12 Most Popular Historical Monuments of India

India's Top Monuments Based on Ticket Sales

Taj Mahal, Agra, India.

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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. Out of the 116 monuments, 17 monuments are located in Uttar Pradesh, 16 are in Maharashtra, 12 are in Karnataka, 10 are in Delhi, eight are in Madhya Pradesh, seven are in Tamil Nadu, and six are in Gujarat.

According to information provided by the Indian Ministry of Culture to the parliament, the Taj Mahal sits in first position, way ahead of the other monuments. (The Golden Temple is the only place in India to rival its number of visitors). However, what's particularly notable is that the Red Fort in Delhi has overtaken the Qutub Minar as the second-most visited monument in India. What's also interesting is that some of the monuments, such as the Charminar in Hyderabad, have relatively high footfall but low ticket revenue indicating that they're visited predominantly by Indian tourists rather foreigners (who pay a lot more per ticket).

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Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

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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, it looms like a fairy-tale 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 around 20 000 workers to complete. For most people, a visit to India is incomplete without seeing it. A significant increase in ticket price for Indian citizens at the end of 2018 has boosted revenue from ticket sales. This increase aims to limit visitor numbers in order to preserve the monument.

  • Location: Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Three to four hours south of Delhi. It's part of India's Golden Triangle tourist circuit.
  • Number of Visitors in 2018-19: 6,885,124.
  • Revenue Generated in 2018-19: 779,040,555 rupees ($11.05 million).
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Red Fort

Red Fort

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Delhi's most famous monument, the Red Fort stands as a powerful reminder of the Mughal emperors who ruled India. The fort is more than 350 years old. It has withstood the turbulent trials and tribulations of time—and attack—to be the setting of some of India's most important historical events that shaped the country. The fort's Old Delhi location, opposite Chandni Chowk, is fascinating as well. A sound and light show is held there in the evenings. Recent restoration of the shopfronts in the fort's Meena Bazaar and the addition of a new museum complex dedicated to India's freedom fighters has drawn more local Indian visitors, thus increasing footfall at the fort.

  • Location: Old Delhi.
  • Number of Visitors in 2018-19: 3,556,357.
  • Revenue Generated in 2018-19: 210,786,900 rupees ($2.99 million).
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Qutub Minar

A man taking a photo of Qutab Minar with a plane flying by it

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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's widely believed that it dates back to the 13th century, when Qutab-Ud-Din-Aibak (founder of the Delhi Sultanate) is said to have started constructing it. However, a great deal of controversy surrounds its origin and purpose. It may in fact have originally been a Hindu tower. The tower has five distinct stories and a height of 72.5 meters (238 feet). Several other historic monuments are on the site as well. Unfortunately, there's been a steady decline in footfall over the last three years.

  • Location: Mehrauli, South Delhi.
  • Number of Visitors in 2018-19: 2,979,939.
  • Revenue Generated in 2018-19: 266,289,800 rupees ($3.78 million).
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Agra Fort

Agra Fort.


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Agra Fort, while undoubtedly overshadowed by the Taj Mahal, is one of the finest Mughal forts in India (it's more impressive than Delhi's Red Fort). The fort 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. Ideally, it should be visited before the Taj Mahal, as it's an evocative prequel to the monument.

  • Location: Agra, Uttar Pradesh.
  • Number of Visitors in 2018-19: 2,511,263.
  • Revenue Generated in 2018-19: 305,597,470 rupees ($4.33 million).
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Konark Sun Temple

Konark Sun Temple.

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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 13th 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 God and was designed to be his colossal cosmic chariot, with 12 pairs of wheels pulled by seven horses.

  • Location: On the coast of Odisha, about 50 minutes east of Puri and 1.5 hours southeast of capital city Bhubaneshwar. Konark is popularly visited as part of the Bhubaneshwar-Konark-Puri triangle.
  • Number of Visitors in 2018-19: 2,466,849.
  • Revenue Generated in 2018-19: 93,658,160 rupees ($1.33 million).
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Golconda Fort

Golconda Fort

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One of the top forts in India, Golconda Fort is a popular day trip from Hyderabad. It was founded as a mud fort by the Kakatiya Kings of Waranga in the 13th century. However, its heyday was during the reign of the Qutub Shahi dynasty in the 16th century, before they shifted their capital to Hyderabad. Later, during the 17th century, Golconda Fort rose to prominence for its diamond market. Some of the world's most priceless diamonds were found in the area.

