A wise scholar once said that India is a continent masquerading as a country. The words ring true as the country has the most diverse and unique range of various natural and cultural wonders. No wonder India is one of the top countries to have several UNESCO World Heritage sites.
We keep harping on this term – UNESCO World Heritage site. But what does it exactly mean?
Well, a ‘World Heritage Site’ is a landmark or an area that is considered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to be having cultural, historical, or scientific significance, and comes under the legal jurisdiction under international treaties. The most important factor in choosing a world heritage site is the collective interests of humanity.
1.Ajanta and Ellora Caves – Maharashtra
Dating back to the 1st century, Ajanta and Ellora caves at modern-day Aurangabad in Maharashtra used to the home to Buddhist monks during monsoon. Locked up in the caves, these esoteric monks passed their time by sculpting structures and monuments dedicated to the Buddha, Jain, and Hindu deities.
Numerous giant Buddha statues can be found in these caves. The primitive tools that were used for such masterful craftsmanship are still on display at the caves.
2.Bodh Gaya – Bihar
In the city of Gaya in Bihar, there is a famous tree that’s worshipped for centuries. It’s commonly known as the Bodhi tree. It is here that Buddha received enlightenment while being in deep meditation.
Bodh Gaya is the site that hosts the Bodhi tree and the Mahabodhi Temple built by Emperor Asoka in 250 BC. It is the most sacred site for Buddhist devotees.
3.Taj Mahal – Agra
How does one write about the historical monuments of India and not mention the Taj Mahal? One of the Seven Wonders of the World, this famous marble monument in Agra has been the torchbearer of Indian identity to the whole world. To date, tourists throng the place to experience the beauty and grandeur of the Taj. Every year, the footfall count reaches 8 million visitors from around the world. This marvellous monument was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Begum between 1631 and 1648.
The spectacular architecture, the Quranic inscriptions, the giant arches and domes designed with precious stones, and the minars (towers) all glisten in a golden hue under the fading light at sunset. It’s truly a sight to behold!
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4.Khajuraho Temple Complex – Madhya Pradesh
A manmade wonder of central India, the historical monument complex in Khajuraho is famous for its Nagara-style symbolism and erotic figures and sculptures.
Built around 950-1050 CE, Khajuraho stands witness to India’s elaborate heritage of architecture and sculptures.
5.Rani Ki Vav – Gujarat
One of the masterpieces of Indian architecture, Rani ki Vav is the name of a step-well situated in Patan, Gujarat. The historic monument is renowned for its series of stepped corridors, stone carvings, sculptures, and carved walls that lead into the pool where the Gurjar queen, Udayamati, would bathe.
Rani ki Vav, which roughly translates to the queen’s step-well, also holds spiritual significance as the structure resembles an inverted temple.
Built in the 13th century, the Nalanda University is one of the oldest universities in the world. At its peak, the university was considered to be the hub of academic studies in Asia and many scholars would come to study from the distant lands of China, Mongolia, and South-East Asia.
With special emphasis on Vedic philosophy, Nalanda hosted the world’s first residential university where a culture of equality prevailed among local and foreign students. You can still visualize the vastness of Nalanda standing in its ruins of shrines, viharas (campuses), stupas, and sculptures.
7.Jantar Mantar – Jaipur
Raja Man Singh of Rajputana was an astronomy aficionado. In the 18th century, the king decreed the development of two complexes hosting massive astronomical instruments that would accurately locate the co-ordinates of the moon, stars, and planets.
These complexes with huge instruments, made of plaster of Paris, granite, and sandstone, were aptly named Jantar Mantar (the wonder machines) were propped up in Delhi and Jaipur. The one in Jaipur is more popular and includes the largest sundial in the world, equatorial systems calculator, and giant compasses for tracking celestial movements.
8.Hampi Monument Complex – Karnataka
In ancient times, the Vijaynagara Empire was the centre of trade in South Asia. The Vijayanagara kings built an elaborate temple-cum-market complex by the River Tungabhadra. The austere monument complex consists of structures with stunning architecture and sculpting.
The site holds prime significance as it’s the last-standing testimony of the Vijaynagara. The ruins speak volumes about the craftsmanship and aesthetic values of the artisans of Vijaynagara kingdom.
9.Sanchi Monuments – Madhya Pradesh
Renowned for its monolithic pillars and monasteries, the Sanchi Stupa (monument) is a testimony to India’s contribution in spreading the words of the Buddha and the craftsmanship of Indian sculptors and architects.
The oldest stone structures of India, the Sanchi monument complex was commissioned by Mauryan emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century. The highlight of this World Heritage site is the Ye Dharma Hetu inscriptions which talks about the ethics and values of Buddhism and humanity.
10.Red Fort – Delhi
Once the sanctum of the Mughal powerhouse, the Red Fort stands as the most famous historical monument, situated in the Indian capital. With architectural influences from the Islamic and Persian houses of craftsmen, the Red Fort is made as a defence fortress with red sandstone.
The centre of the Mughal Empire holds numerous buildings such as hall of public audience, hall of courtesans, pavilions, stables for horses and elephants, mosques, courtyards, gardens, pools, and a passage to the River Yamuna.
Adding more and more feathers to its already elaborate cap of heritage, India has seen a major upheaval in the travel and tourism industry. The country’s rich and diverse history has been attracting travellers from around the world for ages. Now, the footfall is higher than ever. We wish to welcome you to this incredible land as there are so many attractive holiday destinations in India.