Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore reportedly described Taj Mahal “a teardrop on the cheek of time” that has for over four centuries, stood as a masterpiece of architecture inspired by love. Of late, concerns have been expressed over its upkeep and official apathy. A report by the IIT Kanpur submitted to the CPCB found “The volume of PM 2.5 particles in the air is rising due to the burning of coal as the filter papers placed at the Taj Mahal for these investigations showed burned particles and ash of plastic, paper and solid waste. The Supreme Court had ordered a moratorium on the expansion of industrial units in cities like Mathura and Vrindavan after “acid rains” were noticed in Taj’s vicinity. Taking to task the authorities for the “sheer apathy of the officials”, the Apex Court drew a parallel between the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower of Paris to say that the mausoleum was perhaps more beautiful but “Eiffel Tower, which looks like a TV tower, gets 80 million visitors every year, eight times more than what Taj Mahal attracts”.
The Tehelka Cover Story in this issue is about the missing precious stones of Taj Mahal. Unflinching credibility and truth have been at the core of Tehelka journalism and the story relies on information gathered under the Right to Information Act. The RTI reply confirms that precious stones of the Taj Mahal are missing not only from the Royal gate but from the other parts of the monument. The RTI reply says that broken stones damaged badly are removed permanently. However, about the number of missing stones, the RTI reply by Archaeological Survey of India says, “We don’t have any records of such stones”. The ASI also does not have any records of the number of missing stones incidents from the Taj Mahal between the year 2011 to 2021.
It is a well-known fact that the Mughals had an insatiable desire for gems, precious metals, and decorative arts. Information reveals that as many as 28 kinds of rare stones were used in the inlay work in the Taj Mahal. There has been a question mark over the missing stones and diamonds inlaid in the cenotaphs and precious stones sourced from Rajasthan, Punjab, Tibet, China, Sri Lanka, Arabia and Afghanistan. Visitors find that Taj Mahal changes its colour thrice in a day because of these colourful stones.
Tehelka story tries to answer some unanswered questions besides expressing turning down of colour of marble, cracks, minarets showing sign of tilting, material falling off, chandeliers crashing, drains around the area getting clogged, illegal encroachments and industries mushrooming in the region while a dying Yamuna putting the foundation of the Taj at risk and also promoting invading insects. It is high time for the government to come with a vision document for the Taj Mahal!