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Taj Mahal Myths

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The builder of the Taj Mahal intended to giving maximum strength and stability to the tomb and worked out the minutest details with extreme precision: the weight of the entire arrangement is consistently distributed, amazingly massive piers and vaults were constructed to hold this heavy load, the very best excellence of bonding material helped combat the disrupted tensile stress etc.

Nevertheless, in spite of all these safety measures and care, risky cracks and leakages developed in the substructure of Taj Mahal just after four years of its completion. Letter to Shah Jahan Aurangzeb in 1652 mentions these cracks. Some faults were exposed about the same time in the dome. However, thorough repairs were undertaken; the nature of the cracks was not exposed. The cracks were again observed to have developed to unsafe proportions in 1810. In consequence an Advisory Committee on the re-establishment and conservation of the tombstone was set up and a survey with reference to the damage was undertaken.

Some very significant facts resulted from this review. It was revealed that the plinth of the mausoleum on the northern side (or the riverside) is lower than on the south by 3.5cms. Cracks were not observed on the exterior wall, but they were certainly present on the second storey vaults of the marble structure and, on a much bigger level, in the underground vaults below the northern side.

The extended sequence of cracks in the underground vaults may be due to the crushing of lime on account of the extreme weight, or as seems more likely, this may be due to the plummeting of the whole structure towards the riverside. Such a dropping would shift the load out of balance gradually and steadily and the unequal settlement would crack the weedy points, particularly the vaults and arches, which is in fact happening in the underground chambers.

Taj Mahal arrangement which stands on the periphery of water has a natural propensity to move towards the more open side, the higher edge always acting as a strong buttress, thrusting it in the opposite direction. It is the entire mass, and not a part of it, that is steadily sinking. This is what can rightly be accomplished from the accessible data.