Summer evaporates love for the Taj

“It’s a rare sight, to see Taj entrance gates without a queue these days,” said Sandeep, a hotelier in Agra.

With the temperature a tad short of 46 degrees Celsius on Monday, the same as Sunday's, the hottest day this summer at 45.9 degrees Celsius, tourists began deserting the historical monuments in Taj city Agra.

Even local pedestrians were few and far between.

“Had it not been for the jayreens (pilgrims) returning from the Ajmer urs, the number of visitors at the Taj Mahal would have dropped to a trickle from thousands daily that make a beeline to enter the 17th century monument of love,” said tourist guide Ved Gautam.

“The heat took its toll. A tourist, Jai Ram from Chennai, collapsed at the Taj Mahal due to heat stroke. Another foreign visitor had to be given emergency medical treatment,” an ASI official said.

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials said they had made arrangements for carpets, shoe covers and water bottles.

The cold water plants were running to capacity. “A large number of tourists can be seen with colourful umbrellas,” said photographer Vishal.

Agra's hotels are deserted. The occupancy rate has come down steeply, said Rakesh Chauhan, president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association. The other historical monuments too are deserted.

“Only the jayreens (pilgrims) returning from Ajmer are to be seen everywhere.
The district authorities have made arrangements for their stay at the Kothi Meena Bazaar grounds, but hundreds of jayreens have fallen ill and they are all complaining of lack of amenities,” said Bankey Lal Maheshwari, who runs the Sri Nath ji Nishulk Jal Sewa, a free water-supply network.

Few foreign visitors are now going to see the Fatehpur Sikri complex or the Agra Fort. “Due to the summer vacations, you only see youngsters and domestic tourists these days but even their number has come down due to the heat,” said Abhinav Jain, who owns a handicrafts emporium at the Taj Mahal's eastern gate.

The weather office in Lucknow said on Monday: No early respite in sight. The temperature could go up further.

Agra district administration has ordered the closure of all schools. To add to the citizens’ woes, the Agra Water Works on Monday sounded an alert and expressed its inability continue supplies as the arrival of raw water in a canal of the Ganges river had virtually stopped due to a breach in Meerut.

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