By Harihar Swarup
The Supreme Court is rightly concerned over the “apathy” of the Centre and the U.P. government towards preserving the Taj Mahal. It gave an ultimatum to the government— either restore the pristine beauty of the Taj or demolish it. The apex court has been monitoring preservation of the world heritage site for 31 years and has passed a slew of orders from time to time for preservation of the monument. But the court’s efforts seem to be futile with the Taj being damaged by rising pollution level. The monument is becoming green and blue in patches which is attributed to rising pollution and poor maintenance.
As the Centre and the UP government failed to give a blue print to save the Taj, the highest court of the land, in a strong incitement of the two governments observed; “It is sheer apathy. You are absolutely not bothered about it”. The court told the Union Government—you can shut down the Taj. You can demolish it if you like and you can also do away with it if you have already decided…… no plan or vision document has come yet. Either you demolish the Taj or restore it”. The court decided to hear the case on day-to-day basis to bring the hearing to a logical conclusion for protection of monument.
The authorities were allowing expansion of Industrial units in the vicinity of Taj Mahal which could add to pollution. The court summoned the chairman of Taj Trapezium Zone and Commissioner of Agra to be present before it to explain why industrial units were coming up in the area in violation of its order.
The court had restrained the authorities from allowing establishment of polluting units and also barred cutting of any three without its permission in the Taj Trapezium Zone — a 10,400 square km trapezium-shaped area covering the five districts of the Agra region. Drawing a parallel with Eiffel towers in Paris, the court observed that the tower remained preserved despite attracting eight times more tourist in comparison to Taj.
Noting that Archaeological Survey of India has failed to protect Tal Mahal, the court had earlier raised the question whether ASI could be divested of its task to manage the affairs of the monument. It had said that ASI was not properly discharging its duty in maintaining the beauty of the Taj and asked the Centre to consider whether some other organization be given the responsibility to protect and preserve the 17th century heritage.
The Taj Mahal, meaning “Crown of the Palace” is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna river in Agra. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (reigned from 1628 to 1658), to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. The tomb is the centre piece of a 17-hectare (42-acre)  complex, which includes a mosque and a guest house, and is set in formal gardens bounded on three sides by a crenellated wall.
Construction of the mausoleum was essentially completed in 1643 but work continued on other phases of the project for another 10 years. The Taj Mahal complex is believed to have been completed in its entirety in 1653 at a cost estimated at the time to be around 32 million rupees, which in 2015 would be approximately 52.8 billion rupees (U.S. $827 million). The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.
The Taj Mahal was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for being “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”. It is regarded by many as the best example of Mughal architecture and a symbol of India’s rich history. The Taj Mahal attracts 7–8 million visitors a year. In 2007, it was declared a winner of the New 7 Wonders of the World (2000–2007) initiative.
The Taj Mahal was commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1631, to be built in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, a Persian princess who died giving birth to their 14th child. Construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632. The imperial court documenting Shah Jahan’s grief after the death of Mumtaz Mahal illustrate the love story held as the inspiration for Taj Mahal. The principal mausoleum was completed in 1643 and the surrounding buildings and garden were finished about five years later.
The Taj Mahal was constructed using materials from all over India and Asia. It is believed over 1,000 elephants were used to transport building materials. The translucent white marble was brought from Makrana, Rajasthan, the jasper from Punjab, jade and crystal from China. The turquoise was from Tibet and the Lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, while the sapphire came from Sri Lanka and the carnelian from Arabia. In all, twenty-eight types of precious and semi-precious stones were inlaid into the white marble. (IPA Service)
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