NEW DELHI — For the very first time ever, the Taj Mahal, India’s monument to eternal love, is obtaining a significant cleaning.
For much more than 350 years, monsoon rains in Agra, the bustling city exactly where the monument sits, have been sufficient to wash dirt off the structure’s walls. But pollution has worsened more than the last couple of decades, and components of the marble facade have turned yellow and black.
Since 2015, workers have scaled the monument’s minarets and walls to correct discoloration and get rid of layers of grime from the 17th-century structure, which was constructed by the Muslim emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
Behind the monument, the Yamuna River has also filled with sewage and other waste, worsening the difficulty by attracting millions of mosquito-like insects. They settle near the backside of the Taj Mahal and excrete a green substance on its walls in the course of mating flights.
Cleaning the monument is time-consuming and difficult. To get rid of discoloration, workers suspended on scaffolding are caking Fuller’s earth — a mud paste that absorbs dirt, grease and animal excrement, and that is frequently utilised to treat skin impurities — on the entire monument. The mud is then washed off, leaving a pristine surface.
“No chemicals are used,” mentioned Bhuvan Vikrama, a superintendent with the Archaeological Survey of India, which is overseeing the cleaning. “This is the ideal selection, so far, that we have come across. We have been using it for decades on marble surfaces.”
More than the final few years, the scaffolding has mainly prevented men and women from taking unobstructed photographs of the monument. Workers have tried to clean the minarets in stages, in part to guarantee that the millions of tourists who check out the Taj Mahal each and every year come away with a good view of the tomb, which Rabindranath Tagore, India’s celebrated poet, once compared to “a solitary tear suspended on the cheek of time.”
But this year, workers could face their largest hurdle however: restoring the monument’s dome to a pearly white. The metal scaffolds that workers utilised to apply mud paste to the minarets are too heavy and rigid to assemble about the dome, so a variety of bamboo scaffolding, which was employed for conservation perform in the 1940s, is becoming regarded as as an alternative.
Cleanup efforts have turn into a subject of conversation around Agra, where some individuals said that the extra scaffolding, which forms a black internet about the marble, might deter guests.
Prominent politicians have shown up for the cleaning, which includes Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the state that contains Agra. Mr. Adityanath, a Hindu nationalist, came beneath fire final year for questioning the centrality of the Taj Mahal, with its Muslim heritage, in India’s tourism circuit. But on a current go to, he, also, picked up a broom to sweep near an entry gate, calling the monument a “unique gem.”
Investment has recently poured into Agra. In 2012, a fast-track highway connecting New Delhi, India’s capital, with Agra opened, allowing guests to reach the Taj Mahal in about three hours.
In December, the Globe Bank announced that it would provide a $40 million loan to the Indian and Uttar Pradesh governments to develop the Taj Mahal and other monuments. It is unclear how much — if any — of that cash will be spent on the cleaning, which officials are hoping to total by November.
Despite the fact that tourism numbers at the Taj Mahal have dropped slightly over the final few years, probably since of the scaffolding, the crowds are nonetheless massive, prompting the Archaeological Survey of India to float a proposal to cap the number of everyday guests at 40,000 folks and limit entry to 3 hours for each tourist.
Fodor’s Travel Guide has advised guests to skip the Taj Mahal till restoration operate on the dome, which has but to begin, is completed. But Shamsuddin Khan, a longtime tour guide in Agra, said he was unconcerned. He expressed self-confidence that men and women from all more than the planet would continue to wake up ahead of dawn, just as they have for years, to catch a glimpse of the tomb blanketed in soft, golden light.
“The Taj Mahal is going to remain the Taj Mahal,” he mentioned.
Published at Mon, 22 Jan 2018 16:09:22 +0000