Now pay more to see Taj Mahal: Rs 50 to enter, Rs 200 extra to see main mausoleum
The new rules that will kick in from April 1 also include a three-hour validity for tickets bought by domestic tourists. Government says the price hike is for better crowd management.india Updated: Feb 13, 2018 17:59 IST
Tourists will have to pay more from April 1 to see the Taj Mahal after the central government decided to raise the entry fee as part of its plans to preserve the 17th-century Mughal-era mausoleum and manage the swirling crowd that come in thousands every day to marvel at the monument.
Officials of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said the hike will be applicable to domestic tourists and will not affect foreigners, who already pay higher charges for entry.
New barcoded tickets would cost Rs 50 instead of the earlier Rs 40 and would be valid only for three hours and tourists will be issued tickets in different colours for every slot.
As of now, there is no separate fee for an entry to the main mausoleum that houses the spectacular marble graves of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal that are inlaid with semi-precious stones.
“With this ticket, the tourist would be allowed access till the white marble floor around the main mausoleum, but would not be allowed inside the main mausoleum,” Bhuvan Vikram Singh, superintending archaeologist, Agra circle of ASI, said.
“Those wanting to have a view of the graves and architecture inside the tomb would have to pay ₹200,” Singh added.
The decision comes after Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma’s visit to Agra on Sunday night.
“We need to preserve the Taj Mahal for the generations to come,” Sharma said.
The minister cited a recent report by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) that conducted a study on the Taj’s load-bearing capacity. The study recommended that the number of footfall must be reduced as an immediate step to protect its integrity.
“We thought capping the number of tourists per day was not a viable option, but we had to do something. The hike in prices is not to generate revenue, but to ensure that only people who are genuinely interested enter the area,” Sharma said.
The Supreme Court on February 8 directed Uttar Pradesh to submit a “vision document” outlining its plan for protecting the monument within a month, warning that the state government’s “ad hoc” approach jeopardised the monument to love.
A group of preservationists warned in 2011 that the monument was in danger of collapsing within five years. It said the ivory-white marble building began to show cracks in 2010 and its wooden foundation was eroding.
Smog has been slowly yellowing the Taj’s brilliant marble and conservationists have long fought to close polluting industries near the monument. Interventions, including using mudpacks to draw remove the stain, have failed to arrest the slow decay of India’s biggest tourist attraction.
The Taj Mahal attracts millions of visitors every year, an average of 22,000 every day. And, during peak tourist season and other occasions, the number of tourists inside the complex crosses 60,000 to 70,000 every day.
As of now, there is no restriction on the number of people entering the iconic monument complex at any point in time. The average footfall at the monument has increased at a rate of 10-15% per annum.
Sharma also said the ministry had taken special steps to ensure the comfort for foreign tourists who pay Rs 1,250 for an entry into the Taj Mahal.
He said separate queues, separate toilets, and a safe corridor will be built for them from the Agra railway station to the Taj in collaboration with the ministry of aviation and road transport ministry.
The minister pointed out that the government has already spoken to authorities to stop the “lapka culture (culture of touts)” around the Taj Mahal.
“We are exploring how we can bring this ‘lapka culture’ to an end by bringing them under the ambit of serious offences and organised crime so that they can be booked accordingly. First, we will warn them, then we will identify them and then we will punish them ...We want to bring this in by April 1. These touts are a menace,” he said.
The minister also said his stand on touts is not just restricted to the protection of the tourists at Taj Mahal, but also across places of tourist interest around the country.
Sharma, who met senior officials of the Agra district authorities recently, also said many tourists, both domestic and foreign, who visit the Taj are ambushed at the station and the harassment continues during their stay in the city.
One of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal was commissioned in 1632 by Shah Jahan in memory of Mumtaz Mahal, who died in childbirth.
The monument was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and was cited as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”
(With agency inputs)
First Published: Feb 13, 2018 16:56 IST