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10 Must See Historic Monuments in India
When someone talks about traveling to India, the first place that comes to mind is probably the Taj Mahal. Undoubtedly, Taj Mahal deserves recognition. However, there are other wonderful historic monuments in India many tourists may not be aware about, and deserve equal recognition. This article focuses on bringing to light ten such most important historic monuments in India.
1) Ajanta and Ellora Caves
The Ajanta and Ellora caves are the epitome of cave sculptures and paintings in India. Situated near Aurangabad, Maharashtra, these caves were cut and carved over 2,000 years ago by Buddhist monks. These caves were built during the Gupta period. Most of the caves are carved to depict the life of Buddha. Ellora has 34 caves out of which 17 caves are Hinds’, 12 are Buddhists’ and the remaining, Jains’. This just shows how these three religions co-existed in harmony from the beginning.
2) Dravidian Monuments at Hampi
The moment you enter Hampi, you will find ruins everywhere. However, the town of Hampi was once one of the most glorious and wealthiest towns in the Vijayanagara Empire. Hampi is set in a landscape of rocks and waterways. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the state of Karnataka. The ruins you see in Hampi are the remnants of the once magnificent monuments that were destroyed and pillaged by the Deccan Muslim rulers around the period 1565 AD, before the city was abandoned.
Some of the most important monuments at Hampi are the Vijaya Vittala temple, Hazara Rama Temple and the Virupaksha temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Siva respectively. The Hampi monuments project the Dravidian style of art and architecture.
3) Hawa Mahal
Hawa Mahal (Palace of the winds) stands tall as the entrance of the pink city, Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan. This monument is the Jaipur’s major claim to fame. The majestic palace is five-storied and is built with pink sandstone. The main reason why it is called the palace of winds is that it contains hundreds of screened windows and small balconies. The Hawa Mahal was built in 1799 AD by Maharaja Sawraj Pratap Singh, so that the women from the royal family could watch processions on the streets from behind the windows, without being visible to the public.
4) Khajuraho Temples
Probably very few people are unaware that India is the country that showed the world the art of lovemaking. However, many people probably don’t know that some of the temples in India actually depict the images of the art of lovemaking (Kamasutra). The Khajuraho temple in the state of Madhya Pradesh is famous for the depictions of intriguing erotic sculptures. More intriguing is the fact that the celebration of the carnal was tied to the Jain religion. The town of Khajuraho was the first capital of the Chandela Emperors who ruled Bundelkhand. The Chandelas abided by the tantric tenets of finding spirituality. The Khajuraho temples were built between the late 9th century and early 12th century by these rulers. The Khajuraho temple is the second most visited monument after the Taj Mahal in India.
5) Mahabalipuram Temples
In an earlier hub, I mentioned about the significance of Mahabalipuram. Mahabalipuram is another UNESCO World Heritage site and is situated on the shores of Bay of Bengal. The city dates back to 7th century AD. Mahabalipuram is famous for its rock carvings and sculptures. These sculptures are evidence of the craftsmanship and expertise of the then artisans. The biggest attraction in Mahabalipuram is the Shore temple (also called Seven Pagodas). Out of the seven pagodas, six pagodas are submerged in the sea. The 2004 tsunami brought to shore marvelous stone sculptures and made Mahabalipuram a marine archaeology site.
6) Mysore Palace
The Mysore maharaja’s palace in Mysore, Karnataka is one of the most attractive palaces and fascinating monuments you can visit in India. This palace was the residence of the Wodeyar family who ruled the pre-independence state of Mysore after the Vijayanagara Empire. The Mysore palace is three storied with a length of 245 ft and breadth of 156 ft. The original palace built from wood accidentally burnt down in 1897. It was rebuilt in 1912 by the twenty fourth Wodeyar. Henry Irwin, a well-known British architect designed this palace in the Indo-Saracenic style. The palace today houses exquisite carvings and art works from all over the world.
7) Qutub Minar
If Taj Mahal is the pride of Agra, Qutub Minar is the pride of Delhi. This wonderful monument was built in three stages. The first stage was built by Qutub-Ud-din Aibak, the first slave king in 1192 AD. This first stage comprised the first storey of the Minar. The second stage consisted of three more storeys built by Iltumish. The monument was damaged in 1322 and was repaired by Mohammad Bin Tughlaq. It was again rebuilt by Firoz Shah Tughlaq in 1368. The word Qutub Minar means ‘axis minaret’. Qutub Minar stands 239 ft tall and was the first Islamic monument in India. It was built in a new style of architecture, which later became famous as the Indo-Islamic style.
8) Red Fort
Red Fort is another monument one must visit when traveling to India. The Red Fort was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan on the banks of Yamuna River. It consists of some of the wonderful creations during the Mughal period such as the Diwan-e-Am (hall for normal audience) and Diwan-e-Khas (hall for special audience). Red Fort is an impressive piece of work and is one of the best pieces of architecture in the world. The Diwan-e-Am is made of sandstone and is covered with shell plaster, giving it an ivory effect. The Diwan-e-Khas is built with white marble. There are two gates to the fort. One is the Lahore gate facing Lahore, and the other is the Delhi Gate.
9) Sun Temple, Konark
The famous Sun temple at Konark, Orissa is a must visit for any tourist who visits India. It was built in the 13th century by King Narasimhadeva for the Sun God. This stone temple is one of the architectural wonders in India. The temple is located on the shores of Bay of Bengal and depicts a magnificent image of the Sun God standing on his stone chariot. The chariot has twelve superbly carved wheels, which represent the twelve months of the year. These wheels have another specialty. They act as sundials and the shadow created by the spokes gives the exact time of the day. The chariot is pulled by seven horses, each representing the seven days of the week. The roof of the temple is made of sandstone and is 30 mts high. The sun temple is the epitome of Orissa’s architectural skills.
10) Taj Mahal
Every tourist knows about Taj Mahal. It is the symbol of eternal love and the Magnus opus of Mughal architecture. It was built by Emperor Shah Jahan (1628-1658) in memory of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal is situated in Agra in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Taj Mahal is built with pietra dura (pieces of stone inlaid in white marble stone). Taj Mahal contains the tombs of both Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Begum. The monument is surrounded by lush green gardens. It has a large pool in front of it, where one can see Taj Mahal’s reflection.
Now that you know of these other historic monuments in India, make sure that the next time you visit India, you visit at least a few of them.