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10 Places you must visit to unravel India's rich history

10 Places you must visit to unravel India's rich history

By Aquib Nawab

13 Jun, 2024

India is a country with an ancient and varied past that spanned thousands of years. You will find such architectural wonders, ancient relics, and historic sites all over this great and diverse continent, which opens a window into history. Exploring these iconic destinations will allow you to trace the footsteps of kings and queens, marvel at sophisticated prehistoric engineering, and soak up millennia of culture and spirituality.

To truly immerse yourself in India’s rich tapestry of history, make sure you include these extraordinary historical sites on your itinerary:

Taj Mahal: A tribute by an emperor to love

Taj Mahal, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, situated in Agra, is probably India’s most recognizable monument. Shah Jahan, a Mughal emperor, had it built as a mausoleum for his beloved late wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

The magnificent white marble structure embodies elements from Persian, Ottoman, Indian, and Islamic architecture. Do not miss witnessing its grandeur emerging from the Yamuna River banks; therefore, visit it early in the morning or late in the afternoon when changing daylight reflects different colors from its transparent marble.

Credits: Canva

Varanasi: An ancient sacred city

On the banks of the Ganga lies Varanasi, which is one of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism. The bustling city displays winding streets filled with ornate temples, along with stone bathing ghats lining its riverbanks.

For thousands of years, Hindus have been coming here to bathe in the sacred waters of Ganga and perform funeral rites along these ghats. Go for a boat ride at dawn to see daily rituals unfolding in a timeless setting.

Credits: Canva 

Ajanta and Ellora Caves: A stone-carved sculptural masterpiece

The caves are located in Maharashtra- Ajanta & Ellora contain breathtaking examples of ancient Indian art and architecture carved out from solid volcanic rock. On the other hand, Ellora Caves house Hindu, Jain and Buddhist cave temples which were built between the 6th & 10th centuries CE that include the famous Kailasa temple - carved out of a single rock. At Ajanta there are about 30 caves, dating back to the second century BCE with intricate paintings and sculptures of Buddhism.

Credits: Canva 

Hampi: The capital lost of a vanished empire

Up in northern Karnataka, Hampi is an impressive collection of ruins that served as the medieval capital of the Vijayanagara Empire until its fall to invaders in 1565. The site covers over twenty-five square kilometers and is littered with many ancient monuments that provide insights into the riches and power once possessed by this empire.

Noteworthy are Virupaksha Temple, a still-functioning pilgrimage center, and Vittala Temple, featuring an iconic stone chariot, elephant stables, and an expanse of large rocks along the Tungabhadra River.

Credits: Canva 

Fatehpur Sikri: An abandoned Mughal city

Fatehpur Sikri was built by Akbar in the 16th century and functioned as the Mughal Empire’s capital for approximately fifteen years before being deserted due to a lack of sufficient water supply.

This remarkably intact fortified city offers visitors insights into life during Mughal imperial rule through its palaces, courts, mosques, and ornamental buildings. Do not miss Panch Mahal, a five-story structure with different pyramid-shaped designs.

Credits: Canva 

Amer Fort: The splendor of rajputs in Jaipur

It was constructed in the 16th century by Rajput rulers, sprawling over a hillside near Jaipur. This impressive fortified palace is the most famous example of Rajput architecture, which includes vast marble palaces, temples, gardens, and courtyards enclosed within its fortified walls.

Explore the intricate Sheesh Mahal palace of mirrors, the lovely Diwan-i-Khas hall, and the Sukh Niwas cooling system. An unforgettable arrival can be made by riding an elephant up to the entrance.

Credits: Canva 

Mahabalipuram: Seashore temples and rock-cut caves

The coastal town of Mahabalipuram has UNESCO-listed monuments carved out of rock facing the Bay of Bengal. At this site, you will find surviving examples of 7th and 8th century Pallava Dynasty stone temples and carvings, including the Descent of the Ganges waterfall, which is a dramatic relief done on a rocky outcrop.

The interesting Shore Temple, cut into rock, features shrines built to mimic woodwork with nice curves.

Credits: Canva 

Khajuraho group of monuments: Marvels in temple architecture

Madhya Pradesh’s Khajuraho temples, dating from the 10th and 12th centuries, constitute one of the world’s greatest assemblages of medieval Hindu and Jain temples. These temples are renowned for their elaborate sculptures made from stones that depict gods, goddesses, mythical creatures, and even erotic scenes representing cosmic orders on earth. Due to their remote location, these beautiful temples have remained unspoiled throughout time.

Credits: Canva 

Meenakshi Amman Temple: Tall columns and colorful shrines

Situated in Madurai's vibrant pilgrimage city is the Meenakshi Amman Temple, devoted to the goddess Meenakshi, believed to be an incarnation of Parvati. Step through any one of the twelve towering gopuram entrances into a lively complex incorporating fourteen towers encrusted with various figures in different colors, pillared halls, and holy tanks with more than 33,000 sculptures. There are intricately carved columns lining the hallways, including some as tall as fifteen meters.

Credits: Canva 

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park: High-altitude mosques and Hindu Temples

Spread over grassy hills and plains in Gujarat, this extensive UNESCO World Heritage Site contains fortifications, palaces, and temples built by Hindu and Muslim rulers between the 8th and 14th centuries. The main attraction is Kalika Mata Temple, located on top of Pavagadh Hill, which is 800 meters high, where Hindus make pilgrimages on foot. Right next to this is the well-preserved Islamic capital city of Champaner, where you can go up mosque minarets to see panoramic views.

Credits: Canva 

Stay in a hostel for maximum cultural immersion

For an ultimate India experience, opt for hostels rather than traditional hotels when visiting its destinations. This will enable you to meet other people who are traveling like you and local people, thereby making new friends or travel mates, as well as getting informed about customs and attractions by experienced residents.

Choose a hostel that offers cultural activities like cooking classes, yoga lessons, language exchanges, walking tours, and movie nights showcasing Bollywood films, among others. By staying in one of such places, it means that your journey becomes local. From here on out, you will view India’s incredible history through her modern-day culture. India has more historical wonders than anywhere else on earth!

Explore these architectural wonders along with ancient sites to bring alive the rich cultural legacy and traditions of India. Which of these amazing historical marvels would be featured on your bucket list?

Let us now embark on the journey into India’s glorious past!

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