Face pack for Taj Mahal

Famous world wide as an enduring monument to love, India's Taj Mahal is beginning to show signs of its age - and apparently needs a mud pack to be restored to its pristine glory.

According to a report put before the Indian parliament on Monday, the landmark is being tarnished by air pollution from the city of Agra.

As in most Indian cities, suspended particulate matter (SPM) from industry and myriad ageing diesel engines is a huge issue for air quality.

But in Agra, the white marble of the Taj Mahal acts almost as a litmus test showing the severity of the problem, yellowing as the soot accumulates on its surface.

Now a parliamentary panel has recommended that the building be packed with mud which would absorb the stain as it dries into clay – a process which would cost an estimated £115,000 and take around two months.

The process would need to be repeated every two or three years to keep the edifice pure white.

The 17th century monument was built as a mausoleum on the orders of Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan for his favourite wife and is now a World Heritage Site.

The Taj Mahal is not the only major heritage site to suffer from the damaging effects of pollution in India.

The impressive Tomb of Sher Shah Suri in the north eastern state of Bihar is at risk of collapsing into the ornamental pond on which it is built as the acidity of the water continues to increase due to effluent, detergents and the toxic paint of Hindu idols which are regularly dipped into the pool for ceremonial purposes (see related story).

Sam Bond

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