The Economic Impact of Taj Mahal

By Somali K Chakrabarti

A Teardrop on the Cheek of Time.’

is how Rabindranath Tagore described the Taj Mahal.

The beautiful mausoleum on the bank of river Yamuna in Agra, made by emperor Shah Jahan, in 1631, in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal has a dreamlike quality, and showcases the art and culture of the Mughal times.

Though much has been written about the splendor of Taj Mahal on moonlit nights, tourists no longer have the privilege to visit the Taj Mahal at night.

Even so, early in the morning, the Taj Mahal, with its shadow on water, almost appears like a floating pearl and presents an intriguing picture.

Taj Mahal - Early in the morning

Taj Mahal – Early in the morning

The opulence and grandeur of the marble wonder is so mesmerizing that it is difficult to take your eyes off it. The finesse of the carvings on marble is captivating, as are the symmetrical arches.

Taj Mahal

View of Taj Mahal from the gate

Due to the timelessness of its beauty and its ethereal quality, nearly four centuries after it was constructed, Taj Mahal still attracts a large number of tourists from all over the world, thus bringing up a relevant question:

.

What is the Economic Value of Taj Mahal?

 

It is said that it took 22 years and more than 20000 workmen to build the Taj Mahal at a cost of Rs 3.2 cr approxiately. The cost of gold, in that period, was Rs 1.25 /gm approx (derived from Rs 15/tola, where 1 tola = 12 gms), as compared to Rs 2700/ gm today. That amounts to an increase in the price of gold by 2160 times from the mid 17th century upto the present times.

Using the rise in the price of gold as a yardstick, the bare cost of construction of the monument would be minimum of 2160 times the original cost of construction.

However, it is not really meaningful to calculate the value of Taj Mahal only in terms of its cost of construction or cost of building materials, using an inflation scale of 2160, as one must take into account the massive heritage value associated with the monument.

A more pertinent means of valuing the monument would be to answer the question –

  • What is the revenue generated due to the existence of the monument, or
  • What would be the loss of national revenue if the monument not existed in first place?

Though measuring the economic value of cultural monuments such as Taj Mahal is a complex exercise (involving mathematical modelling and econometric techniques), yet it is easy to say that the key driver for economic value of the monument is the revenue generated from cultural tourism attributable to the monument.

Earnings of local inhabitants at Agra are driven by the tourists – both local as well as foreign. More than 58 lakh visitors came to see Taj Mahal in 2013. This year, 42.5 lakh visitors came to see the Taj Mahal till September. On the Diwali weekend around 1.5 lakh tourists visited the Taj Mahal, causing a chaotic situation. As per a Press Information Bureau report of Ministry of Culture of Govt of India, the tourist revenue generated through the entry ticket fees amounts to Rs 21.84 cr for 2013-2014.

Hotels, rest and recreation areas  in the vicinity of the monument benefit from tourism. Guides, who speak multiple languages take you around the monument, and are willing to double up as photographers whenever you need them to click snaps with your cell. Photographers click you on the coveted seat in front of Taj. Horse carts ferry you to Meena Bazar and other short distances.

Tourism also gives a boost to the sale of local handicrafts including clothes, leather goods, curios made of marble, stone carving and inlay work. Handicrafts made by prisoners are sold in emporiums.

Though Taj Mahal is the main nodal point for tourist travel, some of the other monuments such as Agra Fort, Itmad-ud-daula’s tomb, Sikandara, Fatehpur Sikri etc play a crucial role in contributing towards the economic activities of Agra.

Agra Fort

Exquisite marble carvings at Agra Fort

State patronage made possible the creation of such monuments that showcase the countries art and culture and have been a source of value for years or centuries together.

In the present times too, state and corporate patronage can be used to promote India’s art and culture in a way that has a long bearing effect on the country’s economy. Investments in cultural development would also include construction of access highways, hotels and recreation facilities. The financial viability of investments in cultural development can be evaluated by quantitative techniques to determine the revenue generation capacity and debt service capacity of the projects.

Whether Shahjahan would have envisaged the long lasting economic impact of Taj Mahal when he ordered for building the monument, is hard to tell.

 

Lei: A wreath for your soul  is a string of short poems reflecting on nature, life, illusion and inspiration.Lei

 

 

 

 

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References :

A Proposed Methodology for. Measuring the Economic Value or Cultural Monuments, by Thilan Wijesjnghe, Engineerfng Consultant

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Readers Comments (25)

  1. Enriching.

    Reply
    • Your piece on Taj Mahal is excellent . The photo of Taj Mahal is marvellous .When we visited Agra in 1985 we had the rare opportunity to see Taj Mahal on a moonlit night .

