Grandma's Tales

July 8, 2007

The Taj Mahal is a “new” wonder!

Filed under: Consumer caution,Government,Society — Geeta Padmanabhan @ 7:37 am

There wasn’t much doubt that the Taj would make it in the end. It has been a leading contender in this particular poll since early 2006. So now the Taj Mahal is one of the new 7 wonders of the world. It sits there along with Peru’s Machu Pichu, Jordan’s Petra, Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer, Mexico’s Chichen Itza (pyramid), The Great Wall of China and the Colosseum of Rome.
I have very mixed feelings about this. I don’t know what the yardsticks are for choosing a “wonder”. Is it the size? The difficulty level of building it? Is it the workmanship? Looks like this time popularity was the major consideration. Popularity and the population.
Let’s look at how the choosing was done.
The campaign to find the “new” wonders of the world was launched in 1999 by a Swiss gentleman called Bernard Weber. I guess he started this non-profit organisation, New7wonders and sent out messages asking people all over the world to nominate “wonders” for the contest to choose the 7 best. It seems 200 nominations reached the officials organising the poll. After scrutiny, the most-voted-for 21 nominations were short-listed. This list was announced in the beginning of 2006.
Do you see the problem here? A lot of people might have voted for their nominees repeatedly. The organisers admitted there was no way (at least no foolproof way) to stop this. For nearly a year and a half people have been voting for their favourites.  You could e-mail your preference through various websites or you could SMS your choice.
In a glittering ceremony today, the winners were announced. The ceremony was held in a soccer stadium in Lisbon, capital of Portugal.  Nearly 50,000 were thought to have been present to cheer the winners.
A 100 million people cast their votes, boasted the organisers. And that made the poll worldwide and gave large groups of people a say in what the new 7 wonders should be. Pretty democratic, you would say, considering the ancient wonders were chosen by a single writer.
So which structures had a fair chance of winning? Those in countries with large populations; those in countries with a large telecom penetration; with large numbers of educated people; with a globalised population… guess the rest.
Significantly, UNESCO has distanced itself completely from this selection. It is a popular poll, not a scientific one, whatever that may be.
Yes, I’m happy the Taj made the cut, however informal, unofficial this poll may be. There are now 7 new wonders, and the Taj Mahal is there. Bipasha Basu and Ben Kingsley announced the name. The Mayor of Agra went on stage and received the prize, the plaque, that says so. May be those who want to build commercial corridors around this mausoleum will think twice before embarking on a similar project. May be there will be more visitors to view the Taj in the coming months.
I have a couple of niggling thoughts, though. Will it pursuade the powers that be to do something about the surroundings of this new wonder? Will Agra get a serious face-lift now? Will it now be a clean, well-drained city of gardens and well-laid roads? Will it have better, cleaner facilities for stay?
The second one comes from my daughter: “I voted because of peer pressure Mom,” she said.  “But who are these guys who organised it? They say they are non-profit. Should we believe them?” Right. The guys now have 100 million e-mails and telephone numbers. How do we know they will not be passed on for a consideration?



  1. Hey Ma’am!
    It is great to know that the Taj finally did make it! I have been aloof for the past one week or so, cut off from world news that it is a relief to get to know everything through your blog in such a convenient way. Thank you! There has been so much publicity to get people to vote for the Taj Mahal so much so that my friend took to requesting people to vote through her Orkut profile. I have to admit that I did follow some internet procedure for voting but not through sms’s or calls because I did wonder whether my vote would count. My friends didn’t vote as they just thought that it was a good scheme to make money and that the telecom operators and the rest were having a hey-day out of all this. In short,an extravagant publicity gimmick with its foundations on money. How far that is true I don’t know.
    p.s-I better start becoming “socially relevant” to fulfill the objectives of NALSAR! 😉

    Comment by Karishma.D.Dodeja — July 8, 2007 @ 1:09 pm | Reply

  2. Great sentiments, Karishma! Way to go!

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — July 8, 2007 @ 7:35 pm | Reply

  3. Thank you, Ma’am! I needed that desperately. 🙂

    Comment by Karishma.D.Dodeja — July 8, 2007 @ 11:03 pm | Reply

  4. Why is the Taj in there and not Madurai Meenakshi Temple? Smacks of North Indian bias. Also indicates the ignorance of the world about the South’s achievements. Our fault, probably, we don’t push ourselves forward as much.

    Comment by Navaneethan Santhanam — July 17, 2007 @ 11:51 pm | Reply

  5. South is now being recognised NS. What we need is good packaging. A year ago I went to Madurai and found the areas around the famous temple filthy. A beautiful temple needs infrastructure to get itself known, right?

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — July 18, 2007 @ 11:32 am | Reply

  6. We definitely do need good packaging. That’s something that India needs to learn from the US & Europe. Their monument may be only a few hundred years old, but they’re maintained remarkably well. I guess we’ll learn, in time. There’s also a palace in Madurai, the name of which I can’t remember. It was beautiful, but it almost seemed as though the authorities had made it their job to keep it in a state of disrepair.

    Comment by Navaneethan Santhanam — July 18, 2007 @ 5:48 pm | Reply

  7. Yes, NS. You refer to Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, don’t you? There is a Sound-and-Light show there too. I agree with you completely. Will the government ever turn to packaging them well? We stumble through bad roads, lack of facilities like restrooms and good eateries, the heat and the dust and finally are treated to spectacular monuments running back to several centuries and artistically without parallel! We don’t really worry about creature comforts, do we? And the care of these priceless monuments!

    Comment by Geeta Padmanabhan — July 21, 2007 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

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