captured Hindu monuments simply usurped by the invaders. The most famous claim made was on the Taj Mahal in Agra which Oak claimed was built centuries before the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan who ruled from 1627 to 1658, and is said to have started its construction from 1631.
Oak also made many other claims, e.g. ‘the whole world followed Vedic (Hindu) religion in the pre-Christian era and Sanskrit was then a world-language’. He also claimed that European languages are all ‘dialects of Sanskrit’.
This writer was a child, about 12 years old, when he first read the books of the late P N Oak, first on the subject of the Taj Mahal, and then other issues. As children, we tend to believe anything we read or hear, and naturally, I too believed it on first reading. [It will be a surprise to many readers to know that even ‘secularist’ Vir Sanghvi too believed P N Oak’s claims on the Taj Mahal as a child.]
However, while still a child, and many years before I became an adult, I grew old enough to doubt this claim, something for which now I feel proud. But when I believed P N Oak’s claims on the Taj, as a 12 or 13 year-old, I too felt an intense desire that the blocked rooms of the Taj Mahal be opened, and that this would ‘prove once and for all that the Taj is a Shiv temple’.
The reason for this background of the author being given is that it will help those who today follow Oak blindly see him for who he was, and understand that most (if not all) of his claims on ‘new discoveries’ are false.
On the issue of the Taj Mahal, there are only two real points of evidence which are strong enough to doubt whether it was built by Shah Jahan, namely, a passage in Shah Jahan’s own official court chronicle, Badshahnama, Vol I, page 403 which says ‘The site chosen for the mausoleum was late Raja Mansingh’s Palace… currently owned by his grandson Raja Jai Singh… in exchange of that grand palace, Jai Singh was granted government land’ and a letter by Prince Aurangazeb to Shah Jahan in 1652 mentioning that the Taj Mahal was leaking, and urging him to carry out repairs. But both of them are refutable.
Raja Mansingh’s Palace could have been at one location on the site, while the Taj been built on another empty space in the complex, and there are indeed many buildings in the Taj complex (any of which could have been Raja Mansingh’s Palace instead of the white central mausoleum). And Aurangazeb, in his letter of 1652 also mentions that ‘this tomb had been laid in His Majesty’s presence’, i.e. built by Shah Jahan. And the leaks, do not, by themselves, prove that the Taj pre-existed Shah Jahan. They can mean that the central mausoleum was completed a few years before 1652, say, by 1643.
The claim that the Taj took ’22 years to build’ (from 1631-1653) rests solely on an unreliable mention by a contemporary French traveller Tavernier, who visited Agra twice in that time [first in the winter of 1640-41, and then in 1665, during Aurangazeb’s rule], and claimed that he ‘witnessed the commencement and accomplishment of this great work which took 22 years and had 20,000 men always at work’. He was not present at Agra in either 1631 or 1653 and thus could not have witnessed either ‘commencement’ or ‘accomplishment’ of it.
So though his claim of the Taj being finished in 1653 has been shown to be unreliable, that doesn’t mean that Shah Jahan did not build the Taj, it can mean that he took a lesser number of years to do so. In fact, it only gives credence to the claim that such a work did indeed take place, though he falsely claimed to have witnessed ‘commencement and accomplishment’ of it.
And at any rate, even assuming that Badshahnama Vol. 1, page 403, and Aurangazeb’s letter of 1652 AD are evidence that the Taj pre-dates Shah Jahan, the Taj is by no means a Shiv temple, and its name was not Tejo Mahalaya. There is not the slightest evidence of it ever been named as ‘Tejo Mahalaya’. That is an absolutely concocted claim of P N Oak. It could have, at the most, been Raja Mansingh’s Palace, but there is no conclusive evidence to show that, and that looks unlikely, since the Taj looks totally like an Islamic monument (considering the domes and minarets). There is also evidence that Shah Jahan indeed built the Taj.
But the claim by a BJP MP and member of the erstwhile Royal family of Jaipur, Diya Kumari, that the land on which Taj Mahal stands belonged to the Jaipur royals is absolutely correct, and confirmed by Shah Jahan’s own court chronicle.
