India's star tourist attraction, the 17th-century monument of love, the Taj Mahal, and the Agra Fort, have reopened for the visitors today after an unprecedented closure of six months due to Covid-19 pandemic. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials have made all necessary arrangements for the reopening and the safety of the visitors has been taken into utmost consideration. People had already booked online tickets to visit the monument as it was gearing up to reopen. Abut 160 tickets were booked online and the first person to enter was a tourist from Taiwan who was staying in India.
Keeping in mind the safety of the visitors, strict rules have been made for visiting hours and limit of the number of tourists. Only 5000 tourists are allowed per day which will be divided in two shifts. Amar Nath Gupta, caretaker of the Taj Mahal, said: "Sanitisation at the Eastern and the Western gates, thermal screening, painting of circles for social distancing, etc., are in place. Only 2,500 visitors will be permitted inside the mausoleum in one shift and this will only be possible through online booking. Foreigners will need to buy Rs 1,100 entrance tickets and domestic visitors will be able to enter paying Rs 50 per ticket. Rs 200 ticket is additional to enter the main platform for a view of the graves of Emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved consort Mumtaz Mahal."
One of the first few visitors to step inside the Taj Mahal's premises Debargha Sengupta, arrived in Prayagraj on September 19 for SSB exam and later took a train to Agra to visit the monument for the first time ever. "The government locker room was closed for which I had to keep my luggage in a private shop but as I took entry and saw Taj Mahal for the first time ever I remained speechless. It is mesmeric. Moreover, less crowd had added more essence of its majestic presence," he said.
Another 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 the change. The new normal has to be expected and adopted for our good. I have come with my family, stood in the queue, got digital tickets, and all set to see Taj." Shefali a guide by profession said, "We were allowed inside only after the guards checked our body temperature. Shoe sanitizers are there at the entry point. It feels great. There is not much crowd at this time (around 6:30 am) so the scene will be different."
Special care is being taken that nobody touches the railings and wall of the monument and uses tissue paper, mask, gloves and shoe covers for ensuring the safety of everyone. Guards will ensure that the used things are dumped in the dustbin. Also, group photographs are not encouraged to keep up with the COVId19 guidelines.
Although most of the historical sites under ASI were opened, Agra Fort and Taj Mahal remained closed as it fell under the containment zone.
(With ANI inputs)