Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Top Historical Places of India



Being one of the oldest cultures in the world, India is rich in culture and heritage. This fact is visible in tons of monuments, their ruins, buildings, temples, forts, palaces, tombs and caves all across India. 


This also makes India an irresistible historic travel destination. We present to you some of the most fabulous monuments and historical places! Take a journey to the past and enjoy traveling the length and breadth of this vast landmass to have an experience unparalleled. 

Taj Mahal, Agra

History & Culture


The architecture of Taj Mahal is considered to be the most stunning masterpieces of the world. Shah Jahan built the wonderful Taj Mahal, as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal means ‘Crown of the palace’.

It is situated in Agra in the state of Uttar Pradesh. River Yamuna once flowed besides this beautiful monument; today it is almost dry. Beautiful and lush green gardens surround the Taj Mahal. The reflection of the Taj Mahal can be seen in the waters of the large pool in front of it.

The Taj Mahal continues to astonish tourists with its marvelous carvings, jewelry and faultless symmetry. It is built on a platform, each side being 100m long. There are four minarets, one at each corner of this platform. The huge dome of the Taj is perfectly shaped. Designs created with pietra dura (pieces of stone inlaid in marble) decorate the walls of the Taj, its interior has beautiful marble screens.

It was designed by Shiraz, an Iranian Architect. Over 20,000 men were employed for its construction. It started in 1632 and took over twenty years to complete. When Shah Jahan died, he was buried next to Mumtaz Mahal.

This World Heritage site is thronged by thousands of visitors from all over the world and remains as one of the most astonishing pieces of architecture in the world.



Khajuraho Temples

Khajuraho


This temple town in the state of Madhya Pradesh is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is famous for its endlessly intriguing erotic sculptures. Equally intriguing for the modern mind is the way this celebration of the carnal is tied to the austere Jain religion, though many temples are also Hindu by denomination.

Khajuraho was the first capital of the Chandelas, who ruled Bundelkhand from the 10th to the 14th centuries. The Chandelas abided by the Tantric tenets: working inward from the erotic to the purely spiritual sanctums.

The name of Khajuraho finds its origin from the Khajur tree (the date palm tree) which can be found in plenty in this region. Khajuraho originally consisted of 85 temples of which only 22 exist today. Khajuraho temples were constructed over a period of hundred years from the mid 9th century to the early 12th century. These temples are built in the Nagara type of architecture. Each temple is dissimilar from the others temples in its own way. The temples give us a glimpse of the golden era of Indian art and architecture.

The Khajuraho temples are very different from the normal temples in India - religion, deities and worshipping is not the essence of these temples. It is also about admiring the stunning architecture, sculpture and art of that period.

These wonderful temples lay abandoned and susceptible to the forces of nature. These magnificent temples were restored and revived in 19th century. It is India’s second most favorite tourists spot next to Taj Mahal.



Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Aurangabad

Aurangabad
The World Heritage sites of Ajanta and Ellora (near Aurangabad, Maharashtra) have rock-cut caves, hewn into the Sahyadri hills over 2,000 years ago by Buddhist monks. They contain some of the finest murals and sculptures India has ever produced.

Most of the beautiful cave temples at Ajanta were built during the Gupta period. There are beautiful murals (paintings done on walls) in the caves, depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha. The caves are carved in the form of a Chaitya.

Ellora houses 34 caves out of which 12 caves are Buddhists, 17 Hindus and the rest are Jains. They are fine examples of how various religions co-exist in vicinity. The Chaityas and Viharas set in these caves were retreat to many Buddhist monks.

Ellora also has the 8th-century Kailashnath Temple, a freestanding monolith carved topdown out of mountain rock. The temple depicts scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The architecture of the Kailasa temple is breathtaking.

Impressive figures were carved out on the walls of these caves with the help of simple tools like chisels and hammer. Amidst various images and beautiful paintings there are also sculptures of calm and tranquil Buddha. Ajanta and Ellora caves portray the harmony between Hindu, Buddhist and Jainism through its sculptures.

These cave temples richly ornamented with sculpture and carved with paintings of exceptional skill is a must visit to understand the splendor which ancient Indian artisans possessed. 