The first book of P N Oak on this subject was published in 1965 titled “Taj Mahal was a Rajput Palace”. This book contained no evidence of this but was just a theory. V S Godbole (1941-2020), a London-based scholar who has himself done a lot of research on the Taj Mahal’s origins and agreed with Oak’s conclusions that it is a pre-Shah Jahan building (he wrote a paper “Taj Mahal- simple analysis of a great deception” published as a booklet first in 1986, second edition in 2007) also wrote in his book “Taj Mahal and the Great British Conspiracy” (published in 1996) : “Mr. P N Oak of New Delhi put forward a theory in 1965 that the Taj Mahal is a pre-Shah Jahan building…In 1965 Oak’s book was published. In this 100 paged booklet he gives his reasons for suspecting that Taj Mahal is in fact, a Rajput Palace…”.
In other words, even the most-scholarly supporter of P N Oak on the issue of the Taj Mahal being a Hindu monument, V S Godbole [who later, at least post-2017, condemned P N Oak for claiming that it is a ‘Shiv temple’, and said that the Taj is not and cannot be a temple, but is Raja Mansingh’s Palace, and also stated that Oak’s writings contained many serious errors] wrote that when Oak made the claim on Taj Mahal for the first time, he had no evidence to prove it. Oak simply gave his reasons for ‘suspecting’ it, and it was no more than a ‘theory’.
This shows that Oak first formed the assumption that the Taj is a pre-Shah Jahan Hindu building and then used all available things to forcibly ‘prove’ his claim. In professional research, this must never be done. A researcher must examine all evidence, put forward all that is found, evidence supporting both theses and then reach a logical conclusion rather than forcibly reach a conclusion. Oak conveniently hid facts. This was like Rana Ayub, forcibly trying to blame the BJP Government of Gujarat, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah especially, in her book ‘Gujarat Files’.
Those who are claiming now that the Taj Mahal is a Shiv temple, believing claims of P N Oak, will only be hurting the cause of Hindus as well as of national integration, because it is NOT true. P N Oak himself admitted at another place [on page 250 of his same book on the Taj Mahal, 1993 edition, titled ‘The Taj Mahal is a Temple Palace’] that this claim is not confirmed.
He confessed that though ‘He succeeded in establishing so far that the Taj is a centuries old Hindu building commandeered by Shah Jahan. As to which Hindu ruler actually commissioned it and for what reason needs to be further investigated‘. [Meaning that his own claim of it being built as a Shiv temple by King Parmardi Dev in AD 1155 is unconfirmed, and needs to be ‘further investigated’. He had already concluded that it is a ‘Hindu building’, even though which ruler built it is unknown, by his own admission.]
P N Oak first said in 1965 that the Taj Mahal was a Rajput Palace, and his book’s 1968 edition was titled ‘The Taj Mahal is a Hindu Palace’. In 1974 he found a Sanskrit inscription (found in Bateshwar, as is officially stated) in the Lucknow museum dating to 1195 AD (this date was given as 1155 AD by P N Oak, who seems to have made a mistake with the date too), which talked of a ‘crystal-white Shiv temple of extra-ordinary beauty’ being built by King Parmardi Dev. Since Bateshwar is near Agra, P N Oak claimed that this was the Taj Mahal.
There is absolutely no evidence that this is the Taj. It could have been any temple, and since many or most temples in North India were demolished by invaders since 1192 AD there is quite a chance (or rather, most likely) that this temple was subsequently demolished. But P N Oak wanted to call this inscription as proof that the Taj is a temple, while earlier he himself had called it a palace! So, he changed his words to a ‘temple-palace’. In his book’s 1993 edition he claimed that the term ‘temple palace’ means that the Taj was built as a temple, but later ‘misused as a palace’. Can you give such an example anywhere else in the world? A temple is different from a palace. [Nor is there any Hindu temple past or present that looks like the Taj Mahal even remotely.]
It was a forcible far-fetched explanation by P N Oak to explain his own contradictory ideas on the origin of the Taj-first he claimed it was a palace, and then he claimed it was a temple when he saw the Bateshwar inscription as a chance to show it as the Taj.
Epigraphica India, Vol. I [published in 1892] mentions this inscription on pp 207-214. Its date is stated to be actually 1252 Vikram Samvat [1195 AD] and not 1212 Vikram Samvat [1155 AD] as P N Oak stated quoting another author M D Kale. King Parmardi Dev who is stated to have built a crystal-white Shiv temple (in verse 26 of this inscription) actually ruled from around 1165 to 1203 AD, so this temple being built by him in AD 1155 is impossible. Hence, even the date of this inscription seems to have been got wrong by P N Oak, who quoted another author, without checking the ruling period of King Parmardi Dev.