      Reply
  2. Good article Somali. Guess the grand Moghul did not have any clue of the NPV of the project but was sure that it had a infinite Terminal Value to inspire millions over the next 360 years.

    Reply
  3. A true jewel. Priceless. Nice blog Somali. Informative

    Reply
  4. Taj Mahal from a different perspective is very enriching and enlightening. Great article Somali!

    Reply
  5. Somali, I am seeing Taj mahal in a totally different perspective through your eyes. Many of our Indian monuments are the source of livelihood for locals. We saw it when Uttarakhand was devastated last year. Many locals there are struggling for food with tourism dwindling in the aftermath of the incident.

    Wish we had a better system in place to make sure tourism is not the only livelihood and there is a secondary occupation too.

    Great writeup.

    Best
    Katie
    Admin
    Chennai Focus

    Reply
    • Thanks Katie for sharing your views. Many countries like Seychelles, Mauritius, Thailand are mainly dependent on tourism. When a disaster strikes everything perishes, but then I agree that depending only on service industry such as tourism limits the choice of people to choose their occupation.

      Reply
  6. Dear Somali,
    i never could imagine Taj in this way, this is another dimension to see the Taj Mahal.
    thanks for visiting my blog and liking my work

    Reply
  7. Nice article. Other economic part you missed is railways and Buses fees and Toll revenue which is collected.

    Also another correction, Night viewing of Taj Mahal has been allowed from 28th November, 2004 for five nights in a month including the Full Moon night and two days before and two days after except Fridays and month of Ramzan.

    Reply
    • Thanks Charush. Yes of course, railway, bus fee and toll revenue is there. Okay I wasn’t aware of the night viewing. When I had gone to Taj Mahal last year in Nov, it wasn’t allowed so we went for early morning viewing. Thanks for the update.

      Reply
  8. Somali, This is very enlightening to see the Taj from a business point of view, one I guess I knew instinctively but not really spent much time on. We visited in 2013 and March of 2015. We were very surprised that this year the security was very much tightened in two years. The architecture students couldn’t take pens or pencils in to use for sketching. This was a huge disappointment. Of course there there no vendors or beggars as well as no water or food as per the time in 2013. Our first visit, the students stayed from 6 in the morning until closing at dusk without food or water, just sketching and breathing in the beauty. Two highlights for me were experiencing the “sky blue pink ” of the dawn rising about the Taj from the other side of the river and having a drink from the roof of a local restaurant and watching the dusk roll over the the monument. Sadly in 2015, we were told the rooftop restaurants were closed to tourists due to security. The sadness of our modern world. Oh and can you do anything about the ferocity of the “sellers” at Fatehpur Sikri? The sellers who many are children are relentless and desperate which I guess explains it . But as a sympathetic tourist, it was awful. Several students had to rescue me and walk around me to be a human shield! I would always try to say, “No, thank you!” to acknowledge their humanity but is doesn’t work there as it did at other sites! Love Incredible India!

    Reply
  9. Oh it must have been so tough to stay from 6 AM till dusk without food or water. The security concerns must be grave, hence the precautions. Yes, I can imagine how difficult it might have been for you to ward off the sellers at Fatehpur Sikri, when I myself found it pretty difficult.But, I just love the beauty of Taj as well as the jali work of Fatehpur Sikri. They also say your wishes are fulfilled at Fatehur Sikri. I had been there in Nov 2014.

    Reply
  10. Thank you for your like
    See you on the other side of creativity

    Reply
  11. Very interesting post. I would have loved to see the Taj Mahal in person, but I’ll settle for these lovely photos. 🙂

    Reply
  12. Great article. That’s so much of information about Tajmahal 🙂

    Reply
  13. What an interesting post, thanks for sharing! I love the photos too! The Taj Mahal is on my bucket-list of places to visit someday 🙂

    Reply
  14. The cost of building the Taj was the eventual collapse of the Mughal Empire and the British filling the power vacuum for 300 years. At the time it was one man acquiring the vast majority of wealth of the area he controlled and wasting it on extravagant monuments while his peasants laboured and starved. It was built by forced labour so really it is a monument to Fascism. So romantic!

    The fact that India can now wring a few rupees out of rich tourists who flock to gawk at it might be more inspiring if their policy was more oriented to spending that cash on helping the people impoverished centuries ago by Shah Jahan and then the British, to get ahead. Independent India is not as corrupt as the builder of this monstrous grave-marker for the peasants of the Mughal regime, but it is still vastly corrupt.

    History has been rewritten here. We ought to remember the true cost of the Taj.

    Reply
  15. Amazing information. Appreciate your research and writing!

    Reply

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