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India is such a diverse land. There is an amalgamation of different cultures, traditions and religions and this is what makes us so unique. The diversity of the country is the feature that attracts millions of foreign tourists each year.
Talk about the cultural diversity and rich heritage of the country and you cannot miss the monuments of India. From temples to forts, palaces to museums, there is so much to explore that people often spend months in just a particular region.
Top Monuments in India
Red Fort – New Delhi
One of the most prominent buildings of Old Delhi, Red Fort has been the seat of the Mughal empire for more than 200 years. It was built as the fortified palace of Shahjahanabad capital of the fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1648. The name translated to Lal Quila and it is derived from its red sandstone walls. Since it was the residence of the royal family, it was also referred to as ‘Quila-i-Mubarak’.
On 15th August each year the prime minister of India hoists the national flag at the main gate. A sound and light show is held each evening. It depicts the entire history and is a favorite of many tourists. It is one of the largest monuments of Delhi and attracts thousands of domestic and international tourists.
The epitome of love – Taj Mahal is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his loving wife Mumtaz Mahal, this mausoleum is located in the heart of Agra city. It is considered the finest example of Mughal architecture. Each year millions of travelers and tourists visit this famous monument. It has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage list as well.
The construction of Taj Mahal commenced in 1632 and as completed in 1653. The white marble dome, minarets, well landscaped lush green gardens and water fountains are all a part of the Taj Mahal complex.
Watch this rare video by the Taj Mahal from inside!
Qutub Minar – New Delhi
A prominent monument in the Delhi skyline is the famous Qutub Minar. It was built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din Aibak. It is a fine example of traditional Mughal architecture. The tower has five distinct storeys, each marked by a projecting balcony and tapers from a 15 m diameter at the base to just 2.5 m at the top. The first three storeys are made of red sandstone, the fourth and fifth storeys are made of marble and sandstone.
Also in the complex is a 7 meter high iron pillar known as Ashoka Pillar. It is said that if you can encircle it with your hands while standing with your back to it your wish will be fulfilled.
Golden Temple – Amritsar
Harmandir Sahib, which is also known as Golden Temple is one of the most important gurudwaras of the country. It is also known as Darbar Sahib and was built by the fourth Sikh guru, Guru Ramdaas Sahib Ji, in the 16th century. It was in 1604 when Guru Arun completed the Adi Granth (the sacred text of Sikhism) and installed it in the gurudwara premises. The gleam of the tomb is a thing that needs to be seen to be believed. The holiest text of Sikhism, the Guru Granth Sahib is always present inside the gurdwara. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Amritsar city and attracts people from different parts of the country and the world.
The Jama Masjid of Old Delhi is the largest mosque of the country. The mosque was built by the great Mughal ruler – Shah Jahan between 1644 and 1658. It has three great gates, four towers and two 40 meter high minarets constructed of strips of red sandstone and white marble. The pillars are inscribed with verses from the Holy Koran. It is a fine example of Mughal stature and grandeur.
It is a very popular tourist attraction of the national capital. The intricate carvings, the magnificent structure and the typical Mughal architecture are the highlights of the mosque. The main courtyard of the mosque is big enough to accommodate 25, 000 devotees. The mighty Red Fort, stands at the eastern end of the Jama Masjid.
Humayun’s Tomb – New Delhi
A shining example of Mughal architecture, Humayun’s Tomb is a popular tourist attraction of the national capital. The tomb was built in 1565 A.D. nine years after the death of Humayun, by his senior widow Bega Begam. It is a garden tomb and the complex encloses gardens, water fountains and a centrally located well proportional mausoleum topped by double dome.
India Gate – New Delhi
India Gate is the soul identity of the national capital. From children to oldies, everyone loves to spend a breezy evening in the lawns of India Gate.
The 42 meters high India Gate commemorates the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during the World War I. The memorial bears the names of more than 13,516 British and Indian soldiers killed in the Northwestern Frontier in the Afghan war of 1919. It is an archway which stands on a low base made of Red Bharatpur stone.
The foundation stone was laid by His Royal Highness, the Duke of Connaught in 1921 and it was designed by Edwin Lutyens. The Amar Jawan Jyoti became a part of monument after India’s independence. The eternal flame burns day and night under the arch to remind the nation of soldiers who laid down their lives in the India – Pakistan war of 1971.
Gateway of India – Mumbai
Think of Mumbai, think of Gateway of India. The monument is a perfect blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture. It was built to celebrate the visit of King George V and his consort Queen Mary, to Mumbai on their way to the Delhi Durbar in the winter of 1911. Built in Indo-Saracenic style, the foundation stone for the Gateway of India was laid on 31 March 1911.
Situated at the water’s edge of Mumbai harbor, Gateway of India is an imposing and alluring structure. The 26 meters high structure has become the identity of Mumbai city.