In his 40 paged English booklet titled “Taj Mahal is Tejo Mahalaya- A Shiva temple” Oak gives serially numbered 118 points of ‘evidence’, most of which are neither evidences nor points of evidence. In one of those (point No 31 of the booklet which the author has), he says: “That Shah Jahan, far from building the Taj, only disfigured it with Quranic overwriting is mentioned by the inscriber Amanat Khan Shirazi himself in an inscription on the building”.
This seems to be a completely false claim, because if this was true, it would have been considered as important as Badshahnama Vol. I page 403 and Aurangzeb’s letter, and reproduced in original at many places. However, Oak does not make this claim in his detailed 360 paged book titled “The Taj Mahal is a Temple Palace” (1993 edition) nor does he mention it anywhere else in any of his writings, many of which have been read by me. If Amanat Khan Shirazi really has written this on the Taj, why are no details given? Which part of the Taj has this inscription? Where are its photos? How has absolutely no one (including Oak) shown a picture of this inscription showing this fact being mentioned by Shirazi on the Taj since 1965 when Oak first made the claim? Oak himself gives no more information at all, nor does he make this claim anywhere else.
Oak in both his booklets in Marathi and English on the Taj (giving 112 and 118 points of ‘evidence’ respectively) has claimed that the Taj was attacked by Muslim invaders right since AD 1000 till Shah Jahan’s time and that Shah Jahan was the last Muslim ruler to capture the Taj. But by his own claims the Taj was built in AD 1155. It shows Oak’s desperation and tendency to say absolutely wrong things without the slightest evidence. He can go to so large an extent as to contradict his own claims so obviously and blatantly. How could there be attacks on the Taj Mahal since AD 1000, more than 155 years before it was built, by Oak’s own given date?
Oak claims in his 40-paged English booklet on the Taj that the day of the death of Shah Jahan’s wife Mumtaz is not recorded anywhere in Shah Jahan’s court records. This he cites as a ‘proof’ that it is impossible that a fortune will be spent on a lady whose death was so insignificant as to not find any mention in the records. But this is absolutely wrong on facts, as the day of the death of the lady in mentioned in Shah Jahan’s official court chronicle Badshahnama in Vol. I, page 384 (1040 AH along with the Islamic way of recording month and date). Thus, to quote Dr Koenraad Elst here: “Believers who take Oak’s bait do so at their own peril: they take the risk of being outed as fools.”
[Dr Koenraad Elst said that about another false claim by P N Oak, about there being an Arabic record of Vikramaditya’s glorious presence in Arabia, a book titled the Sayar-ul-Okul, “memorable words”, said to be available in the Maktab-al-Sultania (Royal library) in Istanbul. Far from being able to obtain a copy of that, I could not even confirm the existence of any such book Sayar-ul-Okul, nor could I find anyone else who had. Those words of Dr Elst apply to all of Oak’s claims, e.g. on the Taj Mahal, or any such claims of ‘Vedic past of other countries.’]
P N Oak claimed that the word ‘Taj Mahal’ itself is totally absent in Mughal court records, as if the Mughal records themselves do not claim to have built it. What he did not mention is that it is referred to as ‘Roza-e-Munavvara’ in the Mughal court records, which was it’s initial name. Shah Jahan’s contemporary court historians, Abdul Hamid Lahori and Muhammad Amin Qazvini do indeed claim that Shah Jahan built the Taj.
Evidence that Shah Jahan indeed built the Taj
The Taj was supposed to be under construction from 1631-1653. There were at least 3 foreign travellers who were in Agra at that time, who saw what was happening and wrote about it. They were Peter Mundy- an Englishman who was in Agra almost the whole year of 1631, 7 months of 1632 and 3-4 months of 1633, an Italian traveller Frey Sebastian Manrique who was there for 27 days from 24 December 1640 to 20 or 21 January 1641 and Frenchman Tavernier who was there in the winter of 1640-41 and Nov 1665.
