If you have visited the Taj Mahal recently, you may have noticed that the pristine white structure that Google Images throws up resembles the miniatures sold as souvenirs, not the actual monument. Over the years, the walls of the monument have weathered fumes from factories and oil refineries dotting Agra. As a result, they have lost their sheen and turned yellow and even yellowish brown at places.
Researchers found that burning garbage and dung cakes around the monument - a popular practice among residents of Agra during winters - also affects marble and yellows it.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is responsible for the conservation of the Taj Mahal, had devised a way to minimise the yellowing of the walls. For several years now, with fairly long gaps in between, 'mud packs' have been applied to severely affected parts of the monument in order to reduce the yellowing.
A recent RTI filed by The Times of India revealed that it will take nine more years for the ASI to completely clean the yellowness of the monument. According to reports, the first time a mud pack was applied on the worst affected parts of Taj Mahal's walls was in 1994.
The report said, "The RTI reply stated that clay pack method is being used presently to remove harmful surface deposits from the marble surface. This method is considered safe as it involves minimal use of chemicals and almost no mechanical efforts."
The report further added, "A senior ASI official said that it would be for the first time that the mud pack therapy of four minarets and dome would be carried out. It will take at least one year to clean the main dome. Likewise, 10 months each would be required for cleaning of four minarets. 12 months have been allotted for dealing with unforeseen suspension of work."
The last time the monument received the treatment was in June 2014. Prior to that, the 'mud pack' had been applied on parts of Taj Mahal walls in 1994, 2001 and 2008, BBC reported in 2014.
BM Bhatnagar of the ASI had told the Press Trust of India that the cleansing of the Taj Mahal walls followed the traditional beauty regimen embraced by many women in India. BBC quoted Bhatnagar as saying: "A 2mm-thick layer of lime-rich clay will be plastered over the affected areas of the monument and left overnight to dry. When it dries the flakes are removed from the surface with soft nylon brushes and washed with distilled water to remove impurities sticking to the surface."
In 2014, the World Health Organisation had released a the findings of a study, which revealed that Delhi, which is located roughly 130 kilometres away from Agra is one of the most polluted cities in the world.
In June this year, an ASI official told India Todayhttp://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/taj-mahal-conservation-aga-khan-foundation-maintenance/1/443295.html that the culture ministry is mulling handing over a part of Taj Mahal's maintenance responsibilities to another organisation. "A senior ASI official said that the Ministry of Culture is planning to portion out the monument, giving the maintenance of its various areas to different organizations on the grounds of a Corporate Social Responsibility campaign that began in 2013 with the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation signing up for the maintenance of the monument," the report states.