From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Taj Mahal
Mains level : Conservation of historical monuments
The Taj Mahal complex has been spruced up for the visit of US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.
- The Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in the city of Agra.
- It was commissioned in 1632 by Shah Jahan (reigned from 1628 to 1658) to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal; it also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan himself.
- The tomb is the centrepiece of a 17-hectare (42-acre) complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenellated wall.
- The Taj Mahal complex is believed to have been completed in its entirety in 1653 at a cost estimated at the time to be around 32 million rupees, which in 2015 would be approximately 52.8 billion rupees (U.S. $827 million).
- The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.
- The Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”.
Various threats to Taj
- The Supreme Court had earlier expressed concern over the marble of the Taj changing colour, and asked how the white marble, which had first become yellowish, was now turning brownish and greenish.
- Firstly, the polluting industries and the vehicular emissions in the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) area are a major source of pollution.
- The second reason is that the Yamuna River, which flows behind the Taj, has become highly polluted.
- There is no aquatic life in it, and has caused insect and algae infestation on the Taj Mahal and other monuments situated on its banks.
Use of mud packs
- Increasing pollution in the air over the Gangetic Valley affecting the Taj has been a reason for concern for archaeologists and conservationists for long now.
- Mud packs were applied on the surface of the monument first in 1994, and then again in 2001, 2008, and, most recently, beginning 2014.
- Mud packs have been one of the ASI’s favoured ways to remove the yellow stains that have appeared over the years on the Taj Mahal’s white marble facade.
- The clay is applied in the form of a thick paste that absorbs the grime, grease and bird droppings on the marble, before being washed off using distilled water.
- The process is slow and tortuous, but is believed to leave the marble cleaner and shinier.
- The intricate parts are applied with special “multani mitti’ (Fuller’s clay) treatment.