India’s history goes back thousands of years, having witnessed during that course of time, the rule of several empires, dynasties and rulers. Along with this, throughout the length and breadth of the country, various traditions, cultures and beliefs evolved. However, every one of them have left their legacy in one way or the other, the most long lasting and prominent ones being in the form of architectural structures – forts, caves and monuments.
There are many ways of discovering the history of India. One of them is visiting libraries and browsing through countless books. However, a more engaging way, and exciting one too, is actually visiting the various historical sites and structures. Coming across a temple, a palace or a fort which was actually a witness to a particular era, or incident, certainly delivers an experience like no other. Through this blog, we tell you the top 10 historical places in India you must visit.
1. Red Fort, Delhi
Red Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most iconic landmarks in Delhi. Built from red sandstone over a period of ten years, from 1638 to 1648, it’s a perfect amalgamation of elegance and size. Constructed during the time when Shah Jahan shifted his capital from Agra to Delhi, it serves as the site from where the Prime Minister of India delivers his speech on Independence Day.
2. Taj Mahal, Agra
Love drives a person to perform great deeds, and sometimes, that takes the form of a Taj Mahal, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This epitome of love, built by Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, took around 22 years to complete. Adorned with calligraphy and other aesthetic elements, it represents the culmination of Mughal architecture and represents timeless love and sacrifice. Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Laureate, beautifully captured its beauty by describing it as a “teardrop in the cheek of time”. Agra is also one of the prime tourist destination of Golden Triangle Tour in India.
3. Qutub Minar, Delhi
Qutub Minar, or the Tower of Victory, soars to a height of approximately 238ft, and tapers to 9ft at the apex. Part of the Qutub Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was built in 1193 with the reason behind its construction still remaining a matter of controversy. Started by Qutub ud-Din Aibak, who could only build its basement, it was completed by his successors Iltutmish, who added three more stories and Firoz Shah Tughlaq, who constructed the fifth and last story. At the foot of the tower lies the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, the first mosque to be built in India.
4. Fatehpuri Sikri, Uttar Pradesh
A city which once held great promises, but which remains deserted now. Fatehpur Sikri, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the grand vision of Emperor Akbar almost four centuries ago. Built in the style of Indo-Islamic architecture, it consists of several architectural marvels including the Jama Masjid, Buland Darwaza, Tomb of Salim Chisti and Jodha Bai’s Palace, among others. An interesting fact about this architecture is that it was planned on a definite mathematical grid.
5. Hawa Mahal, Jaipur
Hawa Mahal, also known as the Palace of Winds, was built in 1799 by the poet king Sawai Pratap Singh as a summer retreat for him and his family. It was originally built as a place where the ladies of the royal household could watch the affairs of the day without being seen themselves. It’s a wonderful blend of Indo-Islamic architecture and its exterior, with its small latticed windows (called jharokhas), bears a strong resemblance to the crown of Lord Krishna. This wonderful structure, built from pink sandstone, is Jaipur’s iconic landmark.
6. Khajuraho Temples, Madhya Pradesh
Eroticism and sensuality find excellent expressions, almost transcending into spiritualism, at the Khajuraho Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built between 950 and 1050 AD by the rulers of the Chandela dunasty, they are intricately adorned with art and sculptures. Visitors here are fascinated with the way human emotions find their fullest expressions in the statues – themselves a product of architectural excellence. The temples are divided into three complexes – Western, Southern and Eastern. The Western complex, the most famous of them all, houses the incredible Shaivite temple, Kandariya Mahadev.
7. Konark Temple, Odisha
The Konark Temple in Odisha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, pays obeisance to the Sun God, and in what a magnificent way. Built by King Narasimhadeva in the thirteenth century, the temple was built in the shape of a colossal chariot, carrying the sun god, Surya, to the heavens. The temple is a chronicle in stone of the religious, military, social and domestic aspects of the thirteenth century royal world. The various images here emphasize on the indulgent view of life. Rabindranath Tagore expressed the spirit behind the creation of this temple perfectly when he said, “here the language of stone surpasses the language of man”.
8. Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya
Mahabodhi Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is another example of the architectural excellence attained in the ancient ages. Rising to a height of 170ft, the temple is adorned with “chatras” which symbolize the sovereignty of religion. This sacred edifice gradually rises towards the skies, as if proclaiming to the world the pious efforts of the Buddha to eliminate worldly problems and attain transcendental peace. In the main sanctum of the temple is housed the colossal image of the Buddha, in sitting posture touching the earth by his right hand. One of the foremost attractions are the railings in the temple which date back to the 1st century BC, and are one of the most interesting monuments of the century.
9. Ajanta & Ellora Caves, Aurangabad
Ajanta and Ellora Caves, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites, remind us of the splendid Buddhist legacy which once existed in India. They draw visitors due to their architectural splendor and artistic masterpieces, including narratives painted on the walls of the “chaityas” (prayer halls) and “viharas” (residential cells). They represent Buddhist religious art with figures of the Buddha and depiction of the Jataka tales.
Ellora, another of the fascinating archaeological sites in India, dates back to about 1,500yrs. It represents the best traditions of rock-cut architecture in India. These caves were accorded the status of World Heritage Site in 1983. The caves, which are actually Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religious monuments, are 34 in number.
10. Hampi, Karnataka
It’s hardly surprising that the popularity of Hampi has grown with popularity over time. Once the capital of the glorious Vijayanagara Empire, it consists of numerous architectural marvels at every other corner. There is the Virupaksha Temple, with its regal 9 story tall gopura, where Lord Shiva is believed to have married Goddess Parvati. The Royal Enclosure, Hazararama Palace, the enormous elephant stables and the Royal Enclosure are among the few attractions worth checking out here. Here you can also read on 25 Offbeat Destinations in India for an Awesome Experience.