Two BJP lawmakers asserted that there was a temple at the site of the Taj Mahal.
Agra: Yogi Adityanath, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, arrived at the Taj Mahal
in Agra on Thursday morning to cheers "Jai Shri Ram." It's his first visit to the monument as chief minister,
the first also by any BJP chief minister, and is seen as damage control after he and other party leaders made several controversial statements about the dazzling marble architectural wonder that draws the most tourists in India.
As they waited for the chief minister to arrive, two local BJP legislators, Jagan Prasad Garg and Yogendra Upadhyaya, asserted that there was a temple at the site where Mughal ruler Shah Jahan built the Taj in memory of wife Mumtaz Mahal.
can be performed inside the Taj, the Shiv Chalisa can be read there too," said Mr Upadhyaya adding, "it is a fact that there was a temple here, but the Mughals destroyed it like they did several of our religious sites." Mr Garg nodded in agreement.
Vinay Katiyar, veteran UP politician and a prominent leader of the Ayodhya Ram temple movement, had recently that the Taj Mahal was built on the ruins of an ancient Shiv temple and should be renamed "Tejo Mahal".
Mr Garg and Mr Upadhyaya, who represent Agra North and Agra South respectively in the UP assembly, don't seem to share the Chief Minister's new-found appreciation of what is called the monument to love. "Now Yogi has said Wah Taj
and we can't do without it. The Taj has become too big," grumbled Mr Upadhyaya.
It was Chief Minister Adiyanath who first stirred controversy in June by saying at a rally in Bihar that the Taj Mahal "does not reflect Indian culture" and suggested that visiting foreign dignitaries be presented with the Hindu holy book Gita rather than replicas of the Agra mausoleum.
Weeks later the Taj went missing from the UP government's tourism brochure, a glaring omission that prompted the opposition Congress to allege "a clear religious bias which is completely misplaced."
BJP leaders hit back at critics. Sangeet Som, accused of serial hate speeches, said the Taj was built by traitors. "What history are we talking about?... He (Shah Jahan) wanted to massacre Hindus. If this is history, then it is very unfortunate and we will change this history, I guarantee you."
A Haryana minister later called it a beautiful graveyard.
The chief minister has, however, said since that, "It does not matter who built it and for what reason; it was made by the sons of Bharat Mata. It was built by the blood and sweat of Indian labourers."
At a recent rally in his home town Gorakhpur, Yogi Adityanath called the Taj Mahal the "pride of India" and referred to it as a "world class monument".
Today, he launched a cleanliness campaign at the west gate of the Taj and also spent some time at the graves of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, apart from visiting the Shah Jahan park in the complex. He will also lay the foundation for the development of a tourist pathway from the Taj Mahal to the Agra Fort.
The chief minister has announced that the state government will spend Rs 370 crore on development plans aimed at promoting tourism in Agra, the city of the Taj.
The row has worried thousands in Agra who depend on tourist arrivals to the western Uttar Pradesh city, a few hours away from the national capital.
According to government statistics, every fourth foreign visitor to the country visits the Taj but there has been a decline in the number foreign tourists to the white marble mausoleum widely considered one of the world's seven wonders.