New Delhi: Expressing anger and disgust over the Centre, UP government and other authorities’ indifference and ‘apathy’ towards the country’s most famous heritage site, The Taj Mahal, the Supreme Court on Wednesday gave an ultimatum to the authorities — either restore the pristine beauty of the Taj or demolish it.
The two-judge bench said that protection of the 17th century monument from environmental degradation was a “hopeless cause” and castigated the authorities for their “apathy” in maintaining it. The failure of the government to implement protection measures detailed in a recent parliamentary report had resulted in “incalculable revenue losses”, the judges added.
“You can shut down the Taj. You can demolish it if you like and you can also do away with it if you have already decided… No action plan or vision document has come yet. Either you demolish it (Taj) or you restore it,” the court told the government on Wednesday, in response to a petition by an environmental activist.
These words from a pained Supreme Court Bench set the clock ticking for the Centre and Uttar Pradesh Government to have a plan in place before the apex court begins day-to-day hearing on July 31 for restoring Taj Mahal.
During the hearing, the bench also drew a parallel between the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower of Paris and said the mausoleum was perhaps more beautiful, but India continued to lose tourists and foreign exchange due to the situation prevailing there.
“There is the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Perhaps it is nothing compared to Taj Mahal. 80 million people come there (Paris). This is eight times more than what we have. You can destroy the Taj, we don’t want to do it,” the court said.
Here are some facts about the Taj which reiterate that the authorities must take the monument more seriously:
Taj Mahal is taller than Qutab Minar
Taj Mahal is actually taller than the Qutab Minar by around 5 ft. The monument was built so proportionately that one cannot imagine it to be taller than the Qutab Minar, the tallest minaret in the world.
It changes colour throughout the day
At sunrise, the monument seems pale pink or grey, whereas it looks glittering white at noon time. The colour of the tomb then again changes its colour to orange bronze when the sun sets.
A black Taj Mahal was also planned
It is believed that Shah Jahan wanted to construct another similar, but black Taj Mahal (with black marble) opposite the present one and across Yamuna River. He wanted to build that place for his burial. Unfortunately, a black Taj Mahal did not see the light of the day as Shah Jahan was ousted by his son, Aurangzeb, who imprisoned him and kept him behind the cells near Agra Fort.
The cenotaphs are empty
The cenotaphs are like showpieces adorned with precious stones and enclosed in a chamber, allowing you to get a glimpse from a distance. The real coffin lies in a secret, quiet room below, at the garden level.
The design of this monument is perfectly symmetrical
The monument was built following meticulous symmetry as per the doctrines of that period’s architectural style. Further, the gardens divided into quadrants, and the red sandstone structures give this monument a balanced harmony. However, Shah Jahan’s tomb is strangely positioned to the west of the central axis, which disturbs the equilibrium of the structure. This placement has led to create beliefs that his plans was never to get buried there.
Talking about the optical illusion, you will feel it right when you are about to step into the site via the main door. At that point, the monument appears to be majestic, incredibly near and huge in size. However, as you start getting closer, it seems like the monument shrinks in its size―exactly the reverse of what you might have expected.
Further, the minarets that surround the tomb seem to be perfectly upright. In reality, the towers lean outward to provide aesthetic balance to the monument. We must say that its master craftsmen and architects were great magicians, for this does not look like a human feat.