Ellora Caves – Aurangabad
Just 29km from Aurangabad in Maharashtra are the spectacular Ellora Caves. These caves are a world heritage site and are the epitome of rock cut architecture. Ellora is also world famous for the largest single monolithic excavation in the world, the great Kailasa. Ellora is particularly known for is Hindu, Buddhist and Jain cave temples that date back to the 6th century. The best time to visit the caves is during the monsoon. The cool breeze and the streams of water here and there add to the beauty of the caves. Watch a secret tunnel under the Ellora Caves!
Victoria Memorial – Kolkata
Victoria Memorial is the identity of Kolkata. This architectural wonder is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Kolkata city. It was Lord Curzon’s brainchild. This fantastic memorial was built for the Empress of India and Queen Victoria after her death.
The foundation stone of the monument was laid in 1906. It holds numerous paintings of the British royal family, miniature paintings, oil paintings, artifacts and other objects.
Located on the banks of Lake Pichola, City Palace is an architectural masterpiece. It is one of the finest palaces of Udaipur city and was built nearly 400 years ago. It is in fact the largest palace complex of the state of Rajasthan. Built on a hilltop in true Mughal and Rajasthani architecture, the palace gives a panoramic view of the entire city and Lake Pichola as well.
The palace complex has been built entirely in granite and marble. The interiors of the palace complex with its balconies, towers and cupolas exhibit delicate mirror-work, marble-work, murals, wall paintings, silver-work, inlay-work and leftover of colored glass. It is certainly a must visit when in Udaipur. The palace attracts thousands of domestic as well as international travelers each year.
Charminar – Hyderabad
Charminar is the global icon of Hyderabad city. It was built in 1591 and is one of the most popular monuments of the region. Char Minar which literally translates to ‘Four Towers’ is situated on the east banks of Musi River. To the west of Char Minar lies the very popular Laad Bazaar.
The monument and mosque was built by Mohammed Quli Qutab Shah. He built the Charminar to mark the end of plague in the Hyderabad city. A small mosque adorns the top floor of the Charminar. This mosque is situated on the western side of the Charminar facing Mecca, the holy city of the Muslims. It is also believed that this is the oldest surviving mosque in Hyderabad city.
Amber Fort – Jaipur
Amer Fort and Palace was originally built by Raja Man Singh in 1592 and subsequently developed by Sawai Jai Singh. The fort is situated in small town of Amer, just 1km from Jaipur. Located high on a hill, Amber Fort is built in marble and red sandstone. It is standing example of the royal past of the region. Although the exteriors have a rugged look, but the interiors of the fort are still in great shape. It can be rightly said that Amber Fort is an integral part of the unique identity of Jaipur.
Sun Temple – Konark
This 13th century monument at Konark in Odisha is a World Heritage Site. It is a sun temple which is also referred to as Black Pagoda. Built by king Narasimhadeva I of Eastern Ganga Dynasty around 1250, the temple is in the shape of an ornamented chariot. Although a large part of the temple complex is now in ruins, but it is still a standing example of finesse and superior architecture.
The design of the temple was conceived as a gigantic solar chariot with twelve pairs of exquisitely-ornamented wheels dragged by seven rearing horses. The temple got its name of Black Pagoda from sailors as it was a reference for them.
Take a closer look at the history of the Sun Temple Konark!
Falaknuma Palace – Hyderabad
One of the finest palaces of the country, Falaknuma Palace is class personified. It once belonged to Paigah Hyderabad state and was later handed over to the Nizams. Falaknuma means ‘Like the sky’ or ‘Mirror of sky’ in Urdu. It was built by Nawab Vikar-ul-Umra. Spread on a sprawling 32 acre area, the property is a rare blend of Italian and Tudor architecture. The stained glass windows throw a spectrum of color into the rooms. The lush green gardens, majestic architecture and grandeur speak volumes about the rich past of the region.
In 2000 Taj Group of Hotels started renovating and restoring the palace and was converted into a luxury hotel in 2010. The palace has a 101-seat dining hall, considered the largest in the world.
Ujjayanta Palace – Agartala
Ujjayanta Palace is the royal palace of Tripura and is situated in the capital of the state, Agartala. It is believed that the palace got its name from none other than Rabindranath Tagore. It was constructed between 1899 and 1901 by then Tripura king, Maharaja Radha Kishore Manikya.
The palace was the meeting place of Tripura Legislative Assembly and has now been turned into a museum. The museum showcases the lifestyle, arts, culture, tradition and utility crafts, beside the customs and practices of various communities residing in northeast India. It is the largest palace of north east India and a must see when you visit the area.
Khajuraho Group of Monuments – Khajuraho
The famous Khajuraho Group of Monuments is a group of Hindu and Jain temples in Madhya Pradesh attract millions of domestic and international tourists. The temples are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temples signify acceptance of both Hinduism and Jainism. A large part of the temples were built between 950 and 1050 AD. The intricate details, ancient art and expressiveness of the sculptures are the main highlight of the temples.
They are famous for their Nagara style architectural symbolism and erotic sculptures. Experts say that by the 12th century there were more than 85 temples. Today only 20 of them survive.
