France to hold cultural festival in Agra

June 13th, 2009 - 8:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Agra, June 13 (IANS) More than a year after French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited the Taj Mahal, a French delegation was in the city to finalise details for holding a festival here, showcasing the art and culture of France.
A French festival is likely to be held somewhere close to the Taj Mahal in November.

French embassy officials told district authorities that the first of the 10 shows to be held in various cities of India would be conducted in Agra.

A French delegation Thursday and Friday held several rounds of talks with local officials and visited several spots around the Taj Mahal, including Taj Khema, Mehtab Bagh across the river and Gyarah Sirhi where composer Yanni’s show was held more than a decade ago.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials here have reacted positively and assured cooperation, if the Supreme Court gave the green signal.

Agra Development Authority vice-chairman Tanvir Zafar Ali told mediapersons that the event would definitely give Agra a big boost and would lead to further strengthening of India-France relations.

Restrictions on staging of plays, holding cultural events or film shooting are in place within 500 metres of the Taj Mahal.

D.N. Dimri, superintending archaeologist, said: “They (the French delegation) have been advised to seek clearance from the apex court.”

Sources said that with the theme of the festival being ‘love’, the Taj Mahal was considered the most ideal backdrop for the event which will attract more than 500 VVIPs.

A tourist guide said: “When Sarkozy visited the Taj last year, he had almost made up his mind to hold a French festival close to the Taj. This will also allow him to return with his beloved Carla Bruni.”

French embassy officials and the event management company representative from Paris have taken photographs, maps and other relevant details from the district authorities and the ASI. They have also had preliminary discussions on the security arrangements.

Tourism industry insiders in Agra are upbeat as they see the French festival as a major initiative to boost tourism.

Rakesh Chauhan, president of the Agra Hotels and Restaurants Association, said: “The festival could give much needed boost to the tourism industry which has been badly hit by recession and terrorism.”

Ravi Singh, an environmentalist, said: “The French are sensitive people, they love art and culture and take deep interest in conservation. The festival will definitely help the city.”

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