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ASI increases entrance fee for vistors of Indian monuments

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Agra: ASI on Thursday issued a final notification on the entrance fee hike at India’s monuments, doubling it for visitors from abroad at the Taj Mahal from Rs 250 to Rs 500. With another Rs 500 as toll tax, the total money they now need to shell out is a prohibitive Rs 1,000.

Domestic tourists will now have to pay Rs 30 (after adding toll tax collected by Agra Development Authority it will be Rs 40) instead of Rs 10 to visit `A’ category monuments, which include the Taj Mahal and Qutub Minar. For category `B’ monuments, the rates have been increased from Rs 5 to Rs 15 for Indians and from Rs 100 to Rs 200 for foreigners. Interestingly , ASI has introduced a new class for foreigners visiting `A’ and `B’ category monuments and for this they will have to pay Rs 750 and Rs 300 respectively. For this, they will be provided with additional facilities specified by the directorgeneral. Citizens of Saarc and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation countries will be charged domestic rates.

Credits: Economic Times

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Haryana Minister calls Taj Mahal a ‘beautiful kabristan’

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Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal. Wikimedia

Chandigarh, October 20: Joining the league of those making controversial statements on the Taj Mahal, senior Haryana Minister Anil Vij on Friday termed the marble monument as a “beautiful cemetery”.

“Taj Mahal ek khoobsurat kabristan hai,” Vij tweeted on Friday.

Vij, who is the cabinet Minister for Health and Sports in the BJP government in Haryana, is known for making controversial tweets and statements.

BJP leader Sangeet Som triggered a controversy last week by saying that the Taj Mahal was a blot on Indian culture. The Taj, a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the seven wonders of the world, is visited by lakhs of people from across the world.

In a damage control exercise, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday said the famed monument in Agra was a part of Indian heritage and he is to visit it on October 26.

The 17th-century marble monument was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Both were buried at the Taj Mahal.

Adityanath, whose BJP government in Uttar Pradesh has been accused of ignoring Taj Mahal in the tourism booklet of the state, said that the monument was constructed “by the blood and sweat of Indian laborers”.(IANS)

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In films ‘Victoria & Abdul’ and ‘American Made,’ Life is Stranger than Fiction

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Actors Ali Fazal and Judi Dench
Actors Ali Fazal and Judi Dench pose during a red carpet for the movie "Victoria and Abdul" at the 74th Venice Film Festival 2017 in Venice. voa

Stephen Frears’ heartwarming drama Victoria & Abdul is about the deep friendship between Queen Victoria and her Indian servant Abdul Karim between 1887 and 1901, and Doug Liman’s American Made about Barry Seal, a 1970s audacious American pilot, who, during the Nicaraguan Crisis worked for the CIA, the DEA and the Colombian cartel.

As different as these two films are, they are both based on true stories, proving yet again that often life is stranger than fiction. Both films feature intelligent plots and superb acting.

Victoria & Abdul

Stephen Frears’ film Victoria and Abdul, opens in 1887, with the festivities for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, celebrating her 50-year reign.

Abdul Karim, a young Muslim clerk from Agra, India, is sent to the banquet all the way from India to present the queen with a gift from India, a ceremonial coin. To the dismay of Queen Victoria’s courtiers, the Indian servant strikes a deep friendship with the octogenarian Queen Victoria, defying class and racial boundaries.

According to the movie, Abdul Karim impressed the British sovereign with his depth of spirit and good looks. Soon the unlikely friends became inseparable, discussing philosophy, literature, even Indian cuisine. In a span of 14 years, Abdul Karm became the queen’s confidant and munshi, her teacher, in Urdu.

But the queen’s courtesans and her family, sidelined by Abdul, questioned her sanity and considered her removal.

Historian and author Shrabani Basu based her book of the same title on the queen’s journals in Urdu and on Karim’s private diary. Basu discovered Abdul Karim’s personal diary in possession of Karim’s surviving nephew Abdul Rashid in 2010, over a century after the queen’s death.

