The Taj Mahal is a mausoleum located in Agra, India, that was built under Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The Taj Mahal (also “the Taj”) is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Turkish, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.
In 1631, Shah Jahan, emperor during the Mughal empire’s period of greatest prosperity, was grief-stricken when his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died during the birth of their fourteenth child, Gauhara Begum. The court chronicles of Shah Jahan’s grief illustrates the love story traditionally held as an inspiration for Taj Mahal. The construction of Taj Mahal begun soon after Mumtaz’s death with the principal mausoleum completed in 1648. The surrounding buildings and garden were finished five years later.
Emperor Shah Jahan himself described the Taj in these words:”Should guilty seek asylum here, Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin. Should a sinner make his way to this mansion, All his past sins are to be washed away. The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs; And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes. In this world this edifice has been made; To display thereby the creator’s glory”. The Taj Mahal attracts from 2 to 4 million visitors annually, with more than 200,000 from overseas.
Most tourists visit in the cooler months of October, November and February. Polluting traffic is not allowed near the complex and tourists must either walk from carparks or catch an electric bus. The Khawasspuras (northern courtyards) are currently being restored for use as a new visitor centre. The small town to the south of the Taj, known as Taj Ganji or Mumtazabad, originally was constructed with caravanserais, bazaars and markets to serve the needs of visitors and workmen.
Lists of recommended travel destinations often feature the Taj Mahal, which also appears in several listings of seven wonders of the modern world, including the recently announced New Seven Wonders of the World, a recent poll with 100 million votesThe grounds are open from 6 am to 7pm weekdays, except for Friday when the complex is open for prayers at the mosque between 12 noon and 2 pm. The complex is open for night viewing on the day of the full moon and two days before and after, excluding Fridays and the month of Ramzan.
For security reasons only five items – water in transparent bottles, small video cameras, still cameras, mobile phones and small ladies’ purses – are allowed inside the Taj. In the past, repeated efforts have been made both at the government and private sector levels to foster contemporary cultural life as well as to preserve the rich cultural legacy. The National Culture Fund (NCF) was established as a Trust in November 1996 in the Department of Culture, which has become an effective instrument for private participation in preservation of cultural heritage.
On June 21, NCF, Archaeological Survey of India and the Taj Group of Hotels signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for preservation and up gradation of Taj Mahal. The MoU was signed in the presence of Minister of Tourism and Culture, Mr. Ananth Kumar and Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mr Rajnath Singh and Mr N Ratan Tata, Chairman of Tata Sons Ltd. The Taj Group of Hotels has already been acknowledged for restoring, conserving and managing heritage properties like the Rambagh Palace and Jai Mahal Palace, both in Jaipur, Lake Palace in Udaipur, Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad and the Sawai Madhopur Lodge in Madhopur.
Through the memorandum of understanding, varied projects will be undertaken by the group at the Taj Mahal. The group will be responsible for commissioning a professional agency to prepare a feasibility report on the conservation, beautification, restoration and up gradation of the monument and the surrounding areas. The report will be the basis on which work will be carried out.
The tasks include river water treatment, development of the garden and ambience, development of Mughal Garden, restructuring of the existing museum, conservation of the damaged stones at the Taj Mahal, conservation and preservation of the back wall of the Taj Mahal, conservation and preservation of the eastern side wall of the Taj Mahal, restoration of the missing inlay pieces in the Taj Mahal and the main entrance of the monument, conservation of the Mehman Khana and replacement of the missing fountains and muttakas, replacement of the broken pieces of jali and other decorative items, consultation with experts involved with the World Heritage Committee, international lighting design to illuminate the monument with specific regard to minimize insect pollution, provision of pre-recorded tour programmes with headsets in different languages for the foreign travellers and provision of clean and hygienic restroom facilities. State-of-the-art communication facilities will be set up in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal. These would include telephones, postal services, cyber cafes and printing and reproduction facilities.
The proposed tourist centre will offer interpretation facilities, computerized ticketing counters, interactive audio-video presentation facilities, multi-lingual pre-recorded handheld guide kits, banking, ATM facilities, professional transport systems, public conveniences, food and beverages outlets, restrooms, cloak rooms, first-aid centers and waiting louIn 1996, India’s Supreme Court acknowledged the contribution of local industry to the damage to the Taj Mahal. The court order ruled: “Not even a one percent chance can be taken when — human life apart — the preservation of a prestigious monument like the Taj is involved. ” Nearly 300 coal-based industries were immediately ordered to switch from coke to natural gas for fuel, or to relocate under favorable governmental terms, or to continue polluting and run the risk of heavy financial penalties and closure. This was a call to arms, an act supported in subsequent years by India’s governments at all levels.
For instance, the regional government of the coal-rich Uttar Pradesh has also unfolded a number of projects, some costing as much as US$200 million, to clean up the air around the Taj Mahal. Fundamental to the protection strategy has been the creation of the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ). The protected TTZ has an area 4,040 square miles (10,460 square kilometers). Notions of environmental protection have been fused with poverty intervention in establishing the TTZ so the quality of life for eight million citizens — 30 percent of whom live below the poverty line — can improve and so they can better live and work in harmony with their natural and cultural environments.