Sun Temple, Konark

   Request a Quote for Orissa Tour     Sun Temple Konark - Acknowledged as one of India's architectural marvels


The Sun temple in Konark in the state of Orissa was built by King Narasimhadeva in 13th century. This magnificent temple to Surya, the Sun God, is one of India’s architectural wonders and a UNESCO World Heritage.

Built on the shores of the Bay of Bengal in Orissa, its main image is a superb statue of the sun god standing on his chariot. Twelve superbly carved wheels, each representing a month of the year and seven stone horses, representing the days of the week, pull the sun god in his journey across the skies. The temple is covered with exquisite sculptures of beautiful maidens, erotic couples, dancers, deities and animals. It is a magnum opus of Orissa’s architectural grandeur. The drive along the seashore from the temple town of Puri to Konark is delightful.

The wheels of the chariot at the base of the temple are the main attraction of the Sun Temple. The shadow created by the spokes of the wheel act as sundials and gives the exact time of the day. The roof of the temple which is pyramid shaped is made from sandstone and is about 30m in height.

The temple walls are adorned with floral, geometrical, human, animal, divine and semi divine figures. Pair of monolithic elephants and horses depicts the dynamism of medieval sculpture.

This temple is also referred as the Black Pagoda, since it was built in black granite. The Sun temple looks magnificent even in its ruined state. Only a personal visit to Konark gives a clear picture of the imposing yet exquisite temple.



Dravidian Monuments at Hampi

Hampi


The World Heritage site of Hampi, set in a landscape of rocks and waterways, holds the evocative ruins of magnificent temples and palaces that testify to the wealth and power of medieval Vijayanagar Empire. Located in the state of Karnataka, Hampi was the capital of the three generations of Hindu rulers. Krishnadeva Raya and Achyta Raya were the most illustrious rulers.

Especially impressive are the Virupakasha temple with a towering spire, the Vittala temple with its carved stone chariot and musical pillars, the 6.7 m tall monolith statue of Narasimha, Vishnu’s half man and half lion incarnation and the Royal Centre which has the 14th century Mahanavami Dibba, a massive platform of rough-hewn masonry but superb carving.

What we see today in Hampi are the ruins of magnificent monuments. Hampi was pillaged by the Deccan Muslim rulers in 1565 for over a period of 6 months before it was abandoned.

The rich Vijayanagar rulers built the beautiful Vitthalswami and Hazara Rama Temples. The temples are adorned with beautiful sculptures. The ruin of the Vitthalswami Temple is dedicated to the incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The stone chariot outside the Vittlaswami temple is a shrine dedicated to Vishnu’s mount Garuda. Purandra Dasara Mantapa another monument in the vicinity is also worth visiting.

The Virupaksha Temple is dedicated to one of the forms of Lord Shiva. Malyavanta Raghunathaswamy temple reflects the Dravidian form of art and architecture. Its walls are opulently decorated with sculptures of marine animals and beautiful artworks. Its architecture has won the admiration of travelers in the past and present alike.

The house of victory for where the Kings would view the Dassera celebration is an exemplary piece of sophisticated sculpture. Do not miss the Hazara Ramaswami Temple, Elephant Stables and the exceptional Queen’s bath.

The grandiosity and austerity of this place can be understood only by visiting.



Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi

Sanchi


Sanchi is home to the most famous and oldest Buddhist Stupa in the world. Now, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. Dotted around the Sanchi stupa are monasteries, temples and pillars, which are fine examples of classical art.

The great King Ashoka realized wars don’t pay; he embraced Buddhism and was influential in its spread from South Asia. Ashoka built a large number of Stupas, such as the Great Stupa at Sanchi. Stupas are dome-shaped monuments built on the Buddha’s relics (remains, like hair and teeth that are held sacred).

The carvings on these stupas illustrate the events of Buddha’s life. The supremacy of Buddhist artwork in the form monasteries, chaitya and stupas makes Sanchi a pilgrimage centre of Buddhists. Ironically, Buddha had never visited this place in his lifetime.

The diameter of the Sanchi Stupa is 108 ft. and it was built in ancient times. It is the largest stupa in India and the oldest existing Buddhist memorial.

During Ashoka’s reign, numerous monolithic pillars were produced. The Ashoka pillar at Sanchi was carved out of a single piece of rock. These have decorative tops, called capitals, bearing beautifully carved animal figures.

