Taj Mahal is getting a facial

taj mahal, Taj Mahal, India, india
India’s most beautiful monument is going to look even more beautiful after a team of specialists give it a mud facial. The Taj Mahal in Agra is getting treated with multani-mitti , known in English as fuller’s earth, an absorbent mud that sucks up dirt and grime and is normally found in beauty parlors. The Archaeological Survey of India is conducting the cleaning.

The site’s mosque and some of the outlying buildings have already been treated, and the team hopes to start work on the main building in April. The process involves spreading mud over every surface, covering it with a polythene sheet, and waiting for the mud to dry and flake off. Once this happens, the surface is washed with distilled water.

The Taj Mahal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built by Moghul Emperor Shah Jahan in 1648 as a mausoleum to his wife.

[Photo courtesy jrodmanjr via Gadling’s flickr pool. For another of jrodmanjr’s great shots of the Taj Mahal, see one of our previous Photo of the Day entries.]

Four hot, sticky and sweet deals in New England this spring

Now that the freeze that grips New England is easing up, the region’s becoming dirty, sticky and sweet. “Mud and maple season” is upon us says the New England Inn and Resorts Association, and its members are offering some delectable deals to lure you up to its small corner of the country. NEIRA boasts more than 250 member properties, but I just don’t have the stamina to poll all of them to find out their deals for spring. So for now, at least, let’s stick with the top four.

1. Mud Season Getaway: Three Stallion Inn, Randolph, VT
Spend your time hiking on 35 km of trails … after having started your day with a Vermont breakfast cooked to order. At night, enjoy a gourmet dinner, served with mudslide drinks and mini-mud pies for dessert. You can get all this for $242 per couple per night through April 30, 2010.
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2. Maple Sugaring Weekend Getaway: Rabbit Hill Inn, Lower Waterford, VT
Pick up two nights, an intimate dinner for two and breakfast every day with this package. You’ll also be invited to afternoon tea and take home a gift of maple syrup and maple candy. While you’re up in Lower Waterford, take advantage of two free passes to the Rocks Estate Maple Experience. Rates start at $500 a couple.
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3. March Maple Tree Hugger Package: Centennial Inn Hotel, Farmington, CT
Any deal that involves a jug of maple syrup is bound to get my attention! In addition to that gift, you’ll score a night in a studio suite, breakfast and maps to sugar houses. Also, for every booking, which starts at a mere $135, the Centennial will donate $10 to the ARBOR Foundation. This deal’s only good through the end of March.
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4. Celebrating Maine Mud Package: Inn by the Sea, Cape Elizabeth, ME
With your two nights in a single-bedroom accommodation, settle in and enjoy a Peppermint Maine Mud™ with chocolate chip cookie amenity, two mudslide cocktails by the fireplace and two pairs of L.L. Bean signature boots for walking in the mud. At $687.98 per couple, this is a bargain. You’ll have to stay by April 30, 2010.
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Hikaru Dorodango: Shiny Mud Balls from Japan

No one knows the true origins of Hikaru Dorodango, only that this process of shaping mud into perfect spheres originated in Japan. Like an Asian version of the American mud pie, school children across Japan spend hours and hours playing in the mud, combining water and dirt in their hands, and sculpting it into a perfect, smooth globe.

“The children soon became attached to their mud balls and treasured them even if the shape was bad or if they did not shine,” reads this historical account of the process. With enough attention and a soft polishing rag, a once-dull ball of dirt can acquire a surprising amount of luster similar in size and sheen to that of a billiard ball.

There are a few guides online where you can learn to replicate this Japanese tradition, and pass the process onto your kids in conjunction, perhaps, with a mini geography lesson. If you don’t have kids, that’s alright. A little dirt never hurt anyone — adults included.

This article at Web Japan offers the easiest instructions, while Dorodango.com’s tutorial is more in depth. This website offers another guide, and even includes how-to pictures and a video [wmv] to guide you and your kids along the way to perfecting the process of Hikaru Dorodango. [via]