Archaeological Survey of India releases photos of conservation work in underground cells of Taj Mahal
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has released photographs of two spots where maintenance work was undertaken recently in closed underground cells on the riverside of the Taj Mahal in Agra.
“The work of maintenance of underground cells on the river side was taken up. Decayed and disintegrated lime plaster was removed and replaced by laying of lime plaster and traditional lime processing before application” reads the 20th page of the January 2022 newsletter of the Archaeological Survey of India.
“Conservation of monuments is the principal duty of the Archaeological Survey of India and we undertake our tasks in a routine matter. We have to take care of the upkeep of monuments and thus have to look at the critical areas irrespective of the fact that they are closed or open for visitors’ access,” said a senior ASI official preferring not to be named.
“Not only the Taj Mahal, but such conservation work is also undertaken at all protected sites having heritage value. For this, we reach the roof and the basement based on the requirement. As such, the conservation work was undertaken in underground cells of Taj Mahal, otherwise not accessible to common visitors, recently from December 2021 to March 2022 about which photographs are now in the public domain,” he stated.
These underground rooms or cells below the main mausoleum of the Taj Mahal had been in the news in the recent past. A petition was filed on May 4 by Rajneesh Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) media in-charge of Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya district, in the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court.
The petitioner had sought directives to the state government to constitute a committee to examine the 20 rooms inside the 17th century monument and look for any evidence related to the presence of Hindu idols or scriptures there.
“Around 20 rooms in the Taj Mahal are locked and no one is allowed to enter. It is believed that in these rooms, there are idols of Hindu gods and scriptures,” Singh said.
On May 12, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court rejected the petition. The division bench of justices DK Upadhyay and Subhash Vidyarthi observed that the petition is not maintainable.
Right wing activists have insisted the Taj Mahal was actually Tejo Mahalaya – a Shiva temple, and claimed that evidence is buried underneath the closed segments of the monument.
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