AGRA: A deadly thunderstorm that rolled across parts of northern India damaged sections of the Taj Mahal complex, including the main gate and a railing running below its five lofty domes, officials said on Sunday.
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, India’s top tourist attraction has been shut since mid-March as part of measures to try and combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Images showed workers assessing the railing of the main mausoleum, after the storm on Friday night battered Agra city in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
“One sandstone railing which was a part of the original structure has been damaged,” Superintending Archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, said.
“One marble railing which was a later addition, a false ceiling in the tourist holding area and the base stone of the main gate have also been damaged.”
He added there was no damage to the main structure of the monument to love — built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died while giving birth in 1631.
“The ASI team assessed the damage today. We found that there was no damage to the main structure. On the backside of the Taj mausoleum, a part of the railing broke and some marble tiles also gave way. Besides that, the main door on the western side tilted due to the impact. The tourist section that is outside the Taj Mahal complex was also damaged,” said an official.
According to the officials, most of the damage has been limited to the modern structure, which includes the tourist holding area, and frisking and checking area.
The ASI officials stated that the repair and reconstruction work, estimated to cost Rs2 million, could take up to one month as marble had to be brought in from Rajasthan.
They said that repairs at the Unesco World Heritage Site could take even less time if labourers were readily available.
According to a Unesco website, “The Taj Mahal is considered to be the greatest architectural achievement in the whole range of Indo-Islamic architecture. Its recognised architectonic beauty has a rhythmic combination of solids and voids, concave and convex and light shadow….
“The colour combination of lush green-scape, reddish pathway and blue sky over it showcases the monument in ever-changing tints and moods. The relief work in marble and inlay with precious and semi-precious stones make it a monument apart.”
Local media reports said thunderstorms and lightning on Friday killed at least 13 people in two Uttar Pradesh districts.
Fatal lightning strikes are relatively common during the June-October monsoon season.
Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2020