Yellow, green or grey? Taj Mahal dome to get mud-pack therapy

The dome of the Taj Mahal will get a mud-pack therapy for the first time ever, in a bid to get rid of the yellowness from its white marble, said a report in The Times of India.

This process will take over a year for completion and will be carried out by the Archaeological Survey of India's (ASI) science branch which has requested from its civil department, a no objection certificate. The procedure requires an iron scaffolding to be tied on the dome but ASI's science branch has sought a report from the engineering department on its load bearing capacity.

 Yellow, green or grey? Taj Mahal dome to get mud-pack therapy

Representational image. AFP

A conservation plan of the monument was submitted to the parliamentary standing committee on environment proposing the cleaning of the main dome. Three out of four minarets have been restored and conservation work on the dome will begin only after the completion of the work on the fourth minaret. Keeping in mind the height of the dome and its architectural features, the department will first hold technical studies with associated institutions before starting work, in the interim plan. The deadline for this is March 2018.

According to a Huffington Post article, the monument has been affected by nearby oil refinery and factory fumes, and burning of garbage and dung cakes around it, resultantly giving it a yellow-brown colour. ASI has been applying mud to its walls for many years, starting from 1994. The last treatment took place in 2014.

A PTI report in 2011 said that the mud used is 'multani mitti' or Fuller's earth. This mud cover is later covered with a polythene sheet to ensure that absorption takes place properly. And once it flakes off, distilled water is used to wash it off completely.“We plan to give a mud facial to the main mausoleum building which will rid it of dust or any other impurities. A proposal has already been mooted in this regard,” said Deputy Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, chemical Branch, MK Samadhiya.

This is a popular beauty treatment among women, used to remove oil, dust and other impurities of the skin. But where this facial procedure originally uses rose water, additives will be used in the mausoleum's treatment to prolong the effect of the mud pack on the Taj.

India today alleges that the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has questioned ASI's mud-Pack therapy. Vijay Panjwani, Legal Counsel of the CPCB, said that the Taj Mahal was bright and white in colour with a yellowish tinge just a decade back, but it has now become dull and grey. He stated that ASI had never studied the long-term effects of regular mud-pack therapy on marble and the grey colour could well be the effect of 'too many' mud packs.

BBC reported that the colour on the walls of the Taj is actually green due to the overpopulation of the insect Chironomus Calligraphus (Geoldichironomus) in the Yamuna river. The pollution in the Yamuna river has led to the decrease in the fish population that consumes this insect. These insects then stain the walls which can be scrubbed clean but that negatively affects the sheen of the marble. Environmental activist DK Joshi's solution to this problem is to clean up the Yamuna.

On a query on breeding of the insect, Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma said that the ASI is keeping "vigil" on any development in this regard. On action taken by government to check the environmental degradation of Taj Mahal, he said conservation and preservation work of this heritage is "attended regularly" by the ASI. "The ambient air quality is also monitored constantly. The protected area is maintained neat and clean with sufficient growth of plants in open areas of Taj Mahal and across the Yamuna river at Mehtab Bagh to minimise the effect of harmful substances," he said.

In the same Times Of India article, it was said that this will cause a drop in the number of tourists, as they won't be able to see the dome for a whole year.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Oct 06, 2016 16:29:55 IST