History & Culture

No one’s mistress...

IN RIGHT PERSPECTIVE: Prof. R. Nath says the land for The Taj Mahal was not forcibly acquired   | Photo Credit: R_V_Moorthy

History is no one’s mistress and cannot be changed. Clio, the presiding Muse of History, will go into mourning if school text-books preach that Akbar lost at the Battle of Haldighati in 1576. The recent controversial remarks on Taj Mahal that it was built by ghaddars and that Shah Jahan imprisoned his own father will not find a place in history.

Shah Jahan did not imprison his father Jahangir, it was Shah Jahan’s own son Aurangzeb who imprisoned him, he never tried to destroy the Hindus, said Prof. R. Nath, noted historian and former Head of the Department of History, Rajasthan University, in a long-distance communication from Ajmer, where he is based.

Shah Jahan was not a ‘ghaddar’ (traitor) – he sent a strong army, to Balkh and Kandahar to defend and protect Indian interests in Afghanistan. He patronised the Sanskrit scholar and poet Jagannath and bestowed upon him the title of Panditaraj and also honoured Hindi poets, musicians, painters. It was under his patronage that 1000 ancient Indian dhrupads (which had almost been lost) were collected and compiled in the ‘Sahas-Ras’.

The Taj Mahal was built by Indian artisans, with Indian material, in accordance with Indian techniques and, body and soul, it is an Indian creation. Its chhatris and domes are crowned with such symbolic Indian elements as the ‘padmakosa’ and ‘kalasa’. The Taj is the most beautiful creation on earth which could not be built in any Islamic country, Arabia, Mesopotamia or Central Asia, or even in India before Shah Jahan. No wonder Tagore, declared: “Let this one tear-drop, this Taj Mahal, remain on the cheek of Time for ever and ever.”

It is wrong to allege that the land for building the Taj was forcibly acquired from its owner, Mirza Raja Jai Singh of Amber. Contemporary historian Abdul Hamid Lahauri has recorded in his “Badshah-Namah”: “Though Raja Jai Singh offered this land gratis, religious piety required that free or forced land should not be used for burial, hence property from crown-lands was given to him in lieu there of.” This is further confirmed by two firmans or royal decrees preserved in the Jaipur archives: one dated 26 Jamadi-al-Akhir 1043 A.H./18 December 1633 from the Mughal court to Rajah Jaisingh, regarding grant of four havelis to the Maharaja in compensation for the land acquired for construction of the Taj Mahal, the other bearing the same date, giving details of the four havelis.

Ignorance may be bliss, but why spread disinformation and misinformation? That the hands of 20,000 artisans of the Taj Mahal were amputated, etc is absurd. Similarly, to describe the period as exploitative, barbaric and a period of incomparable intolerance is all altogether wrong. Take Akbar’s reign (1556-1605) for example: he adopted practices, customs and institutions of the country like ‘Tula-Dan’ or annual weighing of the king and the princes against gold, silver, clothes, grain and other items which were given away in charity; application of tilak on the forehead of the nobles at the investiture of ‘Mansab’ on them and celebration of such Hindu festivals as Rakshabandhan and Dussehra.


Akbar instituted Jharokha-Darshan which he associated with the worship of the rising sun. Gradually, it became as necessary a function of the Mughal king as the ‘Durbar’. He drank only Ganga water which was brought in sealed jars, from Soron when he lived at Agra and Fatehpur Sikri, and from Haridwar when he was in Punjab.

He stopped the practice of Arabic and generously promoted Sanskrit and Hindavi. He commissioned the translation of Sanskrit works like the Atharva Veda, Ramayana, Mahabharata and Harivama, and such treaties as Rajataringini, Simbhasana-Battisi and Pancha-Tantra and Indian works on Astronomy, Mathematics and other subjects. He liberally patronised Sanskrit and Hindi poets and Indian music. His court had a wonderful galaxy of classical musicians headed by Tansen, the greatest exponent of dhrupad’. Similarly, he founded a classical school of Mughal painting in such denominations as book-illustrations (miniatures), cloth-rolls and portraits depicting Indian themes with Indian motifs. His son Jahangir, and grandson Shah Jahan too, generously patronised these cultural activities.

The Mughal State, up to Shah Jahan, was a cultural and national State and Indian civilisation grew and developed in all respects, notwithstanding a few sceptical opinions. Prof. Nath says, it must also be distinctly understood, that history is fait-accompli. Even if it was all as negative as some want us to believe, how can it be corrected now? For example, how can we change the result of the third Battle of Panipat (1761) when the country from Panipat to Delhi was strewn with corpses of Maratha soldiers. Will we change it and say: “The country from Panipat to Kabul was strewn with corpses of Afghan soldiers”? Clio watched it all from her vantage perch in the Muses’ Bower and cannot be contradicted. So you have it all from a historian’s mouth and there is no room for more misguided conceptions!

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Printable version | May 14, 2021 1:17:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/no-ones-mistress/article22397546.ece

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