If there is any country which is known for its vibrant culture, tradition, heritage and iconic monuments including forts, temples and palaces, then it has to be India. The cultural and architectural impressions left by several dynasties which ruled over the country, are still breathing gloriously in India. Whether it’s about the centuries-old temples which are mysteries to be resolved or medieval Mughal monuments which are a masterpiece of Indo-Islamic architectural style, India is home to some of the most incredibly beautiful monuments.
From North to South, East to West and the Center, India has been adorned with countless monuments sing the praises of its past. Here are the top 6 iconic monuments of India which represent the country on global tourism radar and are visited by the tourists, both locals and foreigners.
1. Taj Mahal (Uttar Pradesh)
This white marble Mughal mausoleum, located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, needs no introduction. Legend has it that this medieval Mughal Magnum opus was commissioned by Emperor Shahjahan in the memory of his late wife Mumtaz Mahal and was named after her. It is said that a total of 22,000 labourers, embroidery artists, stonecutters, painters, etc. and it took 22 years to build from 1632 to 1653. It is the most famous monument in the county and is visited by millions of tourists every year. Looked up as a symbol of eternal love, Taj Mahal is described as a teardrop on the cheek of eternity by Rabindranath Tagore. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1983, considering it ‘a jewel of Muslim art in India’.
Ajanta Caves is around 100 km from Ellora Caves. Both the caves are among Maharashtra’s widely visited places. Known to be the first Buddhist cave monuments, Ajanta Caves are located in Aurangabad district (Maharashtra). Dating back to 2nd to 1st centuries BC, these caves living specimens of ancient Indian cave art which express emotions using form, pose, gestures etc. The caves are said to have been built in two-phase. Around the 2nd century BCE, the first phase took place while from 400 to 480CE, the second phase took place. As per some records, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was once a shelter for monks during monsoon also resting place for pilgrims and merchants. Ajanta Caves are a fine example of surviving ancient Indian wall painting art form. A group of around 30 caves, these caves have numbered for identification; however, the numbering doesn’t represent their construction chronology.
These centuries old temples located in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh, were built from 950AD to 1050Ad by the kings of Chandela Dynasty. Initially, till the 12th century, there were a total of 85 temples and at present only 25 temples are present. TS Burt, a British surveyor, rediscovered these temples in the 1830s with the help of local people. Most notably due to their erotic carvings, the temple carvings also represent a lot of themes including battle, human emotions, farmers, musicians, etc. Khajuraho Group of Monuments comprises of temples belonging to Hindu and Jain faith. The temples are divided into three different groups, Western, Eastern and Southern which are located at some distance from each other. These monuments were declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986.
Hampi served as the last capital of Vijayanagar in the 14th century which was one of the greatest Hindu kingdoms. As per the descriptions by European and Persian travellers, Hampi was a wealthy city with lots of temples The striking feature of these temples is impressive Dravidian architecture style depicting Hindu art. During the time of Vijayanagar dynasty, Dravidian architecture was on its peak. The city was looted for more than six months and left abandoned which was conquered in 1565 by the Deccan Muslim confederacy. Spread over in an area of around 41,000 hectares, UNESCO has described this place as ‘austere, grandiose site.’ Located near Hosapete, there are over 1600 surviving remains including sacred complexes, shrines, forts, memorial structures, pillared halls, etc.
Earlier known as Victoria Terminus Station, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is a wonderful masterpiece of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture. Designed by FW Stevens, a British architecture, it took almost 10 years for the monument to be built which started in 1878 and is spread in an area of around 2.85hectares. The construction finished in 1887 which marked Queen Victoria’s 50 years of rules. Though it is built in Gothic style but it also has impressions of Indian palace architecture style such as turrets, stone domes, pointed arches, eccentric ground plan, etc. This monument is a homogeneous mixture of not only two architectural styles but two cultures as well. The Terminus is located on the shores of the Arabian Sea on the Western part. In March 1996, this historic railway station was renamed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in honour of ChhatrapatiShivaji who founded Maratha Empire in the 17th century.
This 13th century sun temple is one of the most iconic monuments of India. Konarka Sun Temple or Konarka Surya Mandir in Hindi is dedicated to Hindu god Surya (Sun). The chariot of Sun along with 24 wheels with six horses has been incredibly decorated. The temple now stands in ruins form however once it used to be around 200 feet in height. The intricate artwork, themes (erotica), iconography, this monument is constructed in Kalinga architecture. According to the mentions of European sailors, this temple was described as Black Pagoda. A major Hindu religion site, the place experiences huge throng of devotees during Chandrabhaga Mela every year in February. Known for its grandeur sculptural work, Konark Sun Temple was built during the rule of Eastern Ganga King Narasimha Deva (1238-64).
No other country highlights such a vivid ethnographical rainbow which has coloured this land. Spread across the country, these top 6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India are the torch-bearer of the country’s ancient art and architecture style which leaves everyone spellbound. The grand monuments, splendid design & decoration, fascinating history behind their existence, etc. communicate a lot about the then culture and heritage. A country which has seen dynasties of different cultural and geographical backgrounds, the monuments standing since centuries are architectural and artistic masterpieces of their time.