Sitting behind the Taj Mahal, the Yamuna River is a landscape overlooked by the millions of tourists that visit Agra annually. Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned the mausoleum in what used to be a pristine landscape. Mughal architects accounted for the river’s natural fog to create an illusion of levitation. Now, the city of Agra is shrouded in a dense smog, some days obscuring the Taj Mahal entirely. The Yamuna river, which about a hundred years ago was described as clear blue, is now one of the world’s most polluted rivers.
The degradation of Agra’s landscape is correlated with its unsustainable tourism industry. The sudden appeal of Agra as a tourist destination catalyzed rapid growth, and with it a poorly funded infrastructure. The city of Agra now uses the Yamuna river as its primary outlet for waste disposal.
“In the Shadow of a Prolific Monument” looks into the exploited landscape surrounding an eminent architectural wonder, omitting visual representation of the Taj Mahal to emphasize its ubiquitousness, as hundreds of landscapes face the same environmental pressures.