NEW DELHI: India’s cultural heritage is a major draw for tourists, but many exotic monuments continue to be left out of tourism circuits at the expense of popular ones. Now, with a view to promote some of the relatively unknown monuments, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) under the Ministry of Culture has prepared a list of 22 such protected sites which will be tagged as “must see”.
The ASI will create a website for Indian heritage sites. Apart from those on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, these 22 monuments have unique features—be it arts, architecture, planning and design or history. “These are a unique testimony to past civilisations and are outstanding buildings showing exemplary engineering skills. A list of such iconic ‘must see’ monuments has been created with a hope that a large number of foreign and domestic tourists will visit them,” an ASI official said.
Among those who have made to the list are temples and Buddhist heritage sites like Hoysalesvara Temple of Karnataka, Udayagiri and Khandagiri caves in Odisha and ancient temples in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Among the Islamic structures in the list are Gol Gumbaz in Karnataka, the second-highest dome structure in the world. Palaces of Deeg, Cooch Bihar, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra have also made the cut. Even a prehistoric megalith burial site in Thrissur in Kerala has been included.
Currently, UNESCO monuments such as Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar and Red Fort are the top grossers in terms of revenue earned through ticketing. By including lesser known monuments—many of them which are ticketed—ASI hopes to increase its revenue, and put the focus on monuments which tell a story of a civilisation’s journey. ASI currently earns over `90 crore annually as revenue through tickets from 116 monuments.
Among the monuments that carry heritage tags and which will be part of the list of must-sees are Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Agra Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Sun Temple in Konark, Rani ki Vav stepwell in Gujarat, churches of Goa, Hampi ruins, Fatehpur Sikri, Chola temples at Thanjavur, hill forts of Rajasthan, Sanchi Stupa and prehistoric rock shelters of Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh.