Agra, Feb 9: Taj Mahotsav, the ten-day long carnival of music, dances, cultural extravaganza, starting from February 17, will focus on 'Viksit Bharat', showcasing the industrial strides and developmental targets achieved by the ruling dispensation in Uttar Pradesh.
Agra's Divisional Commissioner Ritu Maheshwari on Thursday evening announced the detailed programme and the names of dignitaries from Bollywood, who would regale the audiences at the Shilpgram complex, 500 metre from the Taj Mahal.
Maheshwari said this year's Taj Mahotsav will include an arts and crafts Mela, Yamuna Maha Arti, bird watching tours, photography exhibition, flower show, car and bike rally, hot air balloon rides, puppet shows, etc., in addition to entertainment programmes at the open air theatre.
Musical programmes by Anoop Jalota, Chandan Das and stand-up comedy show by Amit Tandon would be held at the Soor Sadan auditorium. Singers, including Javed Ali, Salman Ali, Nizami Brothers, Roop Kumar and Sonali Rathod, plus Swati Mishra, Meenaxi Thakur, etc, will present programmes in the evenings. Several theatre groups have also been lined up, in addition to Mushairas and Kavi Sammelans.
Maheshwari said Agra was an international tourist centre which should be recognised also for its culture, cuisine and handicrafts. The Taj Mahotsav this year would make a serious bid to present a new and a positive profile of Agra and Uttar Pradesh. Under the "One District One Product" programme, 50 stalls would showcase products from different districts of the state.
The Divisional Commissioner added that new tourist spots like Taj View Point, Gyarah Seedi, Soor Sarovar, Etmauddaula View Point will be popularised by holding programmes. Local artistes will get an opportunity to present their talent at the indoor auditorium within the Shilpgram complex. Audition to select the local artistes has already been held. For 10 days all roads in Agra will lead to the Taj Mahotsav venue, which will turn into a major entertainment hub. "Our aim is to promote tourism and we expect a large number of foreign tourists to visit the mahotsav daily," officials said.
However, the general response of the local hospitality industry remains rather cold, as several captains of the tourism sector feel the Mahotsav in past years has remained a "sarkari tamasha, with no tangible benefits to the industry. Though the number of local visitors has gone up, the failure to attract foreign tourists, calls for reviewing the character of the fair, as also the timings, say the hoteliers. Some tourism industry leaders here say the original objectives for organising this fair have not been fulfilled".
"It has got too much localised and seems like some kind of an extended village Haat," they say.
The fair lacks a distinct appeal and thrust areas that could interest foreign visitors. Hoteliers say the tourists fail to get a glimpse of the splendour and opulence of the Mughal era. A hotelier said: "Year after year you cannot go on repeating the same old features. The cultural richness of Braj bhoomi and the Mughal era should be creatively presented."