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

Down to Earth - - THE FORTNIGHT -

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.

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