This was the only document on the relationship between royal and servant that survived the wrath of Queen Victoria’s children. Immediately after her death in 1901, the royals evicted Queen Victoria’s munshi, burned everything he had received from the queen and swiftly shipped him and his family to India. In 1909 Abdul Karim died in Agra leaving his diary as his only testimonial of his deep friendship with the empress.

Director Frears offers captivating cinematography while Dame Judi Dench portrays a free-spirited Queen Victoria and Indian actor Ali Fazal embodies a charming and loyal Adbul Karim.

Though the film does not depict a romantic relationship between the two, it does hint to it. Dench describes the queen’s reaction to Karim:

“She had a ready eye for somebody good-looking, which he is very, so it was easy to imagine a kind of tired, poor person suddenly looking up and seeing this wonderful good-looking young man. How lovely somebody at last beautiful to look at,” Dench said.

But, author Basu says, “At the heart of this book is a story of friendship, a friendship of two different people from two different specters of this world, one is the Empress of India, one is a clerk from Agra jail, and somewhere they have a bond they find this link and a common space.”

Actor Tom Cruise
Actor Tom Cruise poses while promoting a film in Mexico City. voa

American Made

American Made, by Bourne Identity filmmaker Doug Liman, offers a satirical look at the political crisis in Nicaragua.

It shows the involvement of the United States in the revolution during the late 1970s and 1980s through the perspective of pilot Barry Seal, who, for the right price, delivers guns to Nicaragua on behalf of the CIA, and cocaine into the U.S. on behalf of the Colombian cartel. Somewhere in between, Seal also works for the DEA.

Tom Cruise offers an engaging interpretation as Barry Seal, piloting the plane and doing all the stunts throughout the film. Cruise explains what drew him to the character:

“He just couldn’t help himself,” Cruise said. “He just had to live this life. He literally when you are talking about someone living on the edge, he didn’t even realize he was on the edge. He was just living life and not really thinking of necessary ramifications and what’s going to happen.”

As in most of his action film projects, Cruise pushes his boundaries.

“I don’t make a movie just to make a movie,” he said. “It’s not what interests me. What interests me is the passion of cinema, the passion of storytelling. That’s when it gets very exciting, not just a job. I love this too much.”  (VOA)

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Was Taj Mahal Once a Shiva Temple? The Debate over the Tomb Continues

According to some historians, Taj Mahal was incipiently a Shiva Temple offered to the Mughals as a form of the gift by a Rajput king

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Taj Mahal
Taj Mahal. Wikimedia

New Delhi, August 16, 2017: The famous monument from the Mughal era, Taj Mahal is once more in contention as the Central Information Commission (CIC) has requested the Central government to clear up unequivocally whether it is a tomb or a Shiva Temple. An RTI came to the CIC regarding the same, in response to which the quasi-constitutional body solicited answers from the culture minister.

But where did this question come from and what is the source?

According to some historians, Taj Mahal was incipiently a Shiva Temple offered to the Mughals as a form of the gift by a Rajput king. The hypothesis says that the temple was later formed into the monument that dwells graves of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and his adored wife Mumtaz Mahal, mentioned IndiaNews.

Also Read: Firozabad Glass Industry is Declining: Is Taj Mahal to be Blamed? 

In 2015, a case was recorded in Agra by six lawyers, requesting that the tomb ought to be given over to Hindus for worship. The litigation solicited to forbid Islamic religious actions performed in the monument and remove the graves.

PN Oak, a revisionist historian also made the claim in his 1989  book “Taj Mahal” that the name Taj Mahal was procured from a Sanskrit word “Tejo Mahalay’ meaning a Shiva Temple.

The Cultural Minister Mahesh Sharma denied the claims in response to the question put forward to him that the Seventh wonder of the world was a Shiva Temple.


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