Wondering which historical monuments of India are the most popular with tourists? India has 116 ticketed monuments in 19 states, managed by the Archeological Survey of India. This press release from the Indian Ministry of Culture lists income generated from each in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Not surprisingly, the Taj Mahal sits in first place, way ahead of the other monuments. (Its high entry charge for foreigners, compared to other monuments, does need to be kept in mind though as this will contribute to increased revenue. Nevertheless, the Golden Temple is the only other place in India to rival its number of visitors).
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The Taj Mahal will never lose its charm. Not only is it India's most recognized monument, it's also one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Dating back to 1630 AD, it looms fairytale-like from the banks of the Yamuna River. The Taj Mahal is actually a tomb that contains the body of Mumtaz Mahal -- the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. He had it built as an ode to his love for her. It's made out of marble and took 22 years and 20 000 workers to complete. For most people, a visit to India is incomplete without seeing it.
- Location: Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Approximately 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Delhi. It's part of India's Golden Triangle tourist circuit.
- Revenue Generated in 2014-15: 21.2 crore rupees ($3.2 million).
- 10 Top Places to Visit in and Around Agra
- 5 Agra and Taj Mahal Tours from Delhi (Book Online with Viator)
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Agra Fort, while undoubtedly overshadowed by the Taj Mahal, is one of the finest Mughal forts in India. It was originally a brick fort that was held by a clan of Rajputs. However, it was subsequently captured by the Mughals and rebuilt by Emperor Akbar, who decided to shift his capital there in 1558. There are many buildings to see inside the Fort, including mosques, public and private audience halls, palaces, towers, and courtyards. Another attraction is the evening sound and light show that recreates the Fort's history.
- Location: Agra, Uttar Pradesh.
- Revenue Generated in 2014-15: 10.6 crore rupees ($1.6 million).
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One of Delhi's top attractions, Qutab Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world and is an incredible example of early Indo–Islamic architecture. It was built in 1206, but the reason remains a mystery. Some believe that it was made to signify victory and the beginning of Muslim rule in India, while others say it was used to call the faithful to prayer. The tower has five distinct stories, and is covered with intricate carvings and verses from the holy Quran. There are also a number of other historic monuments on the site.
- Location: Mehrauli, south Delhi.
- Revenue Generated in 2014-15: 10.3 crore rupees ($1.5 million).
- Private Walking Tour: South Delhi Heritage including Qutub Minar and Mehrauli Archaeological Park (Book Online with Viator)
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If you think Humayun's Tomb looks a bit like the Taj Mahal, that's because it was the inspiration for the Taj Mahal's creation. The tomb was built in 1570, and houses the body of the second Mughal emperor, Humayun. It was the first of this type of Mughal architecture to be built in India, and the Mughal rulers followed it up with an extensive period of construction all over the country. The tomb is part of a greater complex that's set among beautiful gardens.
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- Location: Nizamuddin East, Delhi.
- Revenue Generated in 2014-15: 6.4 crore rupees ($0.96 million).
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A city that was once the proud capital of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century, Fatehpur Sikri now stands deserted as a well preserved ghost town. It was abandoned by its occupants after only 15 years due to insufficient water supply. The most convenient way to visit Fatehpur Sikri is on a day trip from Agra.
- Location: Approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Agra.
- Revenue Generated in 2014-15: 6.3 crore rupees ($0.95 million).
- Viator includes Fatehpur Sikri on many of its private tours. Alternatively, Agra Magic runs a private three hour tour to Fatehpur Sikri.
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Delhi's most famous monument, the Red Fort stands as a powerful reminder of the Mughal emperors who ruled India. Its walls, which stretch for over 2 kilometers (1.2 miles), were built in 1638 to keep out invaders. However, they failed to stop the fort being captured by the Sikhs and the British. The Fort's Old Delhi location, opposite Chandni Chowk, is fascinating as well. A sound and light show is held there in the evenings.
- Location: Old Delhi.
- Revenue Generated in 2014-15: 5.9 crore rupees ($0.89 million).
- Red Fort Sound and Light Show with Dinner Tour (Book Online with Viator)
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Astonishingly carved into hillside rock in the middle of nowhere are the Ajanta and Ellora caves. There are 34 caves at Ellora dating from between the 6th and 11th centuries AD, and 29 caves at Ajanta dating back to between the 2nd century BC and 6th century AD. The caves at Ajanta are all Buddhist, while the caves at Ellora are a mixture of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain.
- Location: Near Aurangabad in northern Maharastra, around 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Mumbai.
- Revenue Generated in 2014-15: 3 crore rupees ($0.46 million).
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A popular beach getaway from Chennai, Mahabalipuram is also home to the Five Rathas (sculptured temples in the shape of chariots), and Arjuna's Penance (a huge carving on the face of a rock depicting scenes from the Mahabharatha). The Mamallapuram Dance Festival is held during late December to late January at Arjuna's Penance. Another attraction is the windswept Shore Temple on the water's edge.
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- Location: Approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Chennai, on the east coast of India in the state of Tamil Nadu. It's 95 kilometers (59 miles) north of Pondicherry.
- Revenue Generated in 2014-15: 2.7 crore rupees ($0.40 million).
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The magnificent Sun Temple in Konark is regarded as the grandest and most well known of India's sun temples. It's believed to have been constructed in the 13 century, towards the end of Odisha's temple building phase, and follows the popular Kalinga school of temple architecture. What sets it apart from other temples in Odisha is its distinctive chariot shape. The temple is dedicated to Surya the Sun and was designed to be his colossal cosmic chariot, with 12 pairs of wheels pulled by seven horses.
- Location: Approximately 35 kilometers from Puri in Odisha. Konark is popularly visited as part of the Bhubaneshwar-Konark-Puri triangle.
- Revenue Generated in 2014-15: 2.6 crore rupees ($0.39 million).
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Erotica abounds at Khajuraho with over 20 temples devoted to sexuality and sex. However, more than that, they show a celebration of love, life and worship. There are three groups of sandstone temples dating back to the 10th and 11th century. They're renowned for their erotic sculptures. Nowhere else will you find such unique temples with meticulously detailed carvings.
- Location: Northern Madhya Pradesh, approximately 620 kilometers (385 miles) south east of Delhi.
- Revenue Generated in 2014-15: 2 crore rupees ($0.31 million).