Since the ancient times, it has been the practice of Hindu kings to assiduously follow the tenets as laid down in the Shilpa Shastra while building forts, palaces, mansions, temples and dharmashalas. Traditionally, these grand structures were built along river banks, seashores or lakes to observe the obligatory rites and rituals of the Hindu scriptures.
There are countless examples found across Akhanda Bharat that will bear testimony to this sacred law. Over time, Hindu kings perfected the art of building deep foundations, high plinths, large tanks and an elaborate rainwater runoff system to protect the buildings from sinking and getting flooded. The beautiful bathing ghats along the water bodies were an integral component of every design.
Hence, if one looks at the map of the region around the Yamuna River, one will find a number of buildings of the Vedic Period right through to the glorious Indraprastha of Dharmaraja Yudhishtira in the Dwapura Yuga and thereafter by valorous Hindu kings. This region of Agra and Delhi were constantly plundered by Muslim invaders who made their way via the Khyber Pass.
Delhi was always considered to be vulnerable and incapable of defending itself when under attack from multiple quarters. This is the reason perhaps why Babur preferred Agra as his capital while the Delhi Sultanate retained Delhi as theirs.
The famed “Taj Mahal” was appreciated by the Muslim invaders right from the 14th century. A Sanskrit inscription found at Bateshwar near Agra now at the State Museum, Lucknow states that Raja Paramardi Dev of the Chandelas of Jejakabhukti dated Vikram Samvat 1212, in the month of Ashwin on Shukla Paksha Panchami raised a temple in white marble in honour of Lord Vishnu. He had already consecrated Lord Chandramouleshwara of crystal white stone in a magnificent temple by the Yamuna River in the mid- 12th century.
The inscription describes the lineage of Raja Paramardi Dev and credits him with the construction of two beautiful marble temples, one for Lord Vishnu and other for Lord Shiva along the Yamuna River.
The temple had an octagonal shaped centre above which a massive dome was constructed to depict the Cosmic Dance of Lord Nataraja. The entire visual spectacle of water dripping from the pot hung from the ceiling over the Shiva Linga could be witnessed from the ten chambers that were around the central shrine.
The four domes surrounding the central dome were called pancha ratna, based on the five elements of space, air, fire, water and earth and were divided into three parts with the first tier having an inward curve at the base, the second tier adorned with auspicious Hindu iconography and the third tier having the lotus flower with unfolded petals.
The sacrosanct trishul was carved into the decorative arches and the pinnacle of the central dome and rose directly from the middle and was connected by another lotus flower with downturned petals symbolising the process of creation.
Even today, an old sketch of the Ashtadikpalas and naga, trishul and lotus in multiples of eight are seen on the ceiling of the octagonal central chamber. The Hindu markings of AUM, shankh, chakra, lotus, Matsya, Varaha and Gaja are seen in several relief works on the walls.
The pristine white marble and rich ornamentation would have been the highlight of this temple in the 12th century.
As the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is reluctant to open the Pandora’s box and conduct a comprehensive survey of the entire site especially the sealed chambers, it makes sense for one to instead visit the holy cities (Varanasi, Prayagraj, Ujjain, Modhera, Ayodhya, Deogarh, Pavagadh, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Ambaji and others) that have now received a massive makeover.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Information about the myth of the Taj Mahal is taken from archives