India's Taj Mahal was voted last week as one of the new 'Seven Wonders of the World,' drawing global attention to the architectural wonder, while kindling pride and expectation of additional tourists to the 17th century monument to love.
Taj Mahal was included in the list of names of the new 'Seven Wonders of the World' which was declared in celebrity-studded ceremony in Lisbon, Portugal, July 7, following a global poll in which over 100 million people participated through SMS or the Internet.
The one-and-a-half-hour-long ceremony at Portugal's largest venue, the Estadio da Luz, saw award-presentation appearances by celebrities such as Hillary Swank, Ben Kingsley, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neil Armstrong.
The event also saw performances by Jennifer Lopez, Chaka Khan and Dulce Pontes.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has termed the result as a vindication of the marble marvel's standing in the world, according to the Hindustan Times.
We did not officially participate in the campaign, but we are happy that Taj has made it among the seven wonders in the worldwide poll, C. Babu Rajeev, consultant with the ASI and formerly Director-General, said.
He said it would help in tourism promotion and draw more attention to the 17th century monument of love that was built by Mughal ruler Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal.
The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM) president, Venugopal Dhoot, said this would result in increased tourist inflow from all parts of the world and the Taj should have been inducted years ago. This will give a new impetus to the tourism industry in the country, he added.
The UNESCO, which has the official mandate for recognizing and preserving world heritage, has taken pains to distance itself from the campaign, saying the initiative cannot in any significant and sustainable manner contribute to the preservation of sites elected by the public.
There is no comparison between Mr. (Bernard) Weber's mediatized campaign and the scientific and educational work resulting from the inscription of sites on UNESCO's World Heritage List, UNESCO said.
The list of seven new wonders of the world will be the result of a private undertaking reflecting only the opinions of those with access to the Internet and not the entire world, it added.
The global poll sent out a negative message to countries whose sites have not been retained, Christian Manhart, UNESCO's press officer, warned.
According to several media reports, as the poll drew to a close on July 6, millions of Indians voted overwhelmingly over the last few weeks, to see the monument of love through to the final seven.
Critics of the campaign have complained that while there is nothing official about the new 'Seven Wonders of the World,' the mobile phone companies (which charged a premium for the votes cast through SMSes) and the Swiss organization that conducted the poll have made a lot of money.
Media critic Sudhapradha Sengupta criticized the campaign, saying the media is celebrating non-news. People will vote for sentimental reasons. And the organizers are cashing in on the hype that has been created by the media and using the sentiments of the people, he said.
Officials from Greece and France also played down the naming over the weekend of seven new wonders of the world after neither the Acropolis nor the Eiffel Tower made it onto the list, according to press reports.
The private initiative was voted on by 100 million people around the world by Internet or phone ahead of a huge ceremony on Saturday in Portugal.
As well as the Eiffel Tower and the Acropolis, short-listed sites that missed the final cut included the United States' Statue of Liberty and Australia's Sydney Opera House.
Sitting in the bottom 10 since the start of the campaign also were Cambodia's Angkor Wat, Spain's Alhambra, Turkey's Hagia Sophia, Japan's Kiyomizu Temple, Russia's Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral, Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle, Britain's Stonehenge and Mali's Timbuktu.
Among other sites named new wonders of the world at a celebrity-studded televised event in Lisbon are the Great Wall of China, the Coliseum in Rome and the centuries-old pink-colored ruins of Petra in Jordan.
The statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Mexico's Mayan site of Chichen Itza and the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru also made it to the new list.
Egypt's Great Pyramids of Giza, the only surviving structures from the original seven wonders of the ancient world, are assured of keeping their status in addition to the new seven after indignant Egyptian officials said it was a disgrace they had to compete for a spot.
After the Egyptian protest, the organizers of the campaign set the pyramids above the competition.
Meanwhile, the inclusion of the Taj Mahal in the new list of the 'Seven Wonders of the World' has left the Indian government worried about infrastructure requirements in Agra. The tourism ministry has scheduled a high-level meeting in the next couple of days to take stock.
Nearly half the 5 million foreign tourists visiting India every year go to Agra to visit the Taj.