Shiv Sena activists enter Taj, pray inside (Lead)

July 24th, 2008 - 9:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Agra, July 24 (IANS) A group of Shiv Sena activists, including three women, sneaked into the Taj Mahal and performed puja within the precincts Thursday. They were taken into custody and later released. Around 10 Shiv Sena activists bought tickets and entered one by one into the Taj Mahal in the afternoon. They performed some kind of puja and ‘parikrama’ (circling of the monument) of the main structure with folded hands. They were forced to stop the ritual when security personnel noticed them wearing saffron scarves. A minor scuffle ensued after which the police took them to the Taj Ganj thana.

They were released in the evening.

The Shiv Sena, which claims the 17th century monument is actually a Shiva temple, had announced earlier that they would perform puja and aarti on every Monday during the month of Shravan, considered auspicious for the worship of Shiva. On Monday, they had been prevented from entering the Taj premises. They later performed the puja at the Taj corridor.

Vinoo Lavania, Shiv Sena chief in Agra, said they had gone there as ordinary citizens of India and felt like praying. “So, what’s wrong with that,” he asked.

R.K. Dixit, Archaeological Society of India’s in charge of the Taj Mahal, told IANS: “They came in a group as ordinary citizens and purchased tickets. We were with them all the time along with the Taj Ganj police station in charge. With folded hands they went towards the mosque and went back. How could we have prevented their entry as they did nothing objectionable.

“I don’t know why such a hullabaloo is being made about it. They told me their programme is for Mondays and had come today just to see the Taj Mahal.”

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