Closed. Forever…This could soon be the case for the Taj Mahal. Yes it is true, if you are planning to see the Taj Mahal during your lifetime you might want to book your ticket within the next five or so years before it closes to the public, permanently.
It is considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, a jewel of Muslim art in India, and a universally recognized and admired masterpiece. However, between the crowds of tourists and increasing air pollution that is eating away at its white stone façade, tourism officials are considering closing it to the public.
The Taj Mahal was built in the 17th century when Emperor Shah Jahan decided to commemorate his late third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is most recognized by its famous domed marble mausoleum, however, the mausoleum is only a part of the Taj Mahal. The entire grounds are composed of a vast and complex main gateway, a magnificent and outlandish garden, a mosque, a guest house, and several other adorned buildings. Shah Jahan described the grounds in these words:
“Should guilty seek asylum here,
Like one pardoned, he becomes free from sin.
Should a sinner make his way to this mansion,
All his past sins are to be washed away.
The sight of this mansion creates sorrowing sighs;
And the sun and the moon shed tears from their eyes.
In this world this edifice has been made;
To display thereby the creator's glory.”
Pretty glamorous, eh? There is no wonder why it took twenty years to build, employed 20,000 laborers, had the help of 1,000 elephants to move supplies, and currently attracts more than 3-4 Million tourists every year (200,000 from overseas!). However, it is the mass tourism that is threatening this landmark's well being today. So make sure that you catch a glimpse of this site before it is too late. If you cannot splurge on a trip to India, consider checking out the Taj’s replicas in Atlantic City, NJ or Milwaukee, WI (I dare to assume they are not getting as much foot traffic!).