The lion capital and the wheel found on the Ashokan pillars are of special significance to Indians. The lion capital is printed on the Indian Currency and Indian documents. The wheel also appears on the Indian national flag.

Visit Sanchi to delve into the real realm of Buddhism and experience the ambience of Sanchi along with its succoring beauty which remains unrivaled.



Qutub Minar and Red Fort, Delhi







Qutub Minar, a UNESCO World Heritage monument, is a fine example of Indo-Islamic architecture.

The construction of Qutub Minar was started by Qutub-ud-din Aibak. However, the construction was completed by Iltumish, his son-in-law in 1232 A.D. Qutub Minar is 990 ft high and is the tallest minaret in the world.

Qutub Minar has five floors; each floor has a projecting balcony. Every floor displays beautiful carvings. Climbing the Minar is a wonderful experience. It consists of 378 steps; the apex of the tower gives you a bird’s eye view of Delhi.

Matching the grandiosity of Qutub Minar is the Red Fort in Delhi. Built in red stone by Shah Jahan on the banks of the river Yamuna, it consists of Diwan-e-Am, Diwan-e-Khas and other wonderful creations. It is one of the most wonderful pieces of architecture in the world. The entrance to the fort is through the Lahore Gate, which faces Lahore, as the name implies.

The Diwan-e-Am was the hall for the public audience. Although made of sandstone it is covered with shell plaster which gives it the ivory effect. The Diwan-e-Khas was meant for the private audience. It is built of white marble and consists of intricately carved columns. Magnificently ornamented with flowers and other stones, the Peacock Throne once the adorned the Diwan-e-Khas, unfortunately it was carried away by Nadir Shah in 1739 to Iran.

The Qutub Minar and Red Fort are mementos which reminds us about the grandeur of the past era. History buffs must pay a visit to both these historical places to see the way in which calligraphy, geometric patterns and floral motifs were used in decoration. 





Buddhist Temples at Bodh Gaya

Bodh Gaya


Bodh Gaya is the birthplace of Buddhism. Buddhists from all over the world are drawn to Bodh Gaya in the state of Bihar. This is the place where Lord Buddha gained enlightenment over 2,500 years ago and founded the religion based on compassion, reason and universal truths, shorn of ritual and superstition.

The Bodhi tree, under which he is said to have found the answers he was seeking after a long and hard meditation, is the core of the Mahabodhi Mahavihara Temple Complex, now a World Heritage site. The Mahabodhi temple has Jataka stories engraved on its walls.

Surrounding the complex are monasteries built by various Buddhist countries, in their own architectural styles. Several Buddhists temples and monasteries have been built by the people from China, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bhutan, Vietnam, Tibet, Japan and Thailand around the Mahabodhi Mahavihara Temple complex. The Chinese temple has a 200 year old statue of Buddha. The Japanese and Burmese temple is shaped like a pagoda and the Thai Temple has a fantastic bronze state of the Buddha.

About 80 km from Bodh Gaya is Rajgir; there are remains of places associated with the Buddha such as the Gridhrakuta Hill, where he delivered sermons, or Venuvan, the tranquil bamboo grove near the hot springs he used to frequent.

Come, pay a visit and experience peace and tranquility at Bodh Gaya and enrich your mind and soul.





Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka

Bhimbetka Rock Shelters, Bhimbetka


The Rock shelters of Bhimbetka have over 700 rock shelters out of which 400 have paintings. Situated in the foothills of the Vindhya Mountains, the paintings displayed belong to the Mesolithic period. There is a strong resemblance between the inhabitants of the adjacent villages and those depicted in the rock paintings.

The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka was discovered accidentally by archaeologist Dr. Vishnu Wakankar in 1957-58.

The dense forests which cover the Rock Shelter have protected the rock paintings from being ruined by the quirk of nature. The paintings are done in red and white with the use of green and yellow occasionally. The theme of these paintings is obtained from everyday events. Hunting, animal fights, dancing, honey collection, masks, beautification of bodies, disguises, horse and elephant riders are portrayed in the paintings. Some of the animals that have been depicted in the paintings are tiger, rhinoceros, bison, antelopes, peacocks and elephants.

Manganese, soft red stone, wooden charcoal and hematite have been used to make colours. Possibly animals fat and leaf extracts were used in making the mixture.

