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Tuesday, Oct 22, 2019

Foreigners, Indians in a mad rush to soak in Taj Mahal’s glory in moonlight

After the Supreme Court’s direction, the Taj Mahal is open for visitors for five nights in a month—on the full moon’s night and two nights before and two after that. However, if one falls on a Friday night viewing is not allowed as it’s the weekly closing day.

india Updated: Oct 12, 2019 20:53 IST

Hindustan Times, Agra
The sun sets in the foreground of the Taj Mahal.
The sun sets in the foreground of the Taj Mahal.(PTI photo)
         

Adrinne Johnstow will turn 60 years old on October 25 and she flew down from Ireland with her husband Cathal Johnstow to celebrate her ‘Big Day’ in India.

She said the ‘icing’ on her birthday-month sojourn will be her visit to the Taj Mahal, the 17th-century monument to eternal love in Agra, on the full moon’s night.

And as luck would have it, ‘Sharad Poornima’ or the winter’s full moon night falls on Sunday and Adrinne has decided to visit the white marble mausoleum, soak in the bright moonlight, and capture the sight of the Taj in her memories.

After the Supreme Court’s direction, the Taj Mahal is open for visitors for five nights in a month—on the full moon’s night and two nights before and two after that. However, if one falls on a Friday night viewing is not allowed as it’s the weekly closing day.

This time too visitors will be allowed inside the Mughal-era monument only during four nights as one is a Friday.

Long lines

Adrinne visited the Taj Mahal during the day on Thursday but said it will be incomplete until she views the monument soaked in the moonlight.

“I was at the Taj Mahal on Thursday but found something amiss as I wondered how this beautiful monument would look during night hours. I enquired about its possibility and fortunately my guide informed me about the full moon night on October 13 and here we are here at the ticket window to book our tickets in advance,” Adrinne said.

“I am very thrilled at the prospect of standing before the white mausoleum, shining in full glory of the full moonlight,” she added.

Not only foreigners like Adrinne, but many Indian tourists are also waiting for the wonderful night.

Vidisha from Lucknow visited the Taj Mahal about three years ago but returned without seeing it at night. She reached Agra on Friday and was in a queue to fulfil her wish.

There were many others like her who are making repeated trips to Agra just to view the Taj Mahal in full moonlight.

For the authorities too, all their focus is on Sunday as they expect a rush of visitors.

Most of the tickets were sold out on Saturday and it was a mad rush at the Mall Road office of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for tickets for the Sunday’s night visit. Many ticket-seekers were seen lining up at the ticket windows as early as 5am.

Most of those who have come for a visit during the night has already seen the Taj Mahal during the day.

Gaps in viewing

During the night viewings, only 400 visitors are allowed in eight batches of 50 each.

Data (see table) shows that full moon nights rarely turn to be a full house and tourism experts outline certain reasons behind it.

They say non-availability of tickets online, their availability only a day before the viewing, distance from which tourists are allowed to view the Taj Mahal makes them miss the monument’s ‘feel’ as they are confined to the red sandstone platform about 300 metres away.

Above all, cloudy and foggy nights take away the even the basic view.

“The turnout of domestic tourists for night viewing is good but what we lack is foreigners who are in fact more interested in the aesthetic view of the Taj in night hours. Because of ticket booking only a day before, we are not in a position to assure foreign guests a ticket for night viewing,” Tourism Guild’s vice-president, Rajiv Saxena, said.

Saxena, however, has suggestions to raise the numbers.

“This could be resolved by keeping a quota fixed for foreign guests with the rest of the tickets for domestic tourists. This would generate more revenue as tickets for foreigners for night viewing is Rs 750 while for Indians it is Rs 510,” Saxena said.

“During foggy nights, from November to February, the view of the mausoleum is faint from the red sandstone platform. A batch of 50 tourists could be taken with an escort and after security, they could be taken till the central platform to provide a closer view of the Taj,” he said.

First Published: Oct 12, 2019 20:53 IST

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