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Archaeologists deny claims Taj Mahal is a Hindu temple

Indian court asks historians for view after Hindu lawyers file petition demanding to pray at Muslim monument

Archaeologists deny claims Taj Mahal is a Hindu temple

Indian Muslims offer Eid al-Fitr prayers by the Taj Mahal in Agra in this June 26 file photo. Hindu lawyers are claiming the monument is a Hindu temple and are demanding the right to pray there. (Photo by AFP)

September 1, 2017

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Government archaeologists have told a court in India that the Taj Mahal is a Muslim mausoleum built by a Mughal emperor to honor his dead wife — following claims that the World Heritage site was a Hindu temple.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which protects important national monuments, was told to give its view in response to a petition filed by six lawyers who said the monument in Agra was originally a temple called Tejo Mahalaya dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva.

The lawyers also demanded that Hindus be allowed to worship in it. Only Muslims are permitted to offer prayers there.

"Our written statement called the claims concocted and we asked the court to dismiss the petition. It's up to the judge to decide what happens," Bhuvan Vikrama, the ASI's superintending archaeologist in Agra, said when rejecting the Hindu claims.

Its not the first time claims that the Taj Mahal is a Hindu temple have surfaced.

Several claims have surfaced in recent years by lone Hindus or extremist groups since PN Oak, an Indian writer, published a book in 1989 called Taj Mahal: the True Story, in which he claimed the monument was built before Muslim invaders came to India.

Hari Shankar Jain, one of the lawyers who brought the case to the Agra court, said he was looking forward to winning the case and praying in the Taj Mahal.

He also denied Mumtaz Mahal, the empress, was buried inside.

"There is no body inside. It's built on a Hindu temple so there is no question of anyone being buried in it," he said.

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