The iconic Taj Mahal is among 30 Indian monuments which can now be "visited" online with a 360-degree panoramic view, thanks to a novel initiative.
Google and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) today jointly launched 360-degree panoramic imagery of 30 out of 100 "nationally-important monuments" including Red Fort, Humayun's Tomb, Jantar Mantar and Qutub Minar among others, viewable to one-third of the world's population.
"This is one of the most exciting things that Google has done. Imagine the iconic Taj Mahal, now being accessible to not just over 20 crore Indians on the web but about one-third of the world population, without even having to go there," Managing Director of Google India, Rajan Anandan told PTI.
Union Minister of Culture Chandresh Kumari Katoch launched the project at an event organised at the historic Safdarjung Tomb here.
"Today, we are going to bring our heritage to the doorstep of every person... This project has brought our culture, our heritage, history closer to the people of India, the partnership of Google and ASI has brought Indian heritage online," Katoch said.
The search engine giant and the Ministry of Culture had signed a memorandum at the Qutub Minar complex last October, following which the company created a "virtual walkthrough" application using its 'Street View Trekker' technology for the first time in India.
"At Google, we love cultural heritage, and this project brings these monuments literally to people's doorsteps," Anandan said.
Among the 30 monuments are Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Agha Khan Palace, Bibi ka Maqbara, Fort St George, Nagarjuna Hill, Raigad Fort.
"The extent of a monuments' view a user (virtual visitor) can see online is what has been allowed to us by the ASI. We delivered the first 30 sites in five months, and we are now working on the next 70," Anandan added.
Director General ASI, Pravin Srivastava called this an opportunity to "digitally preserve" the Indian heritage for posterity.
Talking about the criteria used for selection of the sites, Srivastava said, "We of course focused on World Heritage Sites and on sites of archaeological importance. Also, we chose places which receive large number of tourists inflow."
The 30 monuments will be now available to viewers on GoogleMaps and on the World Wonders site, part of Google Cultural Institute.
Katoch also emphasised that this step will help children to learn about their own heritage.
"This technology can be used by children in