The Statue of Equality is a giant representation of Shri Ramanujacharya (1017 CE-1137 CE), the Vaishnavite saint who propagated the message of equality

Grab a slice of history and folklore exploring India’s historical monuments

While tour operators are offering attractive deals, corporations are doing their bit with sound and light shows, maintenance, tech and other tourist-friendly moves to offer a bigger bang for your buck

Namrata Kohli | New Delhi

Recently we observed World Heritage Day on 18th April. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in 1982 announced the 18th of April as World Heritage Day. Another name for this day is The International Day for Monument and Sites.

India is one of the oldest civilizations with the most diverse culture and so many iconic monuments. Some of the top trending ones include Agra’s Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Gujarat’s Somnath Temple; Jaipur’s Amer Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Jantar Mantar, Jal Mahal; Orissa’s Konark temple, Jodhpur’s Umaid Bhawan Palace, Mehrangarh Fort. Every state has something or the other to offer and down south one cannot miss the Mysore Palace, Tamil Nadu’s – Mahabalipuram; Hampi’s Virupaksha temple etc.

Each and every monument has a history and a story behind it- some commemorate a person or an event, which has become important to a social group or a community of people.

Take the case of the Statue of Equality which was unveiled recently in Hyderabad. It has a giant statue of Shri Ramanujacharya and is the world’s second tallest statue in sitting posture after the great Buddha statue in Thailand. Says Chinna Jeeyar Swamiji, Founder- Statue of Equality, “Today, as the world is fraught with divisiveness and populism, the need of the hour is Sri Ramanujacharya’s ideology. All are equal in the eyes of God. Bhagavad Ramanujacharya has remained a true icon of equality for 1,000 years and this project will ensure his teachings are practiced for at least another 1,000 years. Our mission is to make the Statue of Equality a culturally paramount destination for people across the globe and inspire everyone to make the world a more equal place to live.”

Monuments are on top of the list of many domestic and international tourists. According to Rajeev Kale – President & Country Head, Holidays, MICE, Visa – Thomas Cook (India) Limited, “The architectural brilliance of these historical monuments makes them exceptional and an important aspect of traveller’s itineraries. These monuments are an essential part of tour packages for destinations like Agra, Jaipur, Mahabalipuram, Hampi, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Hyderabad, Kochi, Mysuru, Khajuraho and Gujarat.”

Branding and marketing are equally important aspects of monuments becoming more visible and attractive. Says Kirti Rane, a Mumbai based observer, “The history of that monument needs to be packaged in an interesting manner. You should also understand who has built and how it has been built and when it was built- everything is important. Eg Statue of Unity which depicts contribution by Sardar Patel who was otherwise completely neglected by the British historians is an important statement in itself.”

Monuments Matter

How aware are people of all our monuments or does it start or end with Taj Mahal and Jaipur forts? Says Daniel D’Souza, President & Country Head – Holidays, SOTC Travel, “Most travellers are well-informed about the iconic circles and monuments beyond Delhi-Jaipur-Agra also known as the Golden Triangle of Indian Tourism. Customers are displaying increased enthusiasm to not only visit the historic sites but are also keen to know the stories and folktales associated with them.”

As per their internal data, 72% of customers like to visit historic sites during their travel. The SOTC packages offer guided walks to monuments as a part of their itinerary. Adds Daniel D’Souza, “We have witnessed a lot of customers planning their holidays to these places with the intention to especially visit the monuments based there. Additionally, based on customer preferences we also offer specialized itineraries that highlight the monuments of India. Our Statue of Equality Tour in Hyderabad begins at an affordable Rs. 19,000, Group of World Heritage Monuments at Mahabalipuram begins at Rs. 23,100, Rajasthan – Blend of Mughal & Rajput culture begins at Rs. 16,199, Rajasthan – Rediscovering History begins at Rs. 21,699. All our itineraries can be co-curated with our experts – as per the interest of the customer.”

Interestingly, youth are interested in exploring monuments. Thomas Cook’s Rajeev Kale says, “Young professionals and millennials are interested in exploring and deep diving into the rich history and culture of these sights and research the iconic landmarks before planning their trip. Millennials prefer non-standard walking tours with an expert or personalised guide and experience exciting ways to explore these locations including cycling and biking trails. They not only want to visit these archaeological wonders but also interested in being enlightened with the related historic facts.”

He shares that even from a corporate MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Exhibitions) perspective too, they have witnessed a strong demand for destinations with historic monuments that include in depth excursion tours.

Restoring & Reclaiming Past

Lack of proper care for city’s monuments can destroy our heritage. While the Government is taking conscious initiatives to preserve heritage sites, even the visitors today are aware and mindful about conserving historic sites and abiding protocols.

Corporates are coming forward to maintain these structures too. For instance Dalmia Bharat is working to improve the amenities at the Red Fort with better lighting and toilets, installing benches and dustbins, 3D projection mapping, organising sound and light shows and improving the mobile app, drinking water kiosks, maintaining cleanliness, a surveillance system, comfortable chairs for tourists and improved facilities for the differently-abled.

Their recent ten-day festival Bharat Bhagya Vidhata saw state-of-the-art experiences such as “Matrubhumi” – a Projection Mapping Show, YATRA – A 360° immersive experience, Bharat Gaurav Exhibition, while Rang Manch saw some of the country’s leading artistes performing live to packed audiences. Says Puneet Dalmia, Managing Director, Dalmia Bharat Limited, “We’ve come a long way from being bestowed the honour of being Red Fort’s Monument Mitra, to conceptualising and making our path breaking initiative ‘Red Fort Festival – Bharat Bhagya Vidhata’ which is India’s first large-scale cultural event in the backdrop of Red Fort, a resounding success.” Dalmia Bharat Limited is planning to host a light and sound show this summer at the Red Fort and launch the monument’s visitor center.

