Taj Mahal re-opens after months. No couple poses, allowed
Taj Mahal, the Mughal monument that has hosted renowned personalities, re-opened today, six months after coronavirus-linked curbs made it off-limits to visitors. Before the architectural marvel in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, welcomed visitors, extensive guidelines were released — most catchy among them was the restriction on couple shots. People willing to share a frame will have to maintain a six-feet distance, said reports. Here's more.
To minimize the transmission of highly-contagious COVID-19, a cap of 5,000 tourists per day was imposed. In the first batch ending at 2 pm, 2,500 visitors will be allowed and the remaining after that. Masks are mandatory. "All tickets must be purchased online. Ticket counters will not be open," Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, superintending archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India (Agra circle), said.
Moreover, tourists will have to maintain a respectable distance at all times, even when they are getting pictures clicked. "Tourists can click solo pictures, but to get clicked with someone else, they will have to follow social-distancing norms," Swarnakar told ThePrint. In the "new normal," tourists won't be frisked while entering. A handheld machine will screen them after they pass the metal detector.
Further, only licensed guides will be allowed. They will have to abide by distancing guidelines while giving a tour to visitors. They are also restricted from getting into the same cars as tourists. Hoping to attract more visitors, the UP Guide Welfare Association decided to offer services for free on the first day. Naturally, Taj's re-opening comes as a huge relief to financially-strained guides.
Nearly 160 tourists booked the tickets for a visit to the iconic Taj, and the first one to enter was a Taiwan native, who stayed in India, reports HT. AN Gupta, ASI's conservation assistant for the monument, said though the gates were shut for the general public, Taj was well taken care of. "Lawns were maintained all through these six months," he said.
Gupta revealed that not more than five people will be permitted inside the main mausoleum, which is home to the graves of Mughal Emperor Shahjahan and his wife Mumtaz, in whose memory he built the marble monument. The Agra Fort also restarted welcoming tourists from Monday, and a cap of 2,500 visitors was levied. Notably, in pre-coronavirus days, Taj attracted seven million tourists, annually.
A visitor Nishant Vasisht told ANI, "It's incredible and historical at the same time. This is the first time ever that Taj was shut for six months. We are here to witness change. The new normal has to be expected and adopted for our good."
The re-opening of the Taj infused a new lease of life into marble merchants of the Uttar Pradesh city, as they were largely out of work since March 17, when the monument was shut. "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 one trader.
Worryingly, the Taj Mahal is re-opening at a time when India is looking to overtake the United States as the worst-affected country. In the US, the number of coronavirus cases stands at 7,004,768; and in India, the tally is 5,487,580 after a spike of over 87,000 cases yesterday. With the addition of over 1,100 fresh fatalities, the death toll reached 87,909.