The Taj Mahal is set to impose a three-hour limit on tourist visits in a bid to combat ongoing problems with overcrowding.
At its peak, the ancient palace receives up to 50,000 tourists per day and around seven million people visit the site each year.
Foreign tourists pay 1,000 rupees (£10.95) to visit the palace while citizens from SAARC and BIMSEC countries (which includes Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) pay 530 rupees (£5.80). Indian visitors, meanwhile, pay 40 rupees (44p), with the relatively low cost attracting visitors in huge numbers.
Guests under the age of fifteen don’t pay an entry fee to get into the Taj Mahal and will continue to be exempt from the charge, but others will have to pay more should they extend their stay beyond the three-hour limit.
Visitors will have their ticket inspected at the exits and be forced to buy a new ticket if they have stayed for more than the allotted time.
The ancient site’s superintendent archaeologist, Bhuvan Vikram, told Sky News the move was designed to “reduce congestion inside the monument, stop tourists over-staying and manage crowds inside and at the gates”.
He added: “We decided three hours was enough time for tourists to see the Taj, even at a leisurely pace. We will monitor it for months in both high and low seasons and then make a call on whether we need to improve the process.”
He added that if the move proves to be a success, a limit on the overall number of visitors will not need to be introduced.
Last year, the Taj Mahal – a Unesco site since 1983 – was controversially removed from an Utter Pradesh tourism booklet. The state’s nationalist chief minister, Yogi Adityanath, was criticised for his decision, which many believed was motivated by religious prejudice rather than a need to reduce overcrowding.
The Taj Mahal was built by Muslim Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
The Indian attraction is one of many around the world to try to combat overcrowding in recent times. Thanks to the popularity of Game of Thrones, the Croatian coastal city of Dubrovnik has struggled with huge numbers of tourists and announced plans to cap visitors numbers at 4,000 per day in August last year.