Even the JSW Foundation has done a lot of work in restoration of monuments such as Chandramouleshwara temple, and Soumya Someshwara Temple in Hampi, Kedarnath amongst others. Says Sangita Jindal, Chairperson of JSW Foundation, “We recognise the significance of culture in the evolution of modern societies. I strongly believe that art, culture and heritage helps bring societies together while inculcating a sense of identity, pride and belongingness. At JSW Foundation, we have developed a long-term preservation and restoration strategy to protect our heritage for future generations. As a part of our CSR effort, we carry out these programs to restore these monuments so that the public at large could benefit from it.”

As they say, one can tell a great deal about a country by what it remembers. By what graces the wall of its museums. And what monuments have privileged placement in parks or central traffic intersections. So, monuments do matter.

Table: Entry to monuments is very affordable. As you can see that ticket prices are very low at India’s top rated monuments from this price chart by TechSci Research

Monument Description Price

Statue of Unity

In Gujarat, world’s tallest statue at 182 metres; unveiled on October 31, 2018, as a tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Built at a cost of nearly Rs 3,000 crore, designed by Padma Bhushan sculptor Ram V Sutar

Tickets priced at Rs 150-1,500:
Basic Entry Ticket: For access to monument, museum, projection mapping show, valley of flowers
Express Entry Ticket with a lesser wait time for elevators Rs 1,030 for kids and adults; and Foreigner Express Entry Ticket: Rs 1,530 for Adults and Rs 830 for Children (Closed on Monday)

Statue of Equality

The golden statue is the world’s second tallest sitting statue at 66 metres, built at a cost of Rs 1,000 cr; is of 11th-century Vaishnavaite Ramanuja located at Muchintal, Hyderabad; mounted on a three-storey building that acts as its base. The base has floors for a Vedic digital library, a meditation hall and an educational gallery

Tickets: Rs 150 for adults, Rs 75 for children (aged 5-12 years); Closed on Wednesday

Hampi, Karnataka

500 historic monuments and temples, with bustling street markets, bastions, treasury buildings, and relics of Vijayanagar Empire; Over 100 spots to explore and world’s largest open-air museum, covering over 29 sq km

Tickets: Rs 35 for Indians, Rs 550 for foreigners

Ajanta Ellora Caves, Maharashtra

Ancient rock-cut caves near Aurangabad, Maharashtra

Tickets: Rs 35 for Indians, Rs 550 for foreigners, for each of the sites (Ajanta and Ellora)

Bodh Gaya, Bihar Buddhist pilgrimage site, claimed to be the location where Gautama Buddha obtained enlightenment under the Pipal Tree; the principal tower of the temple rises 180 feet (54 metres) from the ground No Entry Fees
Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha

A well-known temple devoted to Sun God Surya, this UNESCO designated site was built by King Narasimha Deva in 1244. Konark was chosen as the site of construction since it was already mentioned in ancient literature as Surya’s holy seat

Tickets: Rs 40 for Indians, Rs 600 for foreigners

Red Fort Complex, Old Delhi

Also known as Lal Qila, was built in mid-17th century by Shah Jahan. Major draw: sound and light show in the evenings

Tickets: Rs 35 for Indians, Rs 500 for foreigners; Light and Sound Show: Adults: Rs 60, Children: Rs 20

Chola Temples, Tamil Nadu The Great Living Chola Temples such as the Brihadisvara temples of Thanjavur, temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram, and the Airavatesvara temple at Darasuram are a set of Chola Dynasty temples from 11th and 12th century, designated as UNESCO World Heritage Site No Entry Fees
Agra Fort, Uttar Pradesh Red-sandstone fort on the banks of the river Yamuna, built under the rule of Emperor Akbar in 1565 and later by his grandson Shah Jahan. It was the main residential area of the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty until 1638, when Shah Jahan decided to move from Agra to Delhi. Built Red Fort in Delhi, taking inspiration from Agra Fort

Tickets: Indian Adults: Rs 40; Children: Free; Foreigners: Rs 600

Light and Sound Show: Indian Adults: Rs 70, Foreigners: Rs 200, Students: Rs 40

Qutub Minar, New Delhi UNESCO World Heritage site, tallest brick tower in the world at 73 metres; erected in 1193 by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak. After the defeat of Delhi’s last Hindu monarch, the tower was built to commemorate Muslim sovereignty in the city Tickets: Indians Adults: Rs 30; Foreigners: Rs 500; Children: Free Below age 15
Taj Mahal, Agra UNESCO world heritage site on the banks of the River Yamuna in Agra, Uttar Pradesh; built entirely in white marble in 17th century by Shah Jahan as a tribute to his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal

Tickets: Indian Adults: Rs 45; Foreigners: Rs 1,050 (Additional Rs 200 to see the main mausoleum); Children: Free Below age 15

Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh

Collection of Hindu and Jain temples in Madhya Pradesh is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its Nagara-style architecture and exquisite nayika and deity sculptures. The Chandela Dynasty constructed it between 950 and 1050 AD Meditation, spiritual teachings, relationships, and exciting art are all represented in diverse ways in these temples.

Tickets: Indian Adults: Rs 40; Foreigners: Rs 600; Children: Free below age 15

Light and Sound Show: Indian Adults: Rs 250, Foreigners: Rs 700; Children: Free Below age 5

Credits: TechSci Research

Source: Business Standard

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