Englishman Peter Mundy who was there in 1631 wrote: “The king is now building a tomb for his wife, Queen Taj Mahal [he mistook the name of the building to be the name of the lady, but he did say that the king was building a tomb for her] whom he dearly affected… he intends it shall excel all other…the building is began and goes on with excessive labour and cost…” Mundy’s notes remained un-noticed until 1914 after which they were published in English. Thus he wrote that in his original notes when he was in Agra.
Italian traveller Manrique said in Dec 1640- Jan 1641 about the Taj Mahal when he visited Agra: “At this time, it was still incomplete, the greater part of it remaining to be done….what was built till then was ‘a vast, lofty, circular structure’ inside ‘a huge square-shaped enclosure’.” No mention of the 4 minarets. On roads leading to Agra Manrique saw “Great blocks of marble, of such unusual size and length that they drew the sweat of many powerful teams of oxen and of fierce-looking, big horned buffaloes, which were dragging enormous, strongly-made wagons“.
What do the above statements from Manrique show? Why did he say ‘the building was still incomplete, the greater part of it remaining to be done’? This also shows that marble was used by Shah Jahan and it is clear that it was different from the marble of Raja Mansingh’s Palace, since it was brought on wagons driven by powerful teams of animals.
Englishman Peter Mundy noticed gold and silver as ordinary metals there, which no traveller after him saw, which V S Godbole said meant that ‘Shah Jahan looted the gold and silver ornaments of Raja Mansingh’s Palace’. Even if so, it doesn’t mean that the Taj is Raja Mansingh’s Palace; the ornaments could have been looted from another building in the complex. Raja Mansingh’s Palace could have been one such red building in the complex which is not seen now (either demolished, or fell by ruins) and was seen in an 1829 painting of the Taj. This is that painting of 1829, which is kept in a museum in Kolkata presently.
There were foreign travellers after these, who visited India (e.g. Niccolao Manucci, Bernier, who visited India and Agra just a few years or decades after 1653, right until 1784 AD), all of whom also said that Shah Jahan built the Taj. There are many later day travellers until 1784. Not a single testimony from anyone says anything to the contrary, except that of a traveller Mandelslo, who visited Agra in 1638 AD and describes life in Agra in detail, but makes no mention of the Taj being construction.
But that is no conclusive evidence, since travellers both before (Peter Mundy in 1631-33) and after (Tavernier, Manrique in 1640-41) mention it clearly. And if, the Taj already existed in 1638 with no work going on, he should have mentioned the existence of the building. It is possible, that during the period of his stay in the city, work on the Taj may have been halted or suspended due to any reason. But he also gives absolutely no testimony of the Taj pre-existing.
P N Oak often exaggerated, wrote ridiculous, and absolutely untrue things, and naturally lost credibility even for what he said correctly. In India, Leftists have a huge dominance in the mainstream media, academics, politics and overall society as such. While dealing with them, one must have comprehensive arguments with solid documentation, and not indefensible things and mere theories and conjectures.
The Leftists have an uncanny ability to deny the undeniable, and suppress concrete evidence, for example, as we saw on the issue of the Ayodhya Ramjanmabhoomi temple. Even though there was conclusive literary and archeological evidence that the Babri Masjid had been built after demolishing a temple at the spot (which was the consensus till 1989, all written sources, whether Hindu, Muslim or European said the same), the Leftists went to great lengths to deny that, and claimed 1989 onwards that ‘there was absolutely no evidence of the pre-existence of a temple’.
Had the Sangh Parivar supported P N Oak, the opponents would have pointed out his indefensible and laughable claims and that would have made the Sangh Parivar a laughing stock too. The Hindus should be aware of the perils of supporting the claims of a mad man (yes, it may sound harsh to some, and obvious to some, but P N Oak was in reality a mad man, as regards his claims on matters of History, as Aravindan Neelakandan called him in Swarajya, a ‘crackpot’, and opposed his claims).
In his book “Fowlers’ Howlers” (trying to prove how English derives from Sanskrit) self-published in 1992, P N Oak wrote that the English word ‘President’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Praseedanth’ meaning ‘someone who is pleased’. He wrote “Why does a President invariably say-‘It gives me great pleasure to do’ any act, even dire acts like dismissing someone from service? Are all Presidents not sadists then?
