Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Imminent threat to the Taj Mahal of Agra, India - a looming crisis

Tombs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal at underground levelen.wikipedia.org/
 Taj Mahal by Samuel Bourne,1860.en.wikipedia.org
The Taj Mahal at Agra, Uttar Pradesh a white marble mausoleum  is widely recognized as "the jewel of Muslim art in India" and is  considered as one of the world’s most celebrated structures - perfect blend of Islamic, Persian, Ottoman Turkish as well as Indian architectural styles. It houses the tomb of his third wife, Mumtaz  Mahal the most favorite wife of  Mughal emperor Shah Jahan,the builder of Taj Mahal. It took 22  years (1632 to 1653) for him to build this great monument,a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in everlasting memory of his wife. Since  the beginning of 18 th century, the Taj has been facing threats:

In the 18th century, the Jat rulers of Bharatpur invaded Agra and attacked the Taj Mahal and took away valuable precious stones, etc.
1942 world war II  Protective wartime scaffolding/wikipedia/commons/
 In the later part of 19 th century, parts of the buildings caved in and remained unfixed,

 During the great mutiny (1857) by  Indian soldiers against the despotic East India company, taking advantage of the upheaval and chaotic situation, greedy British soldiers and equally selfish and dishonest government officials defaced the Taj, chiseled out precious stones, etc from its walls.  Thanks to Lord Curzon who gave life to the Taj by restoring it back to old splendor and remodeling the garden.

 -Taj again faced threats in 1942 from possible Japanese air raids and later in 1965 and 1971 from
Pakistan during its war with India.

 -Recent threats are due to environmental pollution caused by excess dust and occasional dust storms coupled with  acid rain, caused by oil refinery at Mathura.

Among all threats, the most devastating one that threatens the future survival of the Taj is rapid falling of water level in the nearby Yamuna river - five feet a year and the consequent cracks in parts the tomb and the minarets which surround the monument were showing signs of tilting, The main reason is rotting of wooden foundation of the tomb due to lack of water. In 2011 report on the safety of the Taj  predicted  possible major damage to the tomb within five year period and indicated that the tomb could collapse within 5 years.

Wooden foundation below the Taj Mahal:

 Ramshankar Katheria, the MP for Agra and who is leading the campaign to save the Taj, is of the opinion that the problem of rotting of wooden foundation below the tombs of this great monument  needs to be addressed  immediately, and if not concrete steps are not taken well in time, chances are that The Taj may cave in over a period of two years.

The crux of the matter is the 358 plus year old tombs of Shah Jehan and Mumtaj Mahal were built on mahogany post foundations sunk into wells fed by the nearby Yamuna River for strength and long stability. This typical method was followed by the designers on the assumption that the water level  in the near- by river won't go down. World over countries are facing some kind of environmental problems like air pollution, water scarcity, variations in weather, climate etc on account of excess emission of carbon monoxide and a host of chemicals leading to excess heating on the outer surface of the earth.

Past several years, the Yamuna river has not carried  enough water and the water level is going down every year for several reasons such as excess use of water from the river by the people and businesses, felling of vast tree cover to build highways,etc. If proper step is not taken by the government before hand,  the minarets may also collapse since the wooden foundation - beneath the wells - is rotting due to lack of water.

Professor Ram Nath, an expert on the Taj, said,''
The Taj stands just on the edge of the river Yamuna which has now dried up.This was never anticipated by its builders. The river is a constituent of its architectural design and if the river dies, the Taj cannot survive.'' 

A grave situation and a looming crisis ought to be prevented to save The Taj Mahal,one of the architectural wonders of the world, a silent spectator of the rise and fall of many rulers of India.


'Tillitson, G.H.R. (1990). Architectural Guide to Mughal India, Chronicle Books.


Travel Correspondent (9 July 2007). "New Seven Wonders of the World announced". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2015-02-07.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2045183/Taj-Mahal-collapse-5-years-wooden-foundations-rotting.