BHUBANESWAR: Even as Odisha has been ignored in the recent list of 17 sites to be developed as iconic tourist destinations, Union Minister for Tourism and Culture Prahlad Singh Patel informed the Lok Sabha that the Sun Temple at Konark was one of most visited monuments of the country.
The reply of the Minister revealed that the footfall at five monuments, which have found places in the list of proposed iconic tourist sites, was very less compared to that at the Konark temple in 2018-19.
The Ministry of Tourism has identified 17 sites in 12 clusters in the country for development as iconic tourist destinations. The sites included Ajanta and Ellora in Maharashtra, Fatehpur Sikri in Uttar Pradesh, Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi and Hampi in Karnataka.
While 24,66,849 tourists visited Konark in the last fiscal, 13,48,899 and 4,27,500 tourists visited Ellora and Ajanta caves respectively. Similarly, 7,08,782 people visited Fatehpur Sikri, 82,917 visited Humayun’s Tomb and 6,95,784 visited Hampi.
In fact, the Konark Temple is among the top five visited monuments of the country after Taj Mahal, Red Fort, Qutub Minar and Agra Fort. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has generated `9.36 crore from tickets last year. As many as 24,75,088 people had visited Konark in 2017-18 and 23,06,456 in 2016-17.
The Minister said the country has 3,691 monuments of national importance among which 80 including Rajarani Temple, Khandagiri, Udaygiri, Sun Temple, Ratnagiri and the excavated site at Lalitgiri are in Odisha.
“When the Government is admitting that Konark temple is one of the most visited sites and earning more revenue, how could it be ignored in the iconic destination list?” questioned heritage researchers and conservationists.