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‘Little Taj’ in a state of neglect

‘Bibi’s Tomb’ located at Aurangabad, which is also called Taj of the Deccan and whom different poets have given different, names such as ‘Diamond Heart’, ‘Bride of the South’ and ‘The Sun of Aurangabad’ is today a victim of government’s indifference and neglect and there is none to shed tears on its pitiable condition.

Bibi’s Tomb in common parlance is called Taj Mahal. It was built during the period 1651-1661 by Aurangzeb’s eldest son, Azam Shah in the memory of his mother Rabea Dorani alias Dilras Bano Begum. This tomb is situated 280 kms from Mumbai and 190 kms away from Nasik. It is so famous in northern Maharashtra that tourists, school and college students in large number visit it every year. Another important thing is that people of the neighbouring areas who have not been able to see Agra’s Taj Mahal because of their poverty satisfy their desire of seeing the main Taj Mahal by seeing Bibi’s tomb.

The layout and design of this masterpiece was prepared by an engineer named Ata-Ullah. The tomb is spread over an area of 275x458 metres. There are four tall minarets on all the four corners of the main tomb. The lower and upper surfaces of the building of the tomb are made of pure marble. According to ‘Tawarikh Nama’, the book written by late Ghulam Mustafa, the construction of this building had cost Rs 6,68,203 about three-and-a-half hundred years ago. There is also a mosque in the campus of the tomb, which was built during the period of Azam Shah. By seeing the photos of the tomb and the Taj Mahal, it becomes difficult to identify the real Taj Mahal, though Bibi’s tomb is smaller and Taj Mahal’s beauty is perfect.

Bibi’s tomb came under the jurisdiction of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1958 under Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites & Remains Act 1958. According to this Act, whosoever harms the building or any part thereof or tries to change it or misuses it, he can be imprisoned for three months or fined Rs 3000 or both. But it is a pity that it appears as if the law is not enforced there at all. Since this building is the property of ASI, the responsibility for looking after and upkeep of this building is also that of ASI.

For entry into the tomb, one has to purchase five-rupee ticket. There is a pond between the entrance gate and the main building of the tomb which is completely dry and virtually a dumping ground of rubbish. The taps in the pond are all broken. Beautiful plants and shrubs on both sides of the pond are almost dry because of lack of water. According to a guide, no water has been filled in it for the last 3 years. The lattice works in the main building are broken. The middle portions of the four minarets are plastered. Large parts of the minarets have blackened but no repairs have ever been carried cut. One of the mosques in the tomb’s compound, though more or less in its original form has become a play ground for children where they play with their shoes on. Many of the marble pieces fixed in the walls of the mosque are falling apart.

The lower stairs leading to Rabea Dorani’s tomb have been closed for two years. The upper gallery of the tomb from where one can peep and see the ‘mazaar’ is also in a very bad condition. Almost everywhere one can see the names and other writings which the visitors inscribe on the stones and marbles.

On asking why the lower stairs were closed, the guide said that about two years ago the superintendent thought that if the stairs are closed, people will definitely give offerings and hence these were closed. This was his belief but actually he says that if people go down below, they will make it very dirty but the guide contradicts it and says that when the stairs were open, the lower portion was being cleaned daily; but now that portion is cleaned only once a month when the offerings are collected. According to the same guide, every month an amount of Rs 25000 to Rs 35,000 is collected as offerings though there is a board nearby, asking the visitors not to make any offerings. On an average 7000 tourists visit this tomb every day, resulting in the sale of tickets worth Rs 35,000 or a monthly earning of Rs one million or slightly more. Behind the tomb there is a library. There is also a small museum in the north of the tomb where some clothes and personal effects of Rabea Dorani, including her ‘doli’ are preserved. The ‘doli’, which is open, is broken almost from all sides. Though there is a board with the instruction ‘Please do not touch’, everyone does touch it, as if considering it his/her birth right. There are two mosques inside the compound of the tomb but no arrangements for water. People wanting to offer prayers cannot get water for ablution. Also there is no proper arrangement for drinking water.

A question now arises: Can the government not make suitable arrangements for basic amenities like clean drinking water, lavatory etc in a tourist centre where about seven thousand men, women and children come every day and from where an income of Rs 10 lacs or more is derived every month on an average? If most of the monuments and historical buildings under ASI are properly looked after, why this tomb is a victim of neglect and apathy? Does not the claim of the government which claims to promote travel and tourism appear hollow to you? Can the government explain as to where the income derived from this building is being used?

¯ Mateen Hafeez 

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