When I was a kid, I had this awesome pop-up book that featured all of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was my favorite thing in the world, mostly because I learned how to read really late in life and picture books were the only ones I could enjoy, but also because of the wonderment each of those images instilled in me.
Once I actually learned how to read, though, I learned that there was a whole new set of "Modern Wonders" and my favorite among them was the Taj Mahal. Sure, the fact that I was a Muslim kid who was very familiar with the sight of minarets might have had something to do with it, but there's no doubt the building is ridiculously beautiful, and even my newly literate dumb-self could see that fact, plain and clear.
In fact, if you ask anyone to name a single monument, or building in India, or ask them to pick one image associated with the country, they'll probably mention the Taj Mahal.
But now, a controversial right-wing lawmaker, Sangeet Som, is making headlines by calling the beautiful monument a "blot on Indian culture," and saying that the construction of the majestic domicile was "built by traitors" to the country.
The building was commissioned in 1631 by Shah Jahan to commemorate his wife the Persian Princess Mumtaz Mahal after she passed away. Som is arguing that because the Taj was commissioned and constructed by Mughal (or Mogul) emperors in India, a dynasty comprised of leaders that were part Persian with some Mongolian roots, that it's not part of "true" Indian culture.
There are some who agree with Som's mindset, and even expressed a socio-religious mindset behind the anti-Taj sentiment.
But for the most part, Indians are saying Som is out of his mind.
Anyone who calls the Taj Mahal a "blot on Indian culture" has very clearly lost the plot.— Vikram Chandra (@vikramchandra) October 16, 2017
'Taj Mahal a blot, built by traitors,' says BJP lawmaker Sangeet Som.— Ramesh Srivats (@rameshsrivats) October 16, 2017
He must be against marbles, having lost his.
Many Indians are expressing their shame and disappointment in Som.
The Taj Mahal is how the world popularly noticed India. Not sure abt culture, but your thinking is definitely a blot on the office you hold.— Mihir Bijur (@MihirBijur) October 16, 2017
And yup what hv u done for India? Atleast the Taj Mahal is making us proud abroad and boosting Tourism. Keep Hindu-Muslim out of few things!— Bibhash Pathak (@Being_BIBHASH) October 16, 2017
Apparently, this argument against the Taj Mahal isn't new, either.
Much of Som's political footing seems to come from vilifying Muslims in Indian culture and he seems to try and foment anger between the two religious groups in order to make headlines. Since the Taj Mahal was constructed under Muslim emperors, it would make sense for Som to dislike the structure.
But for most Indians, it seems, the Taj Mahal is a positive symbol for India, regardless of which temple the emperor who constructed it decided to visit once a week.