Singers Jagjeet Singh, Shreya Ghosal and Kailash Kher will be the star attractions at this year's Taj Mahotsava scheduled to start here Wednesday.
In its 16th year, the 10-day cultural extravaganza showcases Mughal and Braj culture at Shilpgram, 500 metres from the Taj Mahal. The theme this year is Sulah-kul (cultural and religious amity).
"More than a thousand local artistes will get an opportunity to perform at the open air theatre and Noor Jahan gallery," District Magistrate Ashish Goyal said.
With tourism taking a beating after the terrorist attack on Mumbai, the local tourism industry and government bodies are giving a lot of importance to Taj Mahotsava this year, hoping the event would draw in lots of tourists to Agra.
Unlike in previous years, the publicity blitz was started a fortnight ago and a website was launched to give information about the event.
Deputy director Uttar Pradesh Tourism Avinash Mishra said: "Brochures and fliers were dispatched long ago to leading tour operators and travel agencies."
There are, however, dissenting voices within the industry relating to the Mahotsava.
Tourism guild president Rajeev Narain said: "Though the number of tourists and local visitors to the Taj Mahotsava starting February 18 has been going up, the failure on the part of the organisers to attract foreign tourists calls for a thorough review of our strategies and efforts."
Former president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association Sandeep Arora told IANS that the original objectives of the Mahotsava were not being fulfilled.
Lav Kush Mishra, director of the Agra University's Institute of Tourism and Hotel Management said the Taj Mahotsava had got too localised, "like some sort of an extended village fair".
"It should have its distinct personality. I would like the organisers to focus on Mughal and Braj culture. The decor, stalls and the staff should be in ethnic wear. The tourist must get a glimpse of the splendour and opulence of the Mughal era," Mishra said.
Renowned horticulturist and poet Kamaljeet Singh of the ITC Mughal Sheraton said the Taj Mahotsava should now add some new elements. "Year after year you cannot go on repeating the same old features. A flower show or a photo exhibition of monuments protected by the Archaeological Survey of India should be added. They could tie up with the Kalakriti people who are presenting such a fine show on Taj Mahal," Singh said.
"The cultural richness of Braj Bhoomi and the Mughal era should be creatively presented and the local artistes should be given an opportunity to showcase their talents. It should not remain a government show managed by indifferent bureaucrats. The industry too should share some responsibility," said Rajeev Gupta, former president of the National Chamber of Industries and Commerce.