  • Location: On the outskirts of Hyderabad, Telangana.
  • Number of Visitors in 2018-19: 1,864,531.
  • Revenue Generated in 2018-19: 46,151,900 rupees ($0.7 million).
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Ellora and Ajanta Caves

Ellora caves.

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Astonishingly carved into hillside rock in the middle of nowhere are the Ajanta and Ellora caves. Both are an important UNESCO World Heritage site. 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. The incredible Kailasa Temple (also known as the Kailash Temple), which forms Cave 16 at Ellora, is the most astonishing attraction. Its immense size covers twice the area of the Pantheon in Athens, and is one and a half times as high! The life-size elephant sculptures are a highlight.

  • Location: Near Aurangabad in northern Maharastra, around 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Mumbai.
  • Number of Visitors in 2018-19: Ellora 1,348,899. Ajanta 427,500.
  • Revenue Generated in 2018-19: Ellora 63,951,030 rupees ($0.9 million). Ajanta 26,194,260 ($0.4 million).
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The Charminar

The Charminar

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Hyderabad's most distinctive monument, the Charminar, was completed in 1591. It was made to be the city's centerpiece when Qutub Shahi dynasty ruler Sultan Muhammad Quli Qutub Shah shifted his capital to Hyderabad from nearby Golconda Fort. Its architecture was considered to be groundbreaking and is still regarded as a masterpiece. As well as being ceremonial gateway, the Charminar is also a place of worship for Muslims. Go inside to get a spectacular view across the Old City to other historic landmarks such as Mecca Masjid.

  • Location: In the center of Hyderabad's Old City.
  • Number of Visitors in 2018-19: 1,258,027.
  • Revenue Generated in 2018-19: 28,850,965 rupees ($0.4 million).
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Shaniwar Wada

sShaniwarwada, Pune, Maharashtra

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Shaniwar Wada fort palace was the residence and office of the Peshwas, who led the Maratha Empire to great heights in the 18th century. It was built by the first Peshwa Baji Rao I in 1732 but sadly much of it was destroyed by fire in 1828. The remaining structure is a popular local attraction. An evening sounds and light show narrates the history of the monument and the Maratha Empire's golden period.

  • Location: Pune's Old City, about three hours southeast of Mumbai in Maharashtra.
  • Number of Visitors in 2018-19: 1,257,205.
  • Revenue Generated in 2018-19: 29,102,495 rupees ($0.4 million).
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Bibi Ka Maqbara (Tomb of Rabia Durani)

Bibi Ka Maqbara

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Not a lot of foreigners visit this Taj Mahal lookalike. In fact, most don't even know about it, despite it being Aurangabad's principal monument. The construction of the graceful monument was initiated by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the mid 17th century, in memory of his first and favorite wife Dilras Banu Begum (who was posthumously given the title Rabia-ud-Daurani). Its thought that the monument was intended to rival the Taj Mahal, which was built for Aurangzeb's mother, but budgetary constraints resulted in it being a smaller version.

  • Location: On the bank of Kham River in Aurangabad, in northern Maharashtra.
  • Number of Visitors in 2018-19: 1,218,832.
  • Revenue Generated in 2018-19: 29,520,015 rupees ($0.4 million).
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Group of Monuments at Mamallapuram

Mahabalipuram

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A renowned beach getaway from Chennai, Mamallapuram has a UNESCO-listed group of monuments consisting of 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 Hindu epic The Mahabharata). 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.

  • Location: Approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Chennai, on the east coast of India in Tamil Nadu. It's 95 kilometers (59 miles) north of Pondicherry.
  • Number of Visitors in 2018-19: 1,102,903.
  • Revenue Generated in 2018-19: 71,599,180 rupees ($1.01 million). 
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Fatehpur Sikri

India, Uttar Pradesh, Fatehpur Sikri
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Although there are other monuments with a greater footfall than Fatehpur Sikri, it has been included on this list due to its substantial revenue from ticket sales, indicating its relative popularity with foreign tourists. This well-preserved abandoned city was once the proud capital of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century. It was deserted after only 15 years, apparently due to insufficient water supply. The most convenient way to visit Fatehpur Sikri is on a day trip from Agra.

  • Location: About 45 minutes west of Agra.
  • Number of Visitors in 2018-19: 708,782.
  • Revenue Generated in 2018-19: 119,816,630 rupees ($1.7 million).
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