Indian archaeologists have started giving a face-lift to the centuries-old Taj Mahal (pictured above, background) by applying a mud pack to the marble exteriors of the country's most famous monument.
The aim of the mud pack is to restore the gleam to the 17th-century architectural wonder in the northern city of Agra, about 200 km (125 miles) from the capital.
"The first phase of the mud packing will take about five months," N.K. Samadia, an Archaeological Survey of India official, said by telephone from Agra.
He said work started on the exterior on Wednesday. After that, the mausoleum's interiors will be treated.
Last year, an Indian parliamentary committee said airborne particles were being deposited on the monument's white marble, giving it a yellow tinge.
The mud pack will remain on the marble for about two or three days and then peeled off.
"That would be followed by a distilled-water wash of the surface to give the Taj a new look," Samadia said. The Taj Majal received a similar mud pack treatment in 2002, he said.
The monument was built by Mughal emperor Shahjahan as a symbol of his love for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, after she died in childbirth.
It was built by an army of 20,000 stone masons, gem cutters, marble fitters and workers who toiled for 22 years. It attracts millions of tourists every year.
The renovation will be done by a team of around 150 people. (Reuters)
India's Taj Mahal gets a face-lift