The 32 page booklet entitled “Utter Pradesh Tourism - Unlimited Possibilities” was unveiled last Wednesday, at a press conference by the state’s tourism minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi.
A Unesco World heritage site since 1983, the white marble mausoleum was built by Muslim Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It draws seven million visitors a year.
The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath had criticised the custom of giving Taj Mahal statues to foreign dignitaries. He claimed earlier this year that the structure does not represent Indian culture. Adityanath said: “Foreign dignitaries visiting the country used to be gifted replicas of the Taj Mahal and other minarets which did not reflect Indian culture.” The Hindu nationalist is six months into his tenure as head of the state.
The booklet does highlight a number of current and future tourism projects. One page is dedicated to the Gorakhnath temple, of which Adityanath is the main priest.
The omission of the 17th century structure has caused politicians, historians and journalists to express anger and bewilderment.
Congress party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “How can you imagine tourism in Uttar Pradesh or India without (the) Taj Mahal. If it is indeed a booklet on tourism and excludes the Taj, it shows a clear religious bias which is completely misplaced.
“At one level it is a joke and at another level it is tragic. Such pettiness diminishes India.”
Others took to twitter to share their outrage. Writer and historian William Dalrymple wrote: “Crazy fundo monk Yogi Adityanath government removes Taj Mahal from Uttar Pradesh's tourism list”.
Activist Dhruv Rathee tweeted: “Yogi govt. has defamed our country’s heritage by removing Taj Mahal from tourism list. Would be a butt of all jokes in international media.”
Avneesh Awasthi, director general of Uttar Pradesh tourism dismissed allegations the Taj was deliberately dropped. Speaking to the Times of India he said: "This wasn't a compendium of tourist attractions, merely a book to highlight the works done by the incumbent government and the projects it plans to take up
"In this category, three projects in the vicinity of the Taj Mahal have also been mentioned.”
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