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Watching Taj Mahal at Night : poor response read more ......

Agra, May 27: Poor response from foreign and domestic tourists to see the Taj Mahal by night has dampened the enthusiasm of the tourist industry that had expected a flood of visitors.

Against the upper limit of 400 tourists a night, five days a month around full moon, the number of actual visitors has never exceeded 200. Surprisingly, most visitors at night are Indians.

On May 25, only 10 people bought tickets to see the 17th-century Mughal-built architectural marvel. Only 199 tickets were sold during the five days of May 21 to 25.

If this trend continues, officials say, the government would stand to lose millions of rupees because of the deployment of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) for the night viewing.

Figures available for the past six months suggest that a majority of tourists who come to see the Taj by night are Indians.

In November 2004, the month when the Supreme Court gave the green signal for Taj's viewing in moonlight, more than 400 of the 600 tourists were Indians.

Again in March and April this year, the number of Indians who came to see the Taj at night exceeded 50 percent.

One reason why the experiment has floundered is that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has restricted the movement of tourists within the Taj Mahal at night.

Tourists often complain they can't see the Taj in mist or fog when the clouds are around because they cannot get close to it.

Since the ticket holders are not permitted to get closer to the main mausoleum, it leaves many frustrated, say the guides.

Tourism industry leaders say the government should consider flood lighting the Taj and allowing tourists to see the main building from an angle closer to the marble monument and not from 100 metres away as is the case now.

The ASI is experimenting installing floodlights at the Etmauddaula tomb near Agra.

If the scientific studies being conducted confirm no danger to that marble mausoleum, the ASI may consider allowing flood lighting of the Taj, according to superintending archaeologist D. Dayalan.

Sandeep Arora, president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association, has demanded "soft flood lighting".

Meanwhile, Agra Divisional Commissioner Ashok Kumar has indicated that efforts would be made to appeal to the apex court to permit tourists to see the Taj from the central white marble platform.

District authorities are also trying to persuade the ASI to sell tickets 24 hours in advance for the convenience of the tourists.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has in association with a Canada- based group lately installed a monitoring system to better and continuously assess the pollution in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal.

The pollution related data will now be made available 24 hours a day on a CPCB website. CPCB officials feel the most dangerous pollutant is the level of SPM or suspended particulate matter.
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