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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 October, 2004, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
Experts probe 'tilting' Taj Mahal
By Jyotsna Singh
BBC correspondent in Delhi

Taj Mahal at dawn
Tilting in minarets has worsened over the decades, experts say
Indian authorities have launched an urgent investigation after historians reported that the Taj Mahal was leaning and in danger of sinking.

The government in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh has asked a committee of experts to report back in a week.

The historians fear the drying out of the nearby Yamuna river might have affected the Taj Mahal's foundations and want urgent action.

India's greatest tourist attraction marks its 350th anniversary this year.

Symbol of love

Earlier this month, two Indian historians warned the Taj Mahal may already be tilting and could crumble or sink if the government did not pay immediate attention to its ecological setting.

Now that the river bed is dry, the Taj is exposed to the elements
Agam Prasad Mathur,

"Dangerous tilts in its minarets, first noticed in 1942 and mentioned in various reports, have continued to increase over the years," Ram Nath, a former head of history at Rajasthan University, told the Hindustan Times.

"They are caused by the dry river bed."

Another historian, Agam Prasad Mathur, said the dry Yamuna river bed must once again be filled if the monument was to be saved.

"Yamuna used to be full of water to maintain the monument's balance and absorb tectonic shocks. Now that the river bed is dry, the Taj is exposed to the elements," he said.

Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav has asked experts to examine the causes of any tilting.

The investigating committee will include representatives from the culture, construction and water departments.

It will work under the guidance of the Archaeological Survey of India - the federal body responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of historical sites and monuments.

The Taj Mahal, revered as a symbol of love, was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth.

The monument, in the city of Agra, drew over three million tourists last year, far more than any other Indian tourist attraction.

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