Tourism

wonder of the world in danger

What is pink in the morning, milky white in the evening and golden under the moon? A few decades ago, it was not difficult for tourists returning from India to guess this.

But the Taj Mahal is now embroiled in controversy that stems from the old theory that the Taj Mahal was originally a Hindu temple. The Taj Mahal was commissioned by a Muslim emperor in the 17th century, so it highlights India’s polarization between Hindus and Muslims.

In May, one Rajneesh Singh, who is said to be the “master media” of the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta party, launched a petition in Ayodhya demanding a fact-finding commission to investigate the “real story” monument. The applicant also called for the opening of 22 sealed rooms for the possible presence of Hindu gods inside the idols.

Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, is not only the Indian monument most visited by foreign visitors, but also the most visited attraction among local tourists. In 2019-2020, almost 4.5 million domestic tourists and 650 thousand foreign tourists visited the Taj.

But controversy over the Hindu temple, seen by some as a mixture of strong nationalism disguised as patriotism, is just the latest cloud for the Taj Mahal, raising questions about its future. Inadequate infrastructure, pollution and growing indifference to the Taj Mahal, located in Agra, in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh, are taking the country’s most popular tourist attraction and one of the world’s most legendary sites from its shine. How quickly these problems can be addressed is of the utmost importance for tourism across India.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, revenue from the monument has grown by almost 400 percent in the last 5 years. In 2018–2019, the Taj Mahal generated $11 million in revenue and cost about $700,000 to maintain and preserve.

Already mindful of the growing apathy towards Agra, once called the tourist capital of India, this time around the tourism industry is less than thrilled. Travel agents said sectarian divisions such as the latest will only deter incoming tourists who arrive after India opened its borders in March after a two-year lull.

Disagreements like this do not create favorable conditions for the growth of tourism in the country, said Rajeev Saxena, chief executive of Sanskriti Vacations India. “Agra is not in favor with the current state regime, which is more focused on religious tourism.”

Instead, the state government has recently been pushing Ayodhya and Varanasi more aggressively in Uttar Pradesh.

Taj Mahal at night

Behind the last dispute

Although the Taj Mahal is a symbol of Indian culture, the iconic monument has also been a hotbed of India’s cultural conflict.

Monument of the Mughal era, protected by the Archaeological Service…

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