If you have ever visited the Taj Mahal then your guide probably told you that it was designed by Ustad Isa of Iran, and built by the Moghul Emperor, Shah Jahan, in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Indian children are taught that it was built in 22 years (1631 to 1653) by 20,000 artisans brought to India from all over the world.It does seem unlikely that a follower of Islam would use traditional Hindu symbols in his structure. However, I can't claim to be an expert.
This story has been challenged by Professor P.N. Oak, author of Taj Mahal: The True Story, who believes that the whole world has been duped. He claims that the Taj Mahal is not Queen Mumtaz Mahal's tomb, but an ancient Hindu temple palace of Lord Shiva (then known as Tejo Mahalaya), worshipped by the Rajputs of Agra city.
In the course of his research, Oak discovered that the Shiva temple palace had been usurped by Shah Jahan from then Maharaja of Jaipur, Jai Singh. Shah Jahan then remodelled the palace into his wife's memorial. In his own court chronicle, Badshahnama, Shah Jahan admits that an exceptionally beautiful grand mansion in Agra was taken from Jai Singh for Mumtaz's burial. The ex-Maharaja of Jaipur is said to retain in his secret collection two orders from Shah Jahan for the surrender of the Taj building.
The use of captured temples and mansions as a burial place for dead courtiers and royalty was a common practice among Muslim rulers. For example, Hamayun, Akbar, Etmud-ud-Daula and Safdarjung are all buried in such mansions.
Oak's inquiries begin with the name Taj Mahal. He says this term does not occur in any Moghul court papers or chronicles, even after Shah Jahan's time. The term 'Mahal' has never been used for a building in any of the Muslim countries, from Afghanistan to Algeria.
Expect to see more about this over the next few years.
Other "Arab" innovations that have been cited as examples of genius are:
- The Pythagorean theorem - Pythagoras was Greek, not Arabic
- So-called "Arabic" numerals are, in fact, Indian in origin
- Algebra - origin is in dispute. Indian claims seem to have some merit
- Chess - historians agree that it's an Indian game
- Medicine, astronomy, philosophy - all of these were developed by the Assyrians (Chaldeans and Babylonians), before those people were conquered by the Arabs in the Islamic conquest of the 600's. They were largely Christian peoples before they were forcibly converted.
It's not unusual for cultures to be assimilated when conquered. I think it's important, however, to keep memory of the heritage of the conquered peoples alive, rather than take credit for all they accomplished.