Four centuries of conservation
The restoration process of the Taj is almost as old as the monument. The fundamental problem with the restoration work of the monument, say experts, is that it lacks long-term planning
1652 The earliest record of repairs in the Taj Mahal dates back to just four years after the monument was completed. Aurangzeb wrote to his father, Shah Jahan, about leakage in the domes of the mausoleum, Mehman Khana and the mosque. Work was undertaken to flatten the surface of the roof, and to treat it with concrete and mortar. 1810 The next major repair was carried in the 19th century when Lieutenant Joseph Taylor undertook a project to clean the mausoleum. Taylor replaced missing stones in the stone inlay, which got damaged because of heavy rains, with coloured stucco. 1860 Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) was established. 1864 John Murray, the first photographer of the Taj, organised repair work of the cenotaphs, screen and interior walls that had been vandalised, particularly in the first war of Independence in 1857-58. 1874 J W Alexander, executive engineer of Agra, replaced broken marble slabs, restored inlay work, made the dome watertight and regilded the finial of the mausoleum. 1898-1905 The first comprehensive restoration and repair work was undertaken during the time of Lord Curzon, who served as the governorgeneral and viceroy of India. The restoration work included not only the mausoleum and the garden but also reconstruction of the outer courts. 1983 UNESCO declared Taj Mahal as a World Heritage Site. In the same year, Union environment ministry announced the Taj Trapezium, an area spanning 10,400 sq km, which includes Agra, Mathura, Firozabad, Hathras and Bharatpur districts, to protect the Taj. The
ministry decided to keep all polluting industries outside the zone. 1984 ASI for the first time used fuller's earth ( multanimitti) along with a cocktail of harmful chemicals to remove greasy particulate matter. 2001 New conservation and restoration plan initiated between Indian government and the Tata group through the Taj Mahal Conservation Collaborative that included conservation architects, historians, landscape architects and heritage management consultant. Work undertaken to restore riverside wall, eastern enclosure wall, Fatehabad gate courtyard and Fatehpuri gate courtyard. ASI officials said after the private partner withdrew from the project, the balance restoration work was carried out by the department with money from National Culture Fund. 2014 Oil and Natural Gas Corporation signed an agreement with ASI and the ministry of tourism under Swachh Bharat Mission to beautify and preserve the monument and maintain cleanliness in the precincts. Works under the project are still in discussion stage, say ASI officials. Besides these, repair and restoration work at the Taj Mahal is taken up on a routine basis as any old buildings require high maintenance, say ASI officials.