03:33 GMT30 October 2020
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    India’s iconic Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is located in the ancient town of Agra in northern India. For six months, the monument symbolising “eternal love” stood unusually deserted and abided by the rules of the biggest lockdown in the world, which was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi back in March.

    On Monday, amid rising COVID-19 cases in India, the Taj Mahal woke up to admirers once again flocking its corridors, diving into its ancient architectural bliss. Under strict precautionary measures, including maintaining social distancing, the compulsory wearing of masks, and sanitisation, the Taj Mahal will be open to only 5,000 visitors per day.

    Sputnik got in touch with a tourist guide who narrates the details and tales of this white marble marvel as guests roam around the premises, getting pictures taken by local photographers against the backdrop of the stunning monument.

    “Under the current circumstances, for us tourist guides and photographers each day will be divided into two shifts in line with the new safety measures. One begins early morning 5:30 AM (local time) and goes up till the early afternoon hours and the second shift that starts around 12:30 PM (local time) will go up till sunset. The pressure of the crowd needs to be easy on the monument”, said Sandeep Tomar, tourist guide at the Taj Mahal, Agra.

    According to Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, superintendent archaeologist at Agra, the monument usually attracts over 40,000 visitors per day. During the winter months, especially around late December, the number of tourists visiting the Taj Mahal even exceeds 100,000 people.

    Maintaining precautions against the pandemic amid this kind of massive footfall is a challenge in itself.

    “Each ticket holder will be permitted a time frame of only three hours before crossing the exit gate. If a person wishes to stay inside the premises for more than three hours, their ticket will need to be re-charged”, Swarnkar told Sputnik, while explaining other preventive measures being taken by the Taj Mahal administration body to maintain a limited crowd in the area.

    Swarnkar noted that it could be up to a year for things to be normalised when it comes to visiting public places like the Taj Mahal.

    Meanwhile, netizens have been spreading the word of the Taj Mahal re-opening with stern precautionary measures against the coronavirus on social media.

    ​The re-opening of the Taj Mahal along with schools in some Indian states as part of India’s “Unlock 4” rollout has met with brutal criticism online, given the raging number of coronavirus cases in the country.

    As of now, around 5.3 million Indians have contracted the deadly coronavirus, which has caused the deaths of over 82,000 patients, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare revealed on Monday.

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