The Taj Mahal–the place of erstwhile Begum of Bhopal–will be handed over to a private realtor to develop the sprawling 19th century structure into a 120-room heritage hotel, Hindustan Times reported in its January 1 edition.
HT on Thursday talked to a number of city historian and history students on their take on the decision to handover the iconic structure.
“I was in school when a portion of the Taj Mahal’s terrace was damaged and the Bhopal Municipal Corporation erecting a white plastic sheet to cover it up. That’s the aesthetic sense of the city administration,” says city-based historian Sikandar Malik.
“Now they have handed over the heritage structure to a builder...I don’t think anyone who has no knowledge of Bhopal’s history, will be able to do justice to the property,” he says.
“The Taj Mahal in Bhopal with a built-up area of 18 acre, would have been one of a kind cultural and heritage centre in the country, if it would have been developed properly. There is no need to develop a hotel on the property.
“Instead, the BMC and the Madhya Pradesh Tourism should have renovated the Taj Mahal by adding more heritage value to it.”
Shubhi Kaushik, a history student is also miffed by the news. “We should learn to preserve heritage sites and not commercialise it. The place is like a school for students like me and converting it into a hotel would be losing out on its heritage value,” she says.
Laxmi Sharam Mishra of Swami Vivekanand Library, says that it will be like destroying your own legacy. “I have seen the Taj Mahal inside-out many times and it can be an ideal place for a museum to showcase Bhopal’s royal past.”
Dr Suresh Mishra, another historian, however, says that restoring the Taj Mahal as a heritage hotel is a good option. “It has been more than 60 years since the property was last renovated in 1956. The condition has deteriorated over the years and has gone from bad to worse.”
City-based historian and writer Syed Akhtar Husain, agrees. “The Taj Mahal is of great significance to Bhopal and converting it into a heritage hotel will make it noticeable in world’s eye,” he says.
Located in Bhopal’s Shahjanabad, the Taj Mahal was built by Begum Shah Jahan, who ruled Bhopal from 1868 and 1901.
The Taj Mahal’s architecture is a unique combination of British, French, Mughal, Arabic and Hindu influences and has unique features. The minarets of the palace have little holes through which water was let out at frequent intervals to keep the building and its surroundings cool during summers.
The cooling system was based on underground water reservoirs. Begum Shah Jahan was inspired by Gond Mahal near Islamnagar, which had a similar cooling system, say historians.
Until 2013, the Taj Mahal was under the state archives department. In 2014, the monument was handed over to the Madhya Pradesh tourism department.