Lalji‘s ‘Ankaha Lucknow‘ sparks another debate

‘Ankaha Lucknow’ is already generating heat ahead of its Saturday release.

The book by BJP veteran Lalji Tandon has kicked up a controversy over its claim that Lucknow’s biggest Sunni mosque – the ‘Teele Wali Masjid’ was built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb over the ‘Laxman Teela’ – a raised platform believed to be christened after Lord Ram’s brother Laxman.

‘ANKAHA LUCKNOW’

  • In ‘Ankaha Lucknow’ that translates to ‘Untold Lucknow’, Tandon has gone on to make a disputed claim that the ‘Teele Wali Masjid’, the biggest Sunni mosque in Lucknow believed to be nearly 375 years old, was built over Laxman Teela.
  • Right wing leaders believe it was named after Lord Ram’s brother Laxman, from whom Tandon claims Lucknow got its name.

HT had first reported the excerpts of the disputed claim in February.

“This city was originally named Laxmanavati, then Laxmanpur and after that Lakhnavati, before finally being named Lucknow,” Tandon says in his book in which he claims that a ‘Shesh Gufa’ also stood on the Laxman Teela – proof of Lucknow’s link with Laxman.

The ‘Gufa’, Tandon claims, was demolished during Alauddin Khilji’s reign while the mosque came up over the ‘Teela’ during Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s tenure, says the BJP veteran.

Hindus believe Lord Ram to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu while his brother Laxman was taken to be the incarnation of Shesh Naag, the serpent king who guards Lord Vishnu, after whom Tandon believes ‘Shesh gufa’ – virtually a temple after Laxman was named.

Tandon’s ‘mosque over Teela’ claim was, however, dismissed by Fazle Mannan, the imam of Teele Wali Masjid.

“I believe Tandonji’s claim has been guided more by politics than history. He should give us proof before making such claims,” said Mannan.

Lalji Tandon.

“We have documents to demolish Tandonji’s claim that appears to have been made with 2019 Lok Sabha elections in mind,” he said while agreeing that the mosque indeed came up during Aurangzeb’s time.

But, city-based archaeologist DP Tiwari differs with Mannan, saying if fresh digging was to be carried out in city’s ‘Laxman Teela’ – where Aurangzeb built the mosque – it could indeed throw up archaeological evidence to substantiate the city’s ‘Laxman connect’.

Tiwari refers to ‘Uttar Kand’ – a portion of Valmiki’s Ramayana to indicate that the religious scripture bears testimony of Laxman having travelled down to the ‘Teela’ after crossing the Gomti.

“Religious texts bear association of Laxmanji with the Teela where digging in the past had revealed painted greyware pottery that dates its origin to the Mahabharata era. I would suggest that after Tandonji’s book fresh digging could be carried out to check for ochre colored pottery which relates to the Ramayana period,” said Tiwari.

But professor Makhan Lal, director of Delhi’s Institute of Heritage Management, is guarded in his take on Laxman Teela.

“All that I can say is that there is a place called Laxman Teela that could have come into existence around 3,600 years ago, even earlier and yes, there is a mosque built on it, supposedly by Aurangzeb,” he said without getting into Tandon’s claims that have angered the Samajwadi Party.

“It’s near election time and BJP leaders are out to divert people’s attention,” said SP leader Sunil Singh ‘Sajan’. However, UP government’s lone Muslim minister Mohsin Raza feels that Tandon’s book and his claim need to be looked into carefully.

“Coming from a veteran who spent his entire life in old city and given his extensive knowledge on Lucknow his point needs careful examination. It can’t be dismissed just like that,” Raza said.

The book is scheduled for Saturday release by vice-president Venkaiah Naidu in the presence of union home minister Rajnath Singh, chief minister Yogi Adityanath and others.