They say love is eternal, but visitors to the Taj Mahal who want to soak in the architectural splendor built for an emperor’s beloved late wife will have to keep their eye on the clock.
Visits will be limited to three hours beginning Sunday, according to the Archaeological Survey of India, which oversees the site.
The Taj Mahal, touted by the Ministry of Culture as “the jewel of Muslim art in India,” remains one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, attracting millions of visitors a year.
“Sometimes people end up spending a whole day at the Taj,” Archaeological Survey of India Spokesman D.N. Dimri told CNN. “This creates a situation where there are too many people.”
Dimri added that with more visitors streaming in each day, the new rule will help ensure “the movement of visitors can be regulated.”
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the northern city of Agra, along the banks of the Yamuna River. Seventeenth century Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan ordered the construction of the white marble mausoleum in memory of his late wife.
Legend has it that Mumtaz Mahal died in childbirth in 1631 and while on her deathbed she made her husband vow to build her the world’s most beautiful tomb.
Shah Jahan aimed to deliver, beginning construction a year later.
He is said to have commissioned 20,000 workers, including masons and marble workers, from across India and as far away as Turkey and Iraq to complete the soaring Taj Mahal and its gargantuan gardens, reports National Geographic.
Construction took 16 years, according to UNESCO. A mosque, guesthouse and courtyard were added a few years later.
Nearly 400 years after that, officials are trying balance accessibility to the site with preserving its integrity.
UNESCO has said measures should be taken to ensure “the property maintains the existing conditions,” especially under the strains of heavy visitation.
Dimri told CNN, while officials are working on limiting the “carrying capacity” of the Taj Mahal, there are no current plans to cap the total number of visitors. It would be wrong to deny somebody a ticket, Dimri said, as some visitors travel from across the world to behold the site.
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