Should Taj Mahal be a representative of the Indian culture and ethos? The anwer is a clear NO! Let us deal with this issue the way it is.
The whole problem with the past 1000 years has been the negation of what India is. In the last 70 years, the governments have deliberately promoted denial of what Indian civilization’s real strength was.
Although there are controversies and disputes on whether Taj Mahal was built by Shah Jahan and is actually what it is said to be – specially given that Shah Jahan had multiple wives before and after Mumtaz Mahal – but let us assume the story we have been fed by our historians is true. The historians who have had a habit of spinning the facts from the Mughal era – even when those emperors recorded their own histories! Be as it may, let us given some poetic latitude to our historians (for that is exactly what they use while writing India’s history in any case) and assume the story of Taj Mahal to be – that one Emperor loved his wife so much that on her death (while giving birth to 14th kid in the 19 year relationship!), he became distraught and built a mausoleum for her – the Taj Mahal.
The story also goes that he ensured that the hands of the artisans who worked on the Taj were cut off. So they couldn’t build anything like that again. This was when the construction of this monument is supposed to have taken 21 years (1632-53)!
What is India’s Ethos?
Those who are given to the negationist mindset of Nehruvian historical view extoll the “Unity in Diversity” characteristic of India. From China to France and the rest of the Europe to the Arab lands – how many countries displayed this “Unit in Diversity”? The question is not how the new found democratic ideas have made them “tolerate” the others in the last 20-50 years. But why none of these cultures never assimilated anyone else? Mark you, I am not using the word “tolerate”.
And, what happened to the people who created Pakistan, that what their forefathers were masters of – “Unity in Diversity” – they suddenly and utterly lost? Those who were of an assimilative civilization can no longer tolerate even different sects of Islam within themselves?
It is an important question.
For, “Unity in Diversity” is the result – not a starting point of the process. As seen from other societies, things were either never “right” for Unity in Diversity to happen or quickly degenerated to yank out any Unity in Diversity that was inherited!
So, the question to look at is – what is the process that leads to “Unity in Diversity”? Unity is never created in Diversity. It is always realized. Those who look to crush anything different from them to hoist their own belief as superior cannot realize the underlying unity in the entire diversity of the existence. Because they were never interested in either Unity or Diversity. They were interested in their own belief as the only option. How can one who peddles exclusivism ever stumble upon the beauty of diversity? Supremacy of belief and Beauty of Diversity belong to different dimensions that do not meet. The latter is what India was steeped in.
And, India was steeped in the embracing and celebrating diversity, because the Sages and the seekers understood that all the different waves that constitute the existence were surfing on the same ocean below. The one, infinite, unending, eternal consciousness. It was not a forced belief, but a realization. And that is the most important characteristic of “Unity in Diversity” – it is realized. Not hoisted. It is embraced, not forced upon.
India is a civilization that realized the Oneness of the consciousness in the diversity of existence. And, it was done in as many ways as can ever be done. This is the ethos of India.
Taj Mahal and Shahjahan: Work of a Lover or Psychopath?
The land on which Taj Mahal was constructed was usurped by Shah Jahan from the Maharaja of Jaipur forcibly. And the queen for whom he is said to have constructed the monument was nothing more than a machine for giving birth to kids – 8 sons and 6 daughters, 7 of whom died at birth or close to birth! So out of the 19 yeas Arjumand Banu Begum (also strangely called Mumtaz Mahal) was pregnant or giving birth or recovering all through, over 7 years of which were those where she saw her children die in front of her eyes. Even if one were to grant a sadistic man who put his wife through such untold misery – the benefit of doubt; it must still take remarkable level of psychopathic dark humor to call it “love”!
We are told a tale about this Emperor (who treated his wife as nothing more than a morbid machine of making babies in a ruthless manner) by historians who have famously been over-eager to write revisionist tales they call history and promote a certain clique of such “historians. Remember the Ayodhya case and deposition by the “top historians”? (for more on this read – Cult of Eminent Indian Historians and the Ayodhya verdict)
To the court’s astonishment, some who had written signed articles and issued pamphlets, found themselves withering under scrutiny and the judge said they were displaying an “ostrich-like attitude” to facts. He also pointed out how the independent witnesses were all connected — one had done a PhD under the other, another had contributed an article to a book penned by a witness.
So these historians would have us believe that Shahjahan loved his wife Arjumand alias Mumtaz so much that he initiated a 21 year project to create the monument for her. While she was alive, he didn’t let her live a single year of happiness or normal existence however. After he was done with building a monument of the land he snatched by the Maharaja of Jaipur, he chopped the hands of the artisans who built that monument.
You tell me, which part of this man’s way of things is worth being proud of?
Oh, he created a work of beauty! Sure! So did the painter of these amazing paintings. Check them out.
Look at the detail! Just observe the eye for beauty and proportion of this artist! Someone whose life should be celebrated?
Well, both these paintings are by Adolf Hitler! Ready to celebrate him, are you?!Is that All to Taj Mahal?
There is no doubt that Taj Mahal is indeed a work of beauty. But that is all to it. It is a structure that is outwardly beautiful. But what it represents is nothing of beauty. Instead of building this monument, if Shahjahan had allowed his wife to live a happy and healthy life where she was treated like a human being – and not a child-bearing machine with ruthless regularlity irrespective of whether she was still mourning her dead kid, leave alone 7 of them, it would have been a greater tribute of love for her!
Shahjahan’s love – if it was even that – was that of a psychopath. It had nothing beautiful about itself!
The truth is that there is very little to celebrate about the work like Taj Mahal or Hitler’s amazing paintings. For they represent the ethos of psychopaths. Yes, we can consider them beautiful and use them for tourism – nothing wrong with that. But it is not just foolish but downright insulting to the Indian civilization – which has realized, celebrated and nurtured the “Unity in Diversity” in its truest sense!
And, this is important. For, over the last 70 years, so many amazing places and works of great art and worksmanship by beautiful and conscious beings have been relegated to oblivion in the archeological and historical map of India. The Ajantas, the Elloras, the Kedarnath, the beautiful Baolis of Rajasthan and powerful temples of South have been made to pay for promoting just one monument on the Indian tourist map!
Yes, Taj Mahal is one place to go and a beautifully constructed monument. But it does NOT represent India or its ethos.