Taj’s beauty is far from fading

March 9th, 2008 - 11:04 am ICT by admin  

By Arpana
Agra, March 9 (IANS) Concerned over the fading whiteness of the Taj Mahal? Don’t be, say archaeologists, pointing out that the shade of the 17th century world famous monument to love depends on what time of day you see it and that its beauty will last for years to come. “Even today it looks absolutely white if you see it early in the morning and on full moon day. Its colour changes when you see it in the afternoon - it looks cream,” A.R. Siddiqui, deputy superintendent archaeologist, Agra Circle, told IANS.

“This colour will remain for many more decades and many generations are going to see the Taj in its current form.”

Designed by Iranian architect Ustad Isa during the reign of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the construction of the Taj - an ode to his love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal - began in 1631 and 20,000 workers toiled to complete it in 22 years. The material was brought from all over India and Central Asia. Legend has it that it took a fleet of 1,000 elephants to transport it to the site.

Currently a team of scientists is coating the arches on the western side of the mausoleum with mud.

Siddiqui said: “We have been using mudpacks for years to clean the Taj. We prefer this procedure because there is no threat to the marble. Even Mughal emperor Aurangzeb used the mudpack to clean the monument.”

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) chief chemist N.K. Samadhia said the mud will either fall off on its own after drying or be washed off with distilled water and a light brush.

Concerns about the Taj’s colour notwithstanding, the number of footfalls has increased ever since it was included in the world’s seven wonders list - for the second time - after an online vote in 2007. Nearly 2.6 million tourists, including foreigners, visited the monument last year.

“In the past year nearly 2.6 million tourists came for sightseeing - out of them, 600,000 were foreigners,” said Avinash Mishra, assistant director, tourism, Agra.

Every day 8,000 to 10,000 tourists visit the Taj and during weekends and holidays the number rises up to 14,000.

However, most tourists complain about disorganised administration and unimpressive surroundings.

Ananya Guha, a London-based NRI who recently visited the Taj, commented: “Things could definitely get more organised here”.

“For hefty bribes, shady touts offer to take people inside the Taj through entrances other than the main one to avoid the serpentine queues. Separate entrances for those willing to pay more is not a bad idea, but it should be legalised,” she said.

Mishra said efforts were on to improve things.

“We had been allocated a budget of RS.120 million to develop the surroundings of Taj Mahal. We have built the Taj nature walk (a green patch surrounding the complex), and the eastern and western gate parking,” said Mishra.

Added Siddiqui: “Right now we are planning to open the western gate, which is also called Gaushala, to take off the load from the main entrance. We are doing it with the consent of Unesco.”

Unesco has a budget for all heritage sites, including the Taj, and from time to time contributes to maintaining the monument. Taj Mahal is after all among the 850 heritage sites in the world.

For those who visit Agra, Fatehpur Sikri is a must and Mishra said that widening of the highway that connects the two historical places would further boost tourism.

However, here too hawkers and guides hound tourists.

“Fatehpur Sikri is such a pretty structure, but you barely get the time and space to appreciate it because touts and guides pounce on you some four kilometres before you enter the premises. Some to the point of abusing you if you don’t take their services,” said Priya Gupta, a student of Delhi University.

“Inside Salim Chishti’s mausoleum, I felt too disturbed by the guides to pray or make a wish. At an adjacent tomb, a man almost forced us to go inside and then pressed for charity, saying our trip would be meaningless if we didn’t contribute.”

Commenting on this, Mishra said: “Of and on we campaign against these hawkers with the help of police. We manage to stop them, but after a fortnight they resurface. A permanent solution for this is to provide alternative employment to them.”

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