Based on the type of tools used in rock paintings, the rock shelters of Bhimbetka display the chronological evolution of prehistoric man. Bhimbetka is filled with natural art and is a great source of joy for archaeologist. These outstanding paintings can be found even on the ceilings of rock shelters which are at frightening heights.

Travel to Bhimbetka, another World Heritage site to view the largest collection of pre-historic cave paintings. The trip promises an opening of your mind.



Elephanta Caves, Mumbai 





Elephanta caves, situated on Gharapuri Islands 15 miles from the Gateway of India in Mumbai, dates back to 6th century A.D. It is famous for the statues of Shiva and Parvati. The most striking statue of Trimurti, Shiva in the three moods as the Creator, the Destroyer and the Preserver is a masterpiece by itself.

It was the Portuguese who named the caves The Elephanta caves after the statue of an elephant which is seen close to landing area. Many of the carved figures have been unfortunately destroyed by Portuguese iconoclast. Yet the sublime beauty of these sculptures remains intact. These caves are dedicated to Lord Shiva and consist of affluent sculptures.

These caves were carved out from a single rock. The Elephanta Caves covers an area of approximately 60000 square feet. The cave is filled with beautiful stone carvings of Hindu Gods and Goddess.

Within the cave there are columns, images and internal space. A UNESCO World Heritage site, Elephanta Caves are accessible only by boat. The boat ride not only makes the trip to the Elephanta Caves an interesting experience, but also gives you an idea of the artistic embellishments and unimaginable beauty of the statues.



Group of Monuments at Pattadakal

Badami


The UNESCO World Heritage site of Pattadakal, situated 22 km from Badami, hosts monuments whose architecture showcases India’s old, rich and fabulous culture. The carvings and sculptures provide enough evidence about the vision and prudence of the kings of olden times.

The monuments comprises of a cluster of ten temples, out of which nine are Hindu temples. Four of the temples are constructed in Dravidian style, four in the Nagara style and the Papanatha temple is designed in mixed style.

Pattadakal monuments were built in adulation to Vikramaditya II by his Queen to commemorate his victory over the Pallavas of Kanchi is set amidst pretty lawns.

There are carved scenes on the walls of these temples from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata and friezes of men going into battle, demons and voluptuous goddesses.

Also housed in one corner is a huge Nandi Bull carved out of black stone. If you can, you should be here in the end of January, when a classical dance festival is held.

Though the construction of some temples remained incomplete, they still look attractive and enchanting. Gods, demons and women were pretty much the subject the ancient sculptors adorned. It is amazing, how the whole complex has survived the ravages of time.

A saunter through these structures will reveal how advanced India was in the art of tasteful construction even back in the 7th century. The ruined yet articulate temples of Pattadakal draw domestic as well as foreign tourists.



Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram

Mahabalipuram

The UNESCO World Heritage site at Mahabalipuram dates back to the 7th century when it was a thriving port of the Pallava Empire. This site is also called Mamallapuram, named after the great wrestler Mamalla, the title of Pallava king Narasimha Varman I. The monuments of Mahabalipuram are well known for rock carvings and monolithic sculptures. These monuments exhibit intricate sculptures and carvings which are evidence to the artisans’ creativity and craftsmanship. 


The biggest attraction of this place is the spectacular Shore Temple. It is surrounded by rows of Nandi bulls looking out to the sea. Located on the Bay of Bengal, this temple was re-built stone by stone after it was washed away by the sea in a cyclone. The Shore temples are also referred as the Seven Pagodas. Out of the seven pagodas, six are submerged in the sea. 


Further inland is another marvel, Arjuna’s Penance, the world’s largest bas-relief panel with over a hundred figures of men, gods and beasts. 


Five beautiful rock-cut shrines offer testimony to the genius of Pallava stone-carvers. An interesting feature of these ratha is that each one of these is carved differently from a huge piece of rock. 


The charm of Mahabalipuram lies not only in its monumental architecture but also in its silvery sand beach, unique handicrafts and stone-carved showpiece that are sold in plenty in the stalls near the shore. 


Visit this magnificent place to view the splendid rock-cut temple architectures and marvelous cave structures. 














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16 comments:

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  2. Uh oh..! I missed the chance to visit Elephanta Caves during my trip to Mumbai. Next time it will not be miss. And a very important thing to do before going to any city please see the Historical Places in India , tourist places in India.

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