New Delhi: The glimmering Taj Mahal, said to be at its aesthetic best in moonlight, could now be thrown open after sunset for all tourists. So far, night access to the globally renowned monument was allowed at a premium only for five nights in a month.
Union Tourism and Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel told IANS in an interview that the Taj Mahal will remain open even beyond its 10.00 a.m to 6.00 p.m. public access time.
"We have been receiving a lot of requests to keep the monument open during the night hours. We are dedicated to make this a reality," Patel said. The Tourism Ministry is also planning to illuminate the area around the monument and develop other infrastructure required to deal with night rush.
Night viewing of the Taj Mahal is available on five days in a month -- on full moon night and on the two nights preceding and following the full moon. Only 400 tourists -- 8 batches of 50 people -- are allowed on these nights for which Rs 510 per adult is charged, while a single child ticket costs Rs 500. Foreign nationals have to pay Rs 750 each.
The Tourism Ministry is currently engaged in getting clearances for the new plan from various departments. Taj Mahal sees an average of 22,000 visitors a day, with the figure running into millions annually.
The government has decided to extend the visiting hours of 10 popular monuments across India from sunrise till 9 p.m. The monuments are Rajarani Temple Complex (Odisha), Dulhadeo Temple, Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh), Sheikh Chilli Tomb (Haryana), Safdarjung Tomb (Delhi), Humayun's Tomb (Delhi), the group of monuments at Pattadakal and Gol Gumbaz (both Karnataka), the group of temples Markanda, Chamursi (Maharashtra), Man Mahal, Vaidhshala (Uttar Pradesh) and Rani Ki Vav (Gujarat).
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has welcomed the decision to extend visiting hours at these 10 sites and has linked it to the #IncredibleIndia campaign.