The Taj Mahal was built with the utmost care – it is said that 1,000 elephants carried the whitest of white Makrana marble to Agra from Rajasthan. They also brought jade from China and rubies and emeralds from other parts of India. It is one of the Wonders of the World and is a UNESCO Heritage Site. Of course the jewels have been stolen since then, and although the monument itself stands strong, it is unfortunately losing its pristine white colour.
What is causing this rainbow of colours? Why is the Taj behaving like a chameleon?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 6 of the top 10 of the world’s most polluted cities are in India. Pollution accounts for a large part of this colour change.
White: Marble is a porous stone so soaks up any stains that fall on it, unless cleaned immediately.
Yellow and Brown: Forces of nature as well as the increase in pollution account for this.
- Natural Causes – The marble used is full of minerals and over time and exposure to the air, wind, and rain, the minerals get oxidised and brown. Constant exposure to rain and other forces of nature affects the structure as well.
- Air Pollution – The increase in air pollution is another cause for this discolouration. It is said that 3% of the pollutants are black carbon which is from the emission of vehicles and other machines that burn fossil fuels, 30% is from organic or brown carbon that is emitted from burning of biomass and garbage and the rest is due to dust particles.
Green and Black: The building has developed green and black patches due to an insect attack. These insects live in the highly polluted waters of the river, Yamuna that flows right beside the Taj Mahal. The causes of water pollution are industrial waste as well as untreated sewage water being released into the river.
Yuck! This sounds awful! So what can we do to preserve the Taj?
Well, the Supreme Court of India has recently rebuked (spoke sternly to) the Uttar Pradesh State Government and the Central Government for not doing enough to maintain the Taj Mahal.
The Archaeological Survey of India is the government organisation that is responsible for preserving and maintaining monuments in India. It has been doing its best for the Taj Mahal. It has even been giving the Taj a Spa treatment since 2008!
A Spa Treatment for a monument? Since 2008, the Taj has been getting a clay pack treatment using lime–rich Fuller’s earth, popularly known in India as multani mitti, to try and clean the stains on the white marble surface. However, their restorative efforts seem to bear very few results as they battle against a rapid rise in pollution levels in the area.
What can we do to help? This is yet another indication that we really need to educate people about reducing pollution. We need to live cleaner lives, clean up our rivers and air, carpool, and use less fossil fuels amongst other things.
Contributed by: Preetika Soni. Preetika is a full – time toddler mommy. In the time that is left, she enjoys writing, photography and crochet. She has worked with NDTV, Mumbai and has taught at SCMSophia.