Six months after the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort were closed to the public, the world heritage monuments will reopen from September 21. The two monuments have been closed since March 17—days before the nationwide lockdown was instituted to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
“It is perhaps for the first time that the Taj Mahal, credited with attracting the largest number of tourists to India, has been closed for such a protracted period,” said Arun Dang, the former president of Tourism Guild . “It is truly unprecedented. Though the monument was closed during Second World War and also during the two wars with Pakistan in 1965 and 1971, the closure was never this long,” said Arun Dang. “When it was closed during the wars, the white monument was covered with a black cloth to save it from air strikes,” Dang said. “Taj Mahal was also closed during the floods of 1978. But then only the western gate was closed because the Yamuna waters had flooded the roads,” recollected Dang.
The Agra administration plans to follow strict protocols while reopening both Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort.
If you plan to visit either of these places, here’s what you need to know
1. There will be a restricted number of visitors at the monuments
To prevent crowding and maintain social distancing, not more than 5,000 tourists will be allowed in a day at Taj Mahal. Tourists at Agra Fort will be restricted to 2,500 a day. “We will allow visitors at Taj Mahal in two slots: pre-lunch and post-lunch. In each of these slots, there will be 2,500 visitors at the most,” said Vasant Swarnkar, superintending archaeologist of Archaeological Survey of India, Agra Circle. “All licensed commercial photographers permitted within Taj Mahal premises will also not be allowed in at the same time. Time slots will be given to them for being in Taj Mahal premises,” stated Swarnkar.
“For Agra Fort, we will allow 1,300 visitors in the morning and 1,200 in the afternoon,” said Swarnkar.
Also Read: Agra stares at possible second wave of coronavirus cases after new spike
2. Tickets will be sold online
Ticket sales will take place online. Tickets will first be sold for the first slot; once all 2,500 tickets are exhausted, then the 2,500 tickets for the second slot will be put on sale. Thus, in a day, a maximum of 5,000 visitors can visit Taj Mahal, Swarnkar said.
Tickets will be sold in a similar manner for Agra Fort—first 1,300 for the morning slot, then 1,200 for the evening slot. “Physical tickets will not be sold. They can be booked online from the website and the mobile phone app of ASI. Tourists can also buy tickets online by scanning the QR Code on standees placed outside the monuments,” Swarnkar added.
3. The monuments will be closed to the public on certain days on the week
The Taj Mahal will remain closed on Friday (its usual weekly closure day), as well as Sunday—the weekly restriction day across the state, as imposed by the government.
Agra Fort, however, will be closed to the public only on Sunday.
Also Read: Now, book tickets for monuments via app
4. There will be strict adherence to Covid-19 safety protocols
“Safety protocols against the spread of Covid-19 will be followed while allowing tourists inside the monuments,” said the district magistrate of Agra Prabhu N Singh.
“The visitors will be thermally checked, asked to santise their hands and will be required to maintain physical distancing at all times while inside the monuments. The monuments themselves will be sanitised from time to time so that there is no scope for the spread of Covid-19. Guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Culture will be followed in letter and spirit. The idea is to avoid crowding within the monument so that visitors have a safe trip,” said Swarnkar.