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The ban on the film "Padmaavat" in Rajasthan, it seems, is turning out to be a boon for tourism in the state. The Mewar region of the state - home to the fabled queen Padmini, the subject of the movie, has been witness to a phenomenal rise in tourist numbers in December 2017.
A large number of tourists from across India have been flocking to the significant cities of the region, which include Udaipur and Chittorgarh, last month and in the first week of January, ever since the controversy erupted over Sanjay Leela Bhansali's period drama "Padmavati". The film has finally been cleared after being re-titled "Padmaavat", among other changes.
The numbers have almost doubled in Padmini's "hometown" of Chittorgarh - to 81,009 in December 2017 from 40,733 in the same month the previous year, the town's assistant tourist officer, Sharad Vyas, said. Chittorgarh Fort is where Padmini is said to have performed "jauhar" (self-immolation) after her husband's defeat at the hands of Alauddin Khilji, ruler of the Delhi Sultanate.
The number of tourists also witnessed a sudden rise from Dec 25 (Christmas) to the first week of January.
"People have become more aware of history. They come and ask about stories related to Padmini, (her husband) Rawal Ratan Singh and Alauddin Khilji. Surprisingly, they come prepared with historical facts and want to see the places where history was made," Sunil Sen, a registered government guide in Chhitorgarh, told IANS.
Most of the tourists coming to Chittorgarh want to see the mirror where, according to legend, the queen's face was shown to Alauddin Khilji, Sen said, adding that they are also keen to see the place where queen performed Jauhar with around 16,000 women after her husband's defeat.
Of the big rush seen on the last Sunday of 2017 (December 31), he said that the tickets for the fort were exhausted and in spite of long queues of tourists, the gates had to be closed early.
Even the demand for guides has risen here as people want to hear stories about the legendary queen, he said.
Sudhir Gurnani, owner of Hotel Mira in Chittorgarh, said tourists coming to the town have also been to Udaipur to know more about its ruler Maharana Pratap "as well as about the culture of Mewar".
"Tourists coming to this lake city have been asking questions about Chhitorgarh. They want to know more about Queen Padmini and her cultural background. Many of those coming here return via Chittorgarh," Arun Kumar Remtia, a guide from Udaipur, told IANS.
Shurti, the sales manager at the upscale Lake Pichola Hotel, also confirmed that the tourist numbers have gone up this season in Udaipur. "Earlier, we used to see a big number of foreign travellers in and around the city; however, this season, the trend has changed. There is a big number of domestic tourists in Udaipur," Shruti told IANS.
The rising figures signify that there has been curiosity, inquisitiveness and eagerness to know more about Padmini and her legend.