Closed for 6 months due to pandemic, Taj Mahal set for reopening on Monday
A maximum of 5,000 visitors will be allowed in a day into the monument in line with the Covid-19 protocol..Updated: Sep 20, 2020, 18:45 IST
The stage is set for the reopening of the Taj Mahal on Monday after six months of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Preparations are in full swing for the 17th century monument to welcome visitors, albeit with social distancing and other restrictions.
A maximum of 5,000 visitors will be allowed in a day into the monument.
Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials said they had not neglected the monument despites its gates having remained closed for so long.
“Lawns were maintained all through these six months and we are all set for the Taj re-opening from September 21 – from sunrise to sunset. The tourists would go through thermal check and they would be provided with sanitizer,” said AN Gupta, the new conservation assistant for ASI at Taj Mahal.
Gupta said not more than five visitors will be allowed at a time within the main mausoleum which houses the graves of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
Tickets will not be sold through the window counters. These can be booked online from the ASI website or mobile app.
“Taj Mahal and Agra Fort will reopen for tourists from Monday. Ticket sale will be online and the Taj will remain closed on Fridays. Protocol for Covid-19 will be followed while allowing tourists inside the monument,” said Agra district magistrate Prabhu N Singh.
Vasant Swarnkar, superintending archaeologist for ASI’s Agra Circle, said, “The Taj Mahal will have visitors in two slots — pre-lunch and post-lunch. In each slot, there would be a maximum of 2,500 visitors. Once tickets for the first slot are sold, tickets will be issued for the second slot. In a day, a maximum 5,000 visitors can visit the Taj Mahal.”
Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) jawans will remain at a distance and check visitors with hand-held metal detectors.
While no goods are to be carried inside the Taj Mahal, an ambulance would be ready at the gates of the monument, Gupta said.
Those who make a living in and around the Taj are also excited. For instance, Munawwar Ali, 50, began cleaning items at his marble goods shop on Sunday for the first time since March 16.
“We have called the staff on Monday after six months. We expect business to be slow but at least we will see tourists going to the Taj,” said Ali who has a shop adjoining the western gate of the monument.
‘Yes, we are excited about the reopening of the Taj after such a long duration. Once the gates of the Taj open, a day will come when international flights will resume. In the beginning, domestic tourists from nearby regions would come,” said Rajiv Tiwari, president of the Federation of Travel Association of Agra.
“ASI needs to follow the Covid protocol so that all goes smoothly. The government should begin thinking about restarting international flights as European nations have resumed tourism. We have to live with the coronavirus,” Tiwari added.
Indians will have to pay Rs 50 per ticket for visiting the Taj and shell out Rs 200 more for entering the main mausoleum. During routine days, it was mostly foreign tourists who used to pay extra to enter the main mausoleum.
Tourism trade experts recollect that the Taj Mahal had never remained closed for such a long period before. The decision to close monuments all over the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic was taken on March 17, even before the lockdown.
“It is perhaps for the first time that the ‘monument of love’, which attracts a large number of tourists to India, had been closed for such a long time,” said Arun Dang, former president of Tourism Guild and veteran of the Agra tourism trade.
“This is unprecedented. Though the monument was closed during the Second World War and also during two wars with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971, the closure had not been so long,” said Dang.