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Indian court sours Taj Mahal festivities

NEW DELHI, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- India's Supreme Court has disappointed visitors by banning night celebrations at the Taj Mahal to mark its 350th anniversary, citing security concerns.

The court also banished all cultural programs to beyond 500 meters (1,640 feet) from the 17th century mausoleum. Planned programs would have to get security clearance and assurance from the Archaeological Survey of India that they would not damage the monument or the environment, the court said Monday.

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The decision threw a damper on the "Taj Mahotsav," a cultural festival to include some of India's leading musicians, planned for the banks of the Yamuna River, behind the monument.

Instead, the celebrations were banned to the Agra Fort, about a mile away.

India has planned yearlong festivities to fete the stunning marble mausoleum, built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to couple's 14th child.

The state government had sought permission to open the mausoleum at night, a practice discontinued nearly two decades ago for security reasons. The white marble Taj looks magnificent on a clear, full moon night.

The Taj is regarded as one of the most spectacular buildings in the world and is renowned for its architectural magnificence and aesthetic beauty. It attracted 9 million tourists last year.

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