Jul 25, 2008
India - Taj the most visited site
If ticket sales are anything to go by, the luminous 17th century Taj Mahal in Agra is the most popular monument in India, attracting over 2.5 million visitors a year.
The marble monument to love built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan that is listed among the seven wonders of the world was visited by an estimated 2,048,120 domestic and 491,351 foreign tourists in 2006.
These findings were put out by the ministry of tourism's annual publication, "India Tourism Statistics", based on figures collected from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
ASI, which is responsible for protection of cultural heritage in India, keeps records of the number of tickets sold to both Indian and foreign nationals at monuments.
"Among all the monuments, Taj Mahal was the most visited monument in 2006 for domestic as well as foreign tourists," the report said.
The monument in recent days has seen attempts by Shiv Sena activists to hold Hindu religious rituals there, as they argue it was built on the ruins of a Shiva temple.
The 17th century Red Fort was the second most visited monument in the country as far as domestic tourists (1.9 million) were concerned, while for foreigners, the second most exciting place to visit was Agra Fort (259,427 visitors) whose construction was completed in the 16th century.
The Qutub Minar, known as the tallest brick minaret in the world built here in the 14th century, is the third most preferred monument among foreign and domestic tourists. An estimated 1.9 million domestic tourists and 249,040 foreign tourists visited it in 2006.
It is easy to understand why the Taj Mahal, which last year found pride of place in a new list of seven wonders polled by people around the globe, continues to be the most popular monument.
It has been the most visited monument since 2004 - for domestic as well as foreign tourists.
Among the 10 other most famous monuments popular with domestic tourists are Charminar (Andhra Pradesh), Purana Quila (Delhi), Golconda Fort (Andhra Pradesh), Bibi-Ka-Maqbara (Maharashtra) and Mamallapuram (Tamil Nadu).
With the foreigners, it's Humayun's Tomb (Delhi), Fatehpuri Sikri (Uttar Pradesh), Red Fort (Delhi), Sarnath Excavated Site (Uttar Pradesh), Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh), Mamallapuram (Tamil Nadu) and Jantar Mantar (Delhi) that are most popular.
The study said while the number of domestic visitors to centrally protected monuments increased by 13.2 per cent in 2006 over 2005, for foreigners the figure grew by only six percent, and the overall growth was 12.6 per cent
In 2006, about 4.44 million tourists visited India, and in 2007 the figure went up to five million. There were 461 million domestic tourists in 2006 as compared to 391 million in 2005.