On the riverbanks of the most celebrated and recognized river, Yamuna rests the wonder of the world – TAJ MAHAL. Witnessing the significant events throughout history, what makes the Taj Mahal the work of its time is the purity of the material, scientific precision for optical illusions, and the remarkable detail in its form ranging from the complex entrance to the dome of the Taj. Taj is an architectural perfection showing the perfect affiliation of design, craftsmanship, and symmetry in the country dotted with Mughal Tombs.

Standing out as an example of eternal love, it has its wooden foundation rooted since time immemorial. The architectural magnificence and uniqueness make the Taj complex worth the visit once in a lifetime. 

However, over the power of time, this epitome of magnificence falls prey to a lot of negative energies vandalizing the exposed white marble. A famous saying goes that:

Taj Mahal is pinkish in the morning, milky white in the evening, and golden when the moon shines.

This makes the view of the Taj hypnotizing for the visitors. This may have been true, but now this monument has a visible layer of yellowy-brown shade due to persistent pollution and poor management. 

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Map Of Taj & It’s Complex © Jaival Mehta

Strategically located, they intentionally built the Taj on the existing complex to prevent massive foundation costs. It has partnered with the Yamuna River with the vision to be seen reflected inverted on a full moon night. However, depleting the water table and the daily increase in the river’s pollution make this vision a dream. Beautifully carved calligraphy, inlaid in semiprecious stones, is now covered by layers of yellow color because of lethargy in maintenance and the treatment of the environment in proximity.

The Need of Rebirth of Taj

With such a time span of building someone never imagined, the materials in the building have aged and have darkened because of its property. With such a horrifying environment of acid rains, coating of soot from industrial and domestic chimneys and the atmospheric pollutants, it has fastened the decaying process of the marbles exposed to it.

According to the reports, Agra has tremendous pollution rates because of oil factories, plants, pollution of vehicles, and nearby crematorium. These toxic pollutants released from these factories, such as sulphur dioxide, accumulate on the exposed facade of the monument, making it a yellow coating.

The problems that occurred from the river add to this challenge. The groundwater has depleted. There are high amounts of pollution which are the breeding grounds for mosquitoes. The polluted water seeps into the foundation, forming cavities and weakening it into a sewage tunnel. Untreated sewage and waste pour in from the city, creating nutrient-rich waters with high phosphorus levels. These are later picked up by the wind and deposited in the Taj’s increasing porous stonework, allowing river-derived microorganisms to leave droppings on its surfaces, coloring them green. 

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Yellowing of Taj © quora.com

The Case of Cathedral

Fifty years after the completion of the Taj, St. Paul’s Cathedral had faced the same problems such as acid rain, soot accumulation, atmospheric pollutants, and darkening with age. Hence, the authorities of university geographers went under many tests with timely observation using micro erosion meters and understood the climate impact and the weathering on the building.

With over 40 years of tranquillity and pollution, they harshly disrupted its skin of the cathedral. On detailed examination in the 1980s, it wore all the parapets entirely off with dark black crusts on their stone surfaces. Later, on strict actions, the rate of atmospheric sulphur oxide has dropped to half. There is timely, sensitive cleaning and restoration of these elements to protect its legacy.

The Toolkit of Regeneration

Being the wonder of the world, the Taj needs rapid and decisive action not to lose its legendary luster. Having significant concerns from the Taj, ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) has already taken several measures to make it workable. The ASI has approved the method of Mud Pack Treatment Approval. They removed all the stains from the shining marble. In this method, the clay (preferably Multani Mitti) is applied in a thick paste that absorbs grime, grease, and bird/insect droppings on the marble before being washed off using distilled water. This process is applied and tested but is a slow and torturous process. Hence, this is done periodically with the gap of few years (1924, 2001, 2008, 2014). 

Further, ASI has submitted most measures as a ‘Site Management Plan’ to the government. This includes; Mechanised cleaning of roads with water within 5 km of area, and using shoe cover for visitors, and having regular maintenance of gardens.

The primary concern that can affect is the factories and their fumes. So, with the BAN of these factories can eradicate both river wastage and air pollution. Further, there can be a shift in the usage medium of vehicles in the city. There can be the usage of CNG and electric-based vehicles. The natural terrain contributes to a lot of pollution control, and there should be strict guidance following by NBC. The nearby crematorium offers a lot of pollution and dust. Hence, there should be a shift of electric crematorium and the closure of the factories in monuments. 

Statistically, there have been 2000 metric tonnes of water, with 60% of water dumped in Yamuna’s factories and plants. Making 500 m radium around the TTZ litter-free will ensure that this stays as beautiful as it was made, even from a considerate vista. Using plastics can be reduced in and around Agra. 

Today, Taj is an example of a nation, its magnets people throughout the globe contributing to the country’s economy. The present administration tries to leave no stone unturned to maintain this Mughal Masterpiece. However, it also falls into the responsibilities of the commoners like ourselves and the city dwellers to respect this monument. The original skin may have been renovated and changed over the years. Its value lies beyond ages and always stands the testament of time.

Sources:

  1.  Facebook. 2021. Log in to Facebook | Facebook. [online] Available at: <https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1509797669170499> [Accessed 9 July 2021].
  2. Nov 9, T. / U., 2020 and Ist, 12:31 (n.d.). Agra most polluted city of country, rest western UP cities also breathe toxic air | Meerut News – Times of India. [online] The Times of India. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/meerut/agra-most-polluted-city-of-country-rest-western-up-cities-also-breathe-toxic-air/articleshow/79117051.cms#:~:text=MEERUT%2FAGRA%2FBAREILLY%3A%20Agra [Accessed 28 Jul. 2021].
  3. ‌Quora.com. (2019). What caused the yellowing of the Taj Mahal? – Quora. [online] Available at: https://www.quora.com/What-caused-the-yellowing-of-the-Taj-Mahal.
  4. Bureau of Indian Standards. (n.d.). National Building Code. [online] Available at: https://bis.gov.in/index.php/standards/technical-department/national-building-code/#:~:text=construction%20(including%20safety)%3B%20building.
Author

Jaival Mehta, being a third-year architecture student, is always keen to read and explode the theme of subject matter. If he had the time and stamina to do so, he would cycle around the world, with a pen, camera and a notebook. He is a literature and design enthusiast and his favourite word is ‘why’.

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