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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 August, 2004, 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK
Moonlight sonata at Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal, India
Taj Mahal has been closed to tourists at night for 20 years
Tourists may soon be able to enjoy the Taj Mahal, India's most stunning monument, by moonlight, reports say.

Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan's monument to love in the northern city of Agra has been closing down in the evening for the past 20 years.

The federal government has shut out tourists from the famous 17th Century mausoleum since 1984, when it was fighting militants in the Indian state of Punjab.

The government feared that the militants might attack the world-famous monument.

Now the authorities in Uttar Pradesh state are planning to reopen the monument at night on moonlit nights later this year.

"Our proposal is to keep Taj Mahal open for five nights a month - on the full moon day and two days preceding and succeeding the full moon," senior tourism official Alok Sinha was quoted by the United News of India.

There is little chance of the Taj remaining open to tourists every night, because that would require putting up floodlights.

Mr Sinha says artificial lighting is not allowed at this World Heritage site because it could damage the monument.

The lights might attract insects that could lay eggs in its white marble, he says.

The monument was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

Construction of the Taj began in 1631 and was not completed until 1653.

Twenty thousand people were deployed to work on it.

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