The Taj Mahal is noted on many lists as one of the Seven Wonders of the World
, hooking more than 2 million visitors a year and landing on the list of the 50 Most Visited Tourist Attractions in the World
. But it should have never been built. So says one prominent Indian politician who sparked a firestorm of controversy
recently when he said that if he could, he would have "willingly led a mob" to demolish the world-famous monument.
Muhammad Azam Khan (pictured at left), the urban development minister in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, called the white marble palace a waste of the country's money. The Taj Mahal was built by emperor Shah Jahan as a shrine to his third wife in the 1600s. "Shah Jahan had no right to spend [millions] from the public coffers on his sweetheart," Azam Khan was quoted as saying by The Times of India
His controversial comments came as he was reflecting on the demolition of the 16th century Babri Masjid mosque
by rioters in the 1990s. The mosque was brought down in a violent feud over land rights. "Had people decided to demolish the Taj Mahal instead of the Babri mosque, I would have led them," Azam Khan said.
Outrage exploded over Azam Khan's comments, with many calling the politician out for what they see as his lack of respect for history. A well-ragarded university professor told India Today
that Azam Khan is advocating destroying important artifacts central to India's history. "I first want him to check his facts before giving such mindless statements," said Ali Athar, a history professor at Aligahr Muslim University
in Aligahr, Uttar Pradesh, India. "He must not have seen Taj Mahal. There are Quranic verses inscribed inside the monument. There is also a mosque inside the campus of Taj Mahal. If he wants to bring the beautiful wonder of the world down, he must be interested in demolishing other things also which are there inside the premises of the monument."
Azam Khan told Tehelka
, an Indian political magazine, that his comments on the Taj Mahal were taken out of context. "I never said the Taj Mahal should be demolished," he said. "I have my own way of putting my thoughts and ideas before the people. ... The hard-earned wealth of people is meant only for the people. Shah Jahan committed a grave sin by splurging public money on the highly extravagant projects like the Taj Mahal."
More than 20,000 workers -- and about 1,000 transport elephants -- spent more than two decades constructing the Taj Mahal between 1632 and 1653, International Business Times noted
. In today's currency, the cost of constructing the Taj Mahal would be $200 million, according to Imahal.com
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