Lucknow: Couples eager to get a shot of themselves on the bench before the Taj Mahal — a pose coveted through the ages by leaders, famous personalities and the public alike — will have to wait a little longer. Though the iconic monument reopens Monday after a six-month shutdown on account of the Covid-19 pandemic, the distancing guidelines in place disallow any lovey-dovey shots or cosy family photos on the premises.
More than one person can be in the same frame, but only if they have a distance of 6 feet between them, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) superintending archaeologist for the Agra circle Vasant Kumar Swarnakar said. Swarnakar was speaking to ThePrint a day after the ASI, which manages the country’s historical heritage, issued guidelines for tourists visiting the Taj Mahal.
“Tourists can click solo pictures, but to get clicked with someone else, they will have to follow social-distancing norms,” he added, saying the rules have been framed because “coronavirus-related precautions are of utmost importance right now”.
Among other things, the guidelines bar cash transactions on the premises, and booking of tickets will only be possible through e-payment. The six-foot distance is mandatary between tourists even when not clicking photos, and everyone will need to carry masks and sanitisers.
Further, no tourist will be frisked during security checks. After pass through a metal detector, tourists will be scanned by a security person using a handheld detector. All areas of the Taj Mahal complex with tourist traffic will be sanitised at least twice daily.
Free guided tours on day one
The central government had allowed monuments to reopen back in July, as part of its phased easing of the nationwide lockdown imposed in March. However, since the final decision lay with local authorities, the Taj Mahal remained closed.
It was just earlier this month that the Agra authorities announced the reopening of the Taj Mahal, which has for decades been a popular draw for tourists from around the world.
The closure of the Taj Mahal on 17 March affected dozens of hotels, photographers, guides and others who relied on its status for livelihood. It is estimated that the closure of the Taj Mahal impacted, directly or indirectly, more than 10,000 families.
According to the new guidelines, only licensed guides will be permitted inside the campus, and they will have to adhere to distancing norms as well while showing tourists around. They will also not be allowed to travel in the same car as tourists during sightseeing tours.
To attract more tourists to the Taj Mahal, members of the UP Guide Welfare Association have decided that they will offer their services for free on the first day of reopening.