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BBC's Daniel Lak
"Officials are keen to stress that things can only get better"
 real 28k

Friday, 24 December, 1999, 09:22 GMT
Full moon vision of the Taj

Hundreds gathered to view the monument by moonlight Hundreds gathered to view the monument by moonlight


India's famed marble mausoleum, the Taj Mahal, has been opened to viewers at night for the first time in 15 years.

A few hundred visitors, mainly foreign tourists, gathered in front of the 17th century monument, built by a Mughal emperor as a shrine to his dead queen.

Into 2000
On the first night of its moonlight viewing, however, the monument stayed open for less than an hour as a court official ordered the gates to close.

The move to open the Taj by night was especially welcome in a week that featured the last full moon of the millennium, said to be at its biggest and brightest since 1930.

Court order

On Wednesday, an order by India's Supreme Court allowed for the mausoleum to be opened at night.


The marble appears to change colour in different light
It followed an appeal by Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, who told the court that thousands of tourists wished to see the Taj this week.

Special security arrangements were made and visitors were allowed to view the monument from a specially built platform.

However, reports say the Taj Mahal was opened for less than an hour before it was abruptly shut by a Supreme Court observer, Krishan Mahajan.

Mr Mahajan is quoted as saying the authorities needed his permission before opening the gates to the Taj.

Last week, the government of the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the Taj Mahal is located, announced plans to open the monument in the week leading to the new millennium.

The Taj had been closed for 15 years because of the fear of terrorist attacks.

Built by the emperor Shah Jahan in 1631, it took 22 years to complete and was intended as a symbol of his love for his Persian queen, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child.

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See also:
22 Dec 99 |  World
In pictures: Brightest moon for decades
10 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Moonlight viewing of the Taj

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