However the image of the regional government was blotted in 2003 when a plan, labeled a “misadventure in greed and corruption,” was announced that would establish an amusement complex next to the Taj Mahal. UNESCO threatened to remove the Taj’s world heritage status, and politicians in New Delhi frantically tried to smooth things over. Several strategies are now in place to help protect the Taj Mahal. For example, all nearby transport must run only on electric battery power and may not come within a third of a mile (500 meters) of the monument. Investment in urban infrastructure has been used to reduce both water and air pollution.
In 2005, a new air monitoring system was adopted at the Taj Mahal to continuously measure air quality. Importantly, this new system will nable those protecting the building to better understand local wind patterns, the precise pollution load of the air, and the direction the wind is coming from. But because wind can carry pollution great distances, there is still the challenging political and legal question of how particular industries can be held accountable. Local and regional governments in India have tried in their own way to watch over the Taj Mahal. So too has the national government’s Ministry of Petroleum and National Gas, via the introduction of a 10-point plan to clean up Agra’s air. Their objectives include reducing lead and sulfur emissions, and they are initiating sales of low-lead or lead-free gasoline in Agra.
Such ideas are admirable but are arguably not addressing the real problems in India — growing population, rapacious industrial development, and massive energy deficiencies. To generate power and avoid blackouts in cities like Agra, pollution is being generated at an unlawful scale. Recently, the issues of pollution harming the marble surface of the Taj have arisen. In Agra, today, pollution levels are high (Ahmed 4). Although the Taj is cleaned approximately every one to two years with a resin compound, the marble is beginning to be discolored with a yellow hue from pollution. There is more than one cause contributing to the pollution around the Taj Mahal. There are factories in Agra that emit dangerous sulfur and smoke. Exhaust from vehicles also harms the Taj.
Steps are being taken to reduce the pollution levels around the Taj. Federal Petroleum Minister Satish Sharma said, “An area of ten thousand square kilometers (4, 014 square miles) around the Taj Mahal will be brought under a strict antipollution plan. ” Homes that are located within ten thousand square kilometers will have to use cooking gas, rather than firewood or coal. All vehicles will have to use gasoline that is lead-free. Although these things will be tough to impose, they will, in the long run, help the Taj look better and less worn. Recently, the issues of pollution harming the marble surface of the Taj have arisen. In Agra, today, pollution levels are high .
Although the Taj is cleaned approximately every one to two years with a resin compound, the marble is beginning to be discolored with a yellow hue from pollution. There is more than one cause contributing to the pollution around the Taj Mahal. There are factories in Agra that emit dangerous sulfur and smoke. Exhaust from vehicles also harms the Taj. Steps are being taken to reduce the pollution levels around the Taj. Federal Petroleum Minister Satish Sharma said, “An area of ten thousand square kilometers (4, 014 square miles) around the Taj Mahal will be brought under a strict antipollution plan. ” Homes that are located within ten thousand square kilometers will have to use cooking gas, rather than firewood or coal. All vehicles will have to use gasoline that is lead-free.
Although these things will be tough to impose, they will, in the long run, help the Taj look better and less worn. The figures from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have alarmed conservationists and environmentalists here who have demanded strong action to control heavy traffic movement around the Taj Mahal. The CPCB report says that the nitrogen dioxide level has gone up to 28 micrograms per cubic metre from 14, while the sulphur dioxide level has also gone up several fold. The suspended particulate matter (SPM) level too has gone up alarmingly because of the dry Yamuna riverbed and mining activity along the Aravalis, in Bharatpur district.
Though the industrial activities in Agra have come to a virtual halt after the Supreme Court ordered shifting or closure of polluting units from the Taj Trapezium, the overall scenario on the pollution front continues to remain dismal. The figures from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have alarmed conservationists and environmentalists here who have demanded strong action to control heavy traffic movement around the Taj Mahal. In 1985, there were only around 50,000 registered vehicles, but now their number is close to 500, 000,’ says an environmentalist of Agra. Another reason for the increase of pollution in the vicinity of Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal has been the recent decision of district authorities to divert the city traffic to the Yamuna Kinara road passing between the two heritage structures.
Thousands of buses, tractors and trucks pass close to the Taj Mahal and the Fort and for hours together there is a traffic jam on this stretch, which is a great irritant to the tourists who want to cross the river to see the historical Etmauddaula Tomb or the Ram Bagh and Mehtab Bagh. The transport companies along the Yamuna Kinara road have defied all orders to shift elsewhere. The district authorities have failed to shift the Uttar Pradesh roadways bus stand from the Fort area to the new terminus on the Delhi-Agra highway. All these factors have contributed to the increasing pollution level here. It seems that the city of the Taj has lost its war against pollution.
Courtney from Study Moose
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