Digitising the mighty Taj Mahal
Chapter 1: Preserving a national treasure
Author: Amit Kumar, June 2016
The Taj Mahal, Arabic for crown of palaces, is an ivory-white marble mausoleum on the south bank of the Yamuna River in the Indian city of Agra. Commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (reigned 1628–1658), to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the tomb is the centrepiece of a 42-acre complex. Included in the complex are a mosque, guest house and formal gardens, all bounded by crenellated wall.
Construction of the mausoleum was essentially completed in 1643, but work continued on other phases of the project for another 10 years. The Taj Mahal complex is believed to have been completed in its entirety in 1653 at a cost estimated at the time to be around 32 million rupees, a value nowadays around 52.8 billion rupees. The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.
Preserving a national treasure
In April 2015, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake razed Nepal to the ground and devastated the lives of millions. Apart from affecting 8 million people, the natural disaster severely shook and destroyed the architectural treasures of Kathmandu Valley.
This devastating destruction worried archeologists worldwide. Just 500 miles south of Kathmandu rests one of India’s UNESCO World Heritage sites - the Taj Mahal.
Observing the extent of the ravage and the magnitude of this earthquake, Professor Krupali Krusche, an architecture professor at the University of Notre Dame in the United States, decided to measure the injury the earthquake may have caused to the treasure, if any. This project would also forever digitally preserve the Taj Mahal should the unthinkable occur in the future.
“3D blue prints allow us to understand how ancient structures were built and the techniques used to construct them,” said Krusche. “So, in the event of a natural or man-made damage, they could be restored to their original state.”
Explore next chapter: A scanning partnership