On the evening of July 2, Prahlad Singh Patel, the Union Minister for Tourism and Culture, announced on Twitter that all monuments around the country will reopen to the public. In order to control the spread of coronavirus, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) closed over 3000 monuments on March 17, a few days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the country-wide lockdown.
The Union culture ministry had allowed 820 monuments to reopen on June 8, including the Taj Mahal in Agra. However, in view of the rising number of active Covid-19 cases in the city, the Mughal-era monument will remain shut until further notice.
India is a country of abundant heritage and culture that has been preserved over centuries across dynasties and cultures, that reflects in the architectural influences, heritage and art. Here are our top picks for historical monuments one must visit as Unlock 2.0 begins, while keeping Covid-19 precautions, social distancing and more in mind.
1. The Golden Temple, Amritsar
Golden Temple, Amritsar
Also known as Harmandir Shahib, meaning the adobe of God, this monument is of great significance to the history and culture of the Sikhs. Since it was opened in 1604, it has been considered one of the holiest Sikh shrines all over the country. The temple is delicately decorated in gold, which is how it gets its name. It is built around a man-made pool which results in gorgeous reflections on the surface of the water. The architecture mixes some of the best techniques from both Hindu and Mughal styles to create a beautiful structure. The temple is famously known for its charitable meals it provides to over 50,000 people on a daily basis.
2. Red Fort, New Delhi
Red Fort, New Delhi
Another monument built by the great Shah Jahan in the year 1648; it served at the seat of power for the Mughal Empire till 1857. It is made entire of a gorgeous red sandstone and the fort itself stretches for over two kilometres. The fort has two gates in the present day, Lahori Gate and Delhi Gate (Dilli Darwaza). Floral decorations, marble and the fort’s double domes signify later Mughal architecture and the Kohinoor diamond was also reported part of its furnishings. The Red Fort also houses the Meena Bazaar (Chhatta Chowk) that used to serve as a market for the imperial household and now serves as a bazaar for souvenirs and food items.
3. Mysore Palace
Mysore is commonly referred to as the ‘City of Palaces’ and Mysore Palace is referred to the one that is inside the Old Fort. This Palace was first built in the 14th century but has since then been reconstructed several times, most notable in 1897 when a fire destroyed most of the structure. Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV commissioned the British architect Henry Irwin to reconstruct the palace under the guidance of B.P. Raghavulu Naidu. The architecture of the palace can be generally described as Indo-Saracenic which blends Hindu, Mughal, Rajput and Gothic styles of design. The palace consists of three storeys, a 145-foot storey tower and massive gardens. One of the main attractions is the light display held every Sunday and during holidays. On special occasions, one can even see the Golden Throne inside the palace.
4. The Ellora Caves, Aurangabad
Ellora Caves, Aurangabad
The Ajanta and Ellora Caves hosts some of the oldest sculptures and idols in India’s history. The caves were built between the 5th and 10th century by Buddhist, Jain and Hindu monks and different sections of the cave showcase their different idols and beliefs. It hosts 12 Buddhist sections, 17 Hindu and 5 of the Jains. The caves have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its collection of 34 carves monasteries and temples. All the sculptures and idols inside the caves have been cared from the rock itself and considering they were built from top to bottom, it does not require scaffolding even after centuries have passed.
5. Amer Fort, Jaipur
Amer Fort, Jaipur
Also referred to as Amber Fort, it is located in the city of Amer which is about 11 kilometres away from the main city of Jaipur. Originally built by the Meenas in 1592 and later inhabited by Raja Man Singh I, the fort overlooks the Moata lake which serves as the main source of water for the fort. The Fort’s architecture is greatly influenced by the Mughal architectural traditions as it is constructed with red sandstone and marble. It employs various artistic style elements, with various courtyards, the Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), Diwan-e-Aam (Hall of Public Audience) and Diwan-e-Khas (Hall of Private Audience). Another sight to behold is the Sukh Niwas (Hall of Pleasure) which hosts various flowerbeds and channels used to carry cool water.
With careful consideration from the Ministry of Culture and the ASI, a guideline for safety protocols has been issued for the reopening which are available on the website or the Archaeological Survey of India.
•Only those monuments/Museums which are in the non-containment zone will be open for visitors.
•All Centrally protected monuments and Sites shall be bound by the protocol issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, MoC shall be strictly implemented as also any specific orders of the State and/or District administration.
•Entry tickets shall be issued by e-mode only. No physical tickets will be issued until further orders.
•At the parking, cafeteria etc. only digital payment is allowed. There will be a cap on the number of visitors in select monuments.
•The visitors shall follow social distancing. The use of face cover/mask is mandatory. Entrance to have mandatory hand hygiene and thermal scanning provisions. Only asymptomatic persons are allowed.
•There shall be designated routes for entry & exit and movement within the monument. The route shall be one way only with single line maintaining norms of social distancing.
•ASI can restrict access to vulnerable and interior part of any monument.
•Visitors shall be asked to stick to time limits inside the monument, as far as possible. The security staff inside the monument shall ensure that there is no crowding at any point inside the monument.
•No group photography is allowed within the premises.
•All Sound and Light Shows and films shows at monuments shall remain suspended till further order.
•Vehicles shall be parked in designated areas. The contractor who runs the parking area shall collect the parking fee through digital payment only. No physical cash transaction is allowed.
•Guides and photographs who have valid license are allowed to work and shall follow all the protocol.
•No food/eatables shall be allowed inside the premises.
•The cafeteria and kiosk inside the monument shall only serve bottled water on digital payment.
•All the staff shall be well protected as per health protocol.
•Cleaning and sanitization of monuments and museums including toilet blocks, benches and frequently used surfaces shall be done at regular.