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Saturday, November 03, 2007

How the Taj Was to Come Under a Wrecking Ball

Next time anyone claims British rule was good for India it may be worthwhile to remember this:

Excerpts from books on Taj Mahal and Mughal architecture:

Lord William Bentinck, (governor general of Bengal 1828-33, and later first governor general of all India), went so far as to announce plans to demolish the best Mogul monuments in Agra and Delhi and remove their marble facades. These were to be shipped to London, where they would be broken up and sold to members of the British aristocracy. Several of Shahjahan's pavilions in the Red Fort at Delhi were indeed stripped to the brick, and the marble was shipped off to England (part of this shipment included pieces for King George IV himself). Plans to dismantle the Taj Mahal were in place, and wrecking machinery was moved into the garden grounds. Just as the demolition work was to begin, news from London indicated that the first auction had not been a success, and that all further sales were cancelled -- it would not be worth the money to tear down the TajMahal. Thus the Taj Mahal was spared. [R. Nath's History of Decorative Art in Mughal Architecture]

The forts in Agra and Delhi were commandeered at the beginning of the nineteenth century and turned into military garrisons. Marble reliefs were torn down, gardens were trampled, and lines of ugly barracks, still standing today, were installed in their stead. In the Delhi fort, the Hall of Public Audience was made into an arsenal and the arches of the outer colonnades were bricked over or replaced with rectangular wooden windows.

The Mughal fort at Allahabad (one of Akbar's favorite) experienced a fate far worse. Virtually nothing of architectural significance is to be seen in the barracks that now make up the fort. The Deccan fort at Ahmednagar was also converted into barracks. Now, only its outer walls can hint at its former magnificence. [David Carroll's Taj Mahal]

Come to think of it, it sounds pretty close what the Islamic raiders and rulers did to Hindu and Buddhist temples and universities, few hundred years prior. The Islamics destroyed and burnt places because they weren't Islamic while the British destroyed places for profit and power.