The district administration of Agra has agreed to beef up security outside the Taj Mahal at the request of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), following Shiv Sena’s threat of performing ‘aarti’ at the monument on each Monday of the holy month of ‘Sawan’.
The ASI authorities wrote a letter stating that under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 any kind of religious practice and beginning of new tradition in the protected monument is against the rules of the Act.
Agra Shiv Sena President Veenu Lavania on July 17 challenged the district administration and police to stop him and his aides from offering ‘aarti’ at the Taj Mahal.
Lavania had said: “Taj Mahal is not a mausoleum but Tejo Mahalaya, a temple of Lord Shiva. We will perform ‘aarti’ at Tejo Mahalaya on every Monday of ‘Sawan’.”
The Superintending Archaeologist of ASI of Agra circle, Vasant Swarankar, said that no ‘aarti’ or ‘puja’ has ever been performed in the Taj Mahal.
“We have requested the district authorities to make proper security arrangements outside the Taj Mahal,” he said.
Additional District Magistrate (ADM) K.P. Singh said that no one would be allowed to disturb the law and order situation in the city. He said that proper arrangements would be made as per the ASI’s request.
This is not the first time when right wing groups have attempted to create controversy over performing ‘puja’ inside the Taj Mahal.
Last year, a group of women from right wing organizations had performed ‘puja’ in the mosque inside the Taj Mahal to prove that the monument was originally a Shiv temple.
In 2008, a group of Shiv Sena activists had sneaked into the Taj Mahal, and performed religious ritual of a parikrama with folded hands, and when the cops spotted and challenged them, they got into a scuffle, which led to their arrest by the police.
The Shiv Sena says that the 17th century monument was built by Emperor Shah Jahan on an older Shiva temple called Tejo Mahalaya.