Prominent politicians have shown up for the cleaning, including Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, the state that includes Agra. Mr. Adityanath, a Hindu nationalist, came under fire last year for questioning the centrality of the Taj Mahal, with its Muslim heritage, in India’s tourism circuit. But on a recent visit, he, too, picked up a broom to sweep near an entry gate, calling the monument a “unique gem.”
Investment has recently poured into Agra. In 2012, a fast-track highway connecting New Delhi, India’s capital, with Agra opened, allowing visitors to reach the Taj Mahal in around three hours.
In December, the World Bank announced that it would provide a $40 million loan to the Indian and Uttar Pradesh governments to develop the Taj Mahal and other monuments. It is unclear how much — if any — of that money will be spent on the cleaning, which officials are hoping to complete by November.
Although tourism numbers at the Taj Mahal have dropped slightly over the last few years, perhaps because of the scaffolding, the crowds are still enormous, prompting the Archaeological Survey of India to float a proposal to cap the number of daily visitors at 40,000 people and limit entry to three hours for each tourist.
Fodor’s Travel Guide has advised visitors to skip the Taj Mahal until restoration work on the dome, which has yet to start, is completed. But Shamsuddin Khan, a longtime tour guide in Agra, said he was unconcerned. He expressed confidence that people from all over the world would continue to wake up before dawn, just as they have for years, to catch a glimpse of the tomb blanketed in soft, golden light.
“The Taj Mahal is going to remain the Taj Mahal,” he said.