In mid-April, on the occasion of Shah Jahan’s birth anniversary, visitors to the Taj Mahal were allowed to see the graves of the Mughal emperor and his wife Mumtaz Mahal – the real ones, located in a sealed chamber beneath the replicas on display all year round.
Devotees who came to offer prayers discovered that the intricate marble inlay work on the graves had blackened after years of neglect. They were angry.
They asked the Archeological Survey of India to begin restoring the graves – immediately. ASI officials told them the chamber which houses them would be cleaned soon.
But the restoration may take a back seat, considering that much work already needs to be done to repair small minarets and domes that were damaged in a recent storm (and that the underground chamber is rarely opened for anyone excepts V.I.Ps).
The destruction caused by the storm indicates that structural erosion is eating away at the Taj from the inside. The iron rods holding its outer cladding of sandstone and marble to the walls have been corroding for 400 years.
Due to high air pollution levels in Agra, they’ve now lost the strength to keep a grip on the stones.
In fact, tourists have been injured by falling debris, although none were hurt when the storm hit Agra last Wednesday – for the Taj was closed.
The ASI Directorate has received an estimate of the required repairs, but the Taj Mahal may need more than renovation of the damaged areas. Most of the monument requires an urgent, detailed scientific survey to assess corrosion levels.
‘OPEN CHAMBER FOR TOURISTS REGULARLY’
Shamshuddin, the president of the Approved Guides Association, said the ASI has completely neglected the cleaning of the underground chamber since wooden sleepers were installed to regulate the flow of tourists.
If this chamber is opened for tourists regularly, it will be better maintained, and the ASI can levy a separate charge from visitors entering this chamber, he told India Today.
As for the black spots on the grave, he said they need to be cleaned with a Fullers Earth treatment, before they permanently deface the graves’ surface.