Mysore Palace – Mysore
Mysore Palace which is also known as Amba Vilas Palace is one of the most prominent palaces of south India. Located in Mysore city which is also known as the city of palaces, it is a magnificent palace.
The palace is the official residence and seat of Wodeyars — the Maharajas of Mysore, the former royal family of Mysore, who ruled the princely state of Mysore from 1399 to 1950. The palace complex has two ceremonial halls, courtyards, gardens and small buildings. It is one of the most visited monuments of the country after Taj Mahal and an estimated 3 million people visit it annually.
Take a closer look at the private hall of Mysore Palace!
Gwalior Fort – Gwalior
One of the prime tourist attractions of the country, Gwalior Fort or Gwalior Qila is located in the heart of Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. It consists of a defensive structure and two main palaces, Gurjari Mahal and Man Mandir. Spread over an area of 3 km, it is surrounded by sandstone walls. The Fort was built by Man Singh Tomar in the 15th century.
The grandeur of the fort needs to be seen to be believed. Today the fort is an archeological museum. The Gwalior fort encloses three temples, six palaces and numerous water tanks.
Golconda Fort – Hyderabad
Situated just 11km from Hyderabad city, Golconda is a ruined fort. The entire complex has four forts, eight gateways and a large number of temples, mosques and stables. With walls ranging from 17 to 34 feet broken by 87 semi-circular bastions, some reaching 60 feet in height, and built on a granite hill that is 400 feet high, it remains one of India’s most magnificent fortress complexes. The entire fort is spread over 11 km. Today, even after almost 800 years, the fort still stands as one of Hyderabad’s greatest architectural wonders.
Think of Rajputana opulence and you cannot miss the mighty Kumbalgarh Fort. It is one of the largest forts in India. The fort is a World Heritage Site and is included in Hill Forts of Rajasthan by UNESCO. The fort was built by Rana Kumbha during 15th century. Kumbalgarh is the birthplace of Maharana Pratap. It is the most sought after forts in Mewar after Chittorgarh Fort. The fort wall extends to 36 km, which makes it the second largest wall after ‘Great Wall of China’. The fort is lit up for a little while each day after sunset and one should not miss that sight. The beauty and grandeur of the fort talk about the rich past and culture of Rajasthan.
Hawa Mahal is an integral part of the identity of Jaipur. It is in fact one of the most popular tourist attractions of the pink city. Hawa Mahal literally translates to ‘Palace of Winds’. It is a high screen wall that was built for the women of the royal family. The women could stay unseen and still witness the activities and festivities of the city. The palace is made with red and pink sandstone and is located at the edge of the City Palace. It was built during 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh.
The unique 5 storeyed structure looks similar to the honeycomb of a beehive. The structure rise 50 meters from its base. The numerous jharokas or windows are the highlight of the structure. There are more than 950 small windows with intricate detailing.
Brihadeeshara Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is situated in the beautiful city of Thanjavur in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the largest temples of India. Brihadeeshwara temple was built by emperor Raja Raja Chola I and the construction was completed in 1010 AD.
It is also referred to as Rajrajeshwar temple, Periya Kovil and Big Temple. The temple is a part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is popularly known as the ‘Great Living Chola Temples’. The entire temple is constructed in superior quality granite.
The temple complex is a fine example of the glorious past of the region. The vimanam (temple tower) is 216 ft. high. This makes it one of the tallest temples towers in the world. There is a gigantic statue of Nandi (the holy bull) at the entrance. The statue is carved out of a single stone.
Sanchi Stupa is one of the oldest stone structures in India. It is also one of the most famous Buddhist monuments in our country. There are many Buddhist monuments in Sanchi, but Sanchi Stupa is the most famous. These monuments date back to 3rd and 12th century. Sanchi has now been listed under world heritage sites by UNESCO.
It is believed that Emperor Asoka was the brain behind all the stupas in Sanchi. These monuments are dedicated to Lord Budhha. Sanchi Stupa is carved out of a semi-circular rock and is home to the relics of Lord Buddha. The dome shaped structure is 16.5 meters tall and 36 meters in diameter. The gateway to the stupa with intricate architecture is also the highlight of the structure.
Meenakshi Amman Temple
One of the most famous temples and places to visit in Tamil Nadu, Meenakshi Amman Temple is an architectural marvel. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Parvati (also referred to as Meenakshi) and his consort Lord Shiva. It is one of the most visited temples in southern India after Tirupati.
The architecture and detailed carvings are the highlights of the temple. The temple houses 14 gopurams (gateway towers) that range between 45 – 50 meters. It is believed that an estimated 33,000 sculptures are placed in the temple. The central shrine of Meenakshi Amman temple and her consort Sundareswarar are surrounded by three enclosures. Each of the particular enclosure is protected by four minor towers. The most important festival celebrated in the temple is Meenakshi Thirukalyanam, ‘wedding of Meenakshi’. The festival is celebrated in April each year.
Watch the evening aarti at Meenakshi Amman Temple!