UP Minister: Taj Mahal rightly kept off UP tourism booklet
After the UP government was criticized for keeping one of the seven wonders of the modern world, Taj Mahal, out of its tourism booklet, UP minister of religious affairs and culture Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary raked up another controversy when he said that the monument was "rightly kept out and should instead be replaced with the Guru Gorakhnath peeth." What is this controversy? Know more!
Taj Mahal, which annually attracts about six million tourists, is a white marble mausoleum that Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal in the 17th century. Taj Mahal is regarded as being India's biggest tourist attraction. However, due to alleged governmental negligence, HT reports that the number of total tourists dropped by 113,400 from 2012 to 2015.
CM Yogi Adityanath doesn't seem to be very fond of the Taj. In June'17, he had lauded PM Modi's decision of gifting the Gita to dignitaries instead of Taj replicas that "don't reflect Indian culture." He claims Taj Mahal was built on a Hindu temple.
The UP government faced ire as no cultural heritage funds were allocated to Taj Mahal in the state's budget. As funds were allocated to Hindu holy towns of Ayodhya and Varanasi, the government was accused of ignoring it because of its links to a Muslim dynasty. Government rebutted the claims saying $22 million were allocated, with World Bank's support, for new gates and beautification.
In September, a 32-page glossy brochure titled "Uttar Pradesh Tourism - Unlimited Possibilities," didn't mention Taj Mahal, though Gorakhnath Temple, of which Yogi is head priest, has a whole page dedicated to it. When BJP leaders were questioned, they said the book was not a "compendium of tourist attractions" but just a book that acknowledges the projects the incumbent government plans to pursue.
Meanwhile, at an event organized by the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Chaudhary said "Taj Mahal is not the symbol of any religion and (it is) nobody's. It does not represent any religion." When reminded that it is one of the world's wonders, he said it may have been included in the list by people of "similar taste (mizaz) as those who built it."
Taj Mahal is probably India's most famous tourist destination. Yogi admits it is "an integral part of our heritage" and the government will conserve it. However, considering the number of tourists has been dwindling (743,000 in 2012 to 480,000 in 2015), conscious efforts have to be made for its promotion. At such a time, ignoring it from adverts or budgets will only worsen matters.