R. Krishna Kumar
Official figures indicate that more tourists visited Mysore Palace than the Taj Mahal in 2006
MYSORE: It is a little known facet about the Amba Vilas, which is reckoned to be the most recognizable of all the palaces in the country, and is bound to spring a surprise.
Better known as the “Mysore Palace”, the Amba Vilas is among the most visited monuments in India and attracts more number of tourists than the Taj Mahal. Well, almost.
The number of visitors to the Mysore Palace in 2006 was 25,25,687 and as per the Archaeological Survey of India figures while the figure was 25,39,471 tourists visited the Taj Mahal in Agra.
Although the Taj Mahal is narrowly ahead of Mysore Palace in terms of number of tourists visiting them, sources here pointed out that the actual number of tourists visiting the Mysore Palace could be higher than the official figures.
For, a significant number of tourists prefer to appreciate the view of the palace from the vast open grounds and the courtyard inside the fort. It is a great photo opportunity and for which there is no entry fee.
The official figure pertaining to the number of tourists given by the Palace Board here only takes into account those who buy a ticket to gain entry inside the Durbar Hall and the Kalyana Mantapa.
Sources said if the combined figures of the ticketed tourists and those who enter the main gate but not the Durbar Hall were counted, the number of tourists visiting Mysore Palace would easily outnumber those visiting the Taj Mahal.
This uptrend in the number of tourists visiting Mysore Palace was a recent phenomenon. It became evident since 2003-04 when tourism in the region picked up steam. The general buoyancy in the economy and the fact that more number of domestic tourists were travelling had a spill over effect and benefited the local tourism industry.
The upward trend in the number of visitors to Mysore Palace can be gauged by the comparative figures for previous years. While 18,04,488 tourists visited the palace in 1999, the number plummeted to 14,19,466 in 2002 when the region was badly hit by drought. But since 2003, the figures increased from 16.45 lakh to 18.31 lakh in 2004 and jumped to 20.62 lakh in 2005 and crossed the 2.5 million mark last year.
The figures available for the first six months indicated that the last year’s record of 2.5 million would be easily surpassed by a big margin this year as approximately 13 lakh visitors had visited the palace till the end of July. And the peak tourism season for Mysore is yet to begin.
This increase has come about despite the State Government’s recent policy to increase the Entry Tax for tourist vehicles by a whopping 300 per cent as a result of which the tax for 50-seater vehicles increased from Rs. 5,900 to Rs. 16,500 resulting in a 30 per cent slump in the number of tourists from Kerala visiting Mysore.
The figures released for other popular monuments from across India by the Union Ministry of Tourism and Culture, include Qutub Minar (21.95 lakh), Red Fort (21.01lakh), Agra Fort (12.74 lakh), and Fatehpur Sikri (3.92 lakh) and the figures for Mysore Palace outnumber all of them.