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Soon, Palace on Wheels from Mumbai to Delhi

New Delhi (TOI - 17 March 2008): You may soon have a luxury train running between Mumbai and Delhi that is similar to the popular Palace on Wheels. Spurred by the success of the Rajasthani locomotive, the Railways Ministry has recently approved a plan to introduce a similar service to connect the city to the capital. The proposed luxury train will connect all major tourist spots of the country across four sectors and will be run by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), an enterprise of the Ministry of Railways. The Mumbai-Delhi sector is expected to be one of the four the train will ply over 28 days (one week for each sector).

Palace on Wheels

The luxury train will have 22 or 23 coaches that will include a bar, lounge, restaurants and special suites that can accommodate two-three persons. IRCTC has already called for coach designs to be submitted. The idea is that passengers will have the option of booking for all the four sectors, or just some or even one of them. Nalin Singhal, acting managing director of IRCTC, told Mumbai Mirror that the luxury train would basically cater to foreign tourists who planned to travel throughout the country. He said that the luxury train, run on a single rake, would materialise only after a year. The IRCTC is in the process of finalising the route in the four sectors the train would connect. Mumbai-Delhi is almost certain to be one of the sectors.  Other sectors could include Agra-Khajurao or Agra-Bhuj (Rajasthan). The coaches for the train, according to Singhal, will be manufactured by the railways' Rail Coach Factory (RCF) at Kapurthala in Punjab, and would cost approximately Rs 40 crore in all, according to Singhal.

The proposed luxury train will be the first one to be run by an enter-prise of the Central Government. Currently, there are five luxury trains in the country. While two of them - Palace on Wheels and Heritage on Wheels - are run by Rajasthan Tourism in collaboration with the railways, Deccan Odyssey and The Golden Chariot are run by the tourism departments of Maharashtra and Karnataka governments, respectively. Recently, the Punjab government also got approval for one luxury train from the Central Government.  Additionally, IRCTC runs Fairy Queen, a single-coach train between Delhi and Alwar, and Mahaparinirvan Express, a train on the pattern of Rajdhani which connects all major Buddhist sites in India and Nepal. The corporation also runs a Bharat Darshan train which travels through almost all major cities of the country.

Don't worry, Taj beauty won't fade

Agra (IANS - 10 March 2008): Concerned over the fading whiteness of the Taj Mahal? Don't be, say archaeologists, pointing out that the shade of the 17th century world famous monument to love depends on what time of day you see it and that its beauty will last for years to come.

"Even today it looks absolutely white if you see it early in the morning and on full moon day. Its colour changes when you see it in the afternoon — it looks cream," A R Siddiqui, deputy superintendent archaeologist, Agra Circle, said.

"This colour will remain for many more decades and many generations are going to see the Ta] in its current form."

Designed by Iranian architect Ustad Isa during the reign of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, the construction of the Taj — an ode to his love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal — began in 1631 and 20,000 workers toiled to complete it in 22 years. The material was brought from all over India and Central Asia. Legend has it that it took a fleet of 1,000 elephants to transport it to the site.

The monument was designed by Iranian architect Ustad Isa

Currently a team of scientists is coating the arches on the western side of the mausoleum with mud.

Siddiqui said: "We have been using mudpacks for years to clean the Taj. We prefer this procedure because there is no threat to the marble. Even Mughal emperor Aurangzeb used the mud-pack to clean the monument."

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) chief chemist N K Samadhia said the mud will either fall off on its own after drying or be washed off with distilled water and a light brush.

Concerns about the Taj's colour notwithstanding, the number of footfalls has increased ever since it was included in the world's seven wonders list — for the second time — after an online vote in 2007. Nearly 2.6 million tourists, including foreigners, visited the monument last year.

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“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller
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