The answer is that the word ‘President’ is derived from ‘Praseedanth’ meaning ‘Someone who is pleased’, hence a president says so.” The ridiculousness of this argument can be seen even by a child. P N Oak also said in this same book, “Absolute monarchy continued in Europe even after the kings converted to Christianity. The kings of Europe remembered their divine right to rule even after converting to Christianity. Is it not proof of their Vedic ancestry?” This is laughable.
As another instance of P N Oak’s ridiculous claims, let us see what he wrote in his annual research journal 2000 book trying to ‘prove’ that the Babri structure demolished in December 1992 was itself a temple though it looked like a mosque. He said: “Its colour is orange, matching the Hindu flag”. This is as big a lie as can ever be made, since the structure was blackish in colour and by no means orange. A man who is not colour blind and yet claims the Babri Masjid to be ‘orange coloured’ can only be called a ‘mad man.’
He also claimed in that same article in that year 2000 journal issue that ‘Its 3 domes represent the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Islam has only one Allah and one prophet. For whom is the third dome?’ This is absurd. By this logic, any Islamic monument should have only 2 domes. Any monument can have any number of domes, they don’t have to be ‘representing anything’.
If we list all the false, ridiculous and far-fetched claims of P N Oak, it may be possible to compile an encyclopedia. I must say here that P.N.Oak was a combination of all 3- biased, communal and mad. He was a genuine Hindu communalist if ever there was one, he had a deep hatred for anything Islamic and could not give any credit to it, without even doing any study on it (e.g., in his 1995 annual research journal he quoted a newspaper report on a medieval Muslim ruler building ‘Water-works’ and said, with absolutely no evidence ‘The Muslim origin of water-works is a myth… the inscription in the Nagpur museum saying this should be studied…it could reveal frauds’. Without even seeing the inscription, without any study, he discredited an accepted historical fact). He was, most importantly, also dishonest and made many blatantly false claims. Not to talk of far-fetched interpretations giving Sanskrit ‘origins’ of anything and everything.
It is a fact that the foreign Muslim rulers were very oppressive, right since the time of Muhammad-bin-Qasim in AD 712, to Mahmud Ghazni, Muhammad Ghuri, Aurangazeb, to Ahmedshah Abdali, Tipu Sultan. Their rule was perhaps the bloodiest in human history, which saw massive massacres of the Hindus, forcible conversions, slavery, sex-slavery, etc, though ultimately Hindus were successful (at least partially, to about 70-80%) after the over 1000-year war.
These facts have been well-documented, and only Leftist historians out to negate such crimes can deny them, not anyone with any intellectual honesty. However, for this Islamist-Leftist alliance, monuments such as the Taj Mahal are a cause to say ‘#ThankYouMughals’.
P N Oak could not digest that, and simply could not believe that such tyrants could produce beautiful monuments. This was the reason for him denying the Islamic origin of each and every monument said to have been built by the Islamic rulers. It will serve the cause of Hindus far better if they refer to real historians and scholars like R C Majumdar, Jadunath Sarkar (1870-1958), Sitaram Goel, K S Lal (1920-2002), rather than following that mad man P N Oak.
Jadunath Sarkar died in 1958, around 5-6 years before P N Oak started making his claims. R C Majumdar (1888-1980) and Sitaram Goel (1921-2003) saw and exposed P N Oak’s lies in their lifetimes. They were sensible. While dealing with anyone, especially Communist historians in India’s power equations, one needs to have strong proof. Not false claims. These real historians were aware of it.
Indeed, as Dr Elst says: “The popularity of P N Oak’s theses is a sign of gross immaturity among contemporary Hindu activists. It indicates confusion regarding the facts of religious conflict in Indian history, along with a narcissistic greed, a morbid desire to lay ludicrous ownership claims to all manner of precious objects produced by outsiders (as if Hindu Dharma’s genuine achievements weren’t enough to be proud of). In that respect, it is of one piece with claims that Hindus in Rama’s age already used helicopters.
But helicopters would at least be a more progressive and scientific achievement to show off than a mere grave, no matter how embellished. No, the best thing to do here is to take the advice of genuine Hindu historians like R.C. Majumdar and Sita Ram Goel, which is to ignore the P.N. Oak school of history. Let it pass gently into the night.”
(The writer is the author of book “Gujarat Riots: The True Story” which gives all details about the 2002 riots- Godhra and after, one of the admins of www.gujaratriots.com and one of the admins of the Twitter handle @gujaratriotscom)
-by MD Deshpande