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Taj Mahal to open for moonlight viewing

NEW DELHI, Nov. 26 (UPI) -- The Taj Mahal will reopen for nighttime viewings for the first time in 20 years, India's Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The famous white marble structure near Agra in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh was closed to nighttime visitors in 1984, because of fears of attacks by militant Sikhs.

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The Supreme Court will now allow the famous monument to open four nights a month, initially for three months, the BBC reported. Only 400 visitors will be let in each night, and parking restrictions will be imposed.

The announcement came as state officials were celebrating the site's 350th anniversary. State tourism minister Kaukab Hamid described the ruling as "heartening."

"This reopening of the Taj for moonlight viewing is going to draw fantastic crowds from across the globe," he said.

The Taj Mahal, built in the 1600s by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a shrine for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, is one of the top tourist attractions in India. Tourist officials said more than 300,000 foreigners visited the site in 2003.

The monument was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, which means that the Indian Supreme Court must rule on work projects or changes likely to affect the site.

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