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Monumental neglect

india Updated: Feb 07, 2009 00:40 IST
Darpan Singh
Darpan Singh
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The walls have cracks. Marble slabs have fallen off in several places, including from the main dome. The intricate and beautiful inlay work is getting erased. Weeds are sprouting from behind the bricks.

A close look shows that India’s best-known international showpiece, the Taj Mahal, included among the seven wonders of the world, is in bad shape.

The Archaeological Survey of India, in charge of the monument’s maintenance, has officially admitted that there has been extensive damage to the main dome (one white, marble slab is still missing), the main mausoleum, the mosque and the three entrance gates.

“There has been damage in many places,” said Munazzar Ali, assistant conservator, ASI.

He maintained that keeping a huge, 350 year old monument in perfect condition was an extremely challenging task, more so with the paucity of funds allotted for the upkeep. “Conservation is a continuous process at the Taj,” said Ali. “We nail iron and copper strips inside to prevent the cracks and hold loose slabs in place.”

Though unwilling to reveal details of the funds provided for the Taj Mahal, he claimed much of the restoration required had been budgeted for within the financial year ending in March. “Whatever remains will be fixed in the next financial year,” he said.

The walls are also marred by ugly graffiti in many places. “It is the job of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) which handles the security of the main shrine, to stop people from indulging in this nonsense,” said Ali.

Indeed security lapses too have been growing of late. On February 4, a Norwegian tourist group took a video camera — which is usually prohibited — into the main monument without seeking permission. They shot for two hours before they were noticed and stopped. Two days earlier, activists seeking a free Tibet again not only smuggled a video camera inside, but raised slogans and demonstrated with the Taj as backdrop, all the while taking pictures. In July last year, a group of Shiv Sena activists too had entered the main complex of the Taj Mahal in an attempt to perform Hindu religious rituals there. CISF officials refused comment on the incidents.

Conservationists have time and again raised a lot of hue and cry and come down heavily on the ASI for poor upkeep of protected monuments and World Heritage Sites. Only a few days ago, a fairly large ledge of the Buland Darwaza’s Shahi Langarkhana at Fatehpur Sikri fell off when a huge number of tourists were around.