Few countries can boast the richness, depth and seemingly infinite history that India possesses. One look at the vastness of her past and you could see a glimpse into greatness itself. This history rivals most other countries who boast something similar.
Millions of people desire to visit India to bask in her rich past and thousands actually realize that dream, enhancing an already booming tourist industry. Check out these top 10 historical locations in India.
1. Ajanta and Ellora Caves
In a secluded location sits the Ajanta and Ellora Caves, a vast undertaking where the hillside rock is carved into the shapes that presently stand there. You can find 34 caves at Ellora, all of which date back to the 6th or 11th century AD. As for Ajanta, you can find 29 caves there dating back to between the 2nd century BC and the 6th century AD.
As you can imagine, the sheer age in these artistic creations is worth touching with your own fingers. Don’t be fooled into assuming that just because these are caves you’ll find nothing of lasting interest. The architecture going behind their carving is sensational and you can find umpteen paintings and sculptures on site.
It’s not often such a place exists in the world and stands the test of time, hence its number one spot on this list. Want to know what’s really great about them? They were crafted by hand, using nothing but hammers and chisels!
Heading here today, you’ll find an idyllic village with the feel of homeliness. Hampi, however, was once the last capital of Vijayanagar, which was one of the greatest Hindu empires Indian histories have recorded.
Apart from the large boulders left curiously unhampered all over the place, you can see ruin after ruin extending for kilometers. These ruins date all the way back to the 14th century (the 1500s) and they stretch for about 25 kilometers. But, before you feel this relatively small stretch to be, well, small; consider the 500 or so monuments that reside in it.
In this regard, Hampi has tales to tell indeed and that’s why it’s at number two on our list.
3. The Taj Mahal
As glorified as this historical location in Agra is, the Taj Mahal comes third on this list simply because it’s a stand-alone work of sculptural art, not a bunch of ancient ruins that once stood intact and have many a tale to tell. Besides, it’s more recent compared to the historical places mentioned above.
Standing on the banks of the Yamuna River, you may get the initial impression that it’s a symbol of India’s glory days. In fact, it’s a tomb and, as contrary as it may seem, one that’s built on notions of love.
The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built it for his wife Mumtaz after she died. He wanted the world to know how much he loved her. It dates back to 1630 AD and comprises pure marble. It took 22 years and 20,000 workers to complete this wonder of the world.
4. Khajuraho Temples
When India earned fame for being the birthplace of the Kama Sutra, few people know that there’s an actual historical location that records something similar. With over 20 temples devoted to sexuality and sex, you can see erotica etched on the walls and ceilings in stark and graceful detail.
It’s basically a celebration of love, life and worship more than anything lustful. You can find influences of the Hindu faith and Tantric practices too. The detail with which these ancient renderings were crafted is stunning and the idea of sexual understanding prevalent in those days makes you think again about the claim that only modern society came close to something like that.
The appeal is, well, self-evident. More than that, it’s the fact that such respect for the art of love-making has existed in a time so long ago.
5. Fatehpur Sikri
This was once the mighty capital of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century. Today it’s a deserted ghost town where the monuments, buildings and etchings still stand as testimony to what Fatehpur Sikri once enjoyed.
When it comes to the press of history, you can feel it here at Fatehpur Sikri where this once powerful capital city thrived. The variety you’ll get to see here can be found in other ancient cities in India, but the views are unique. This is why the number five placement was found best for Fatehpur.
Lack of regular water supply was the primary reason its inhabitants left the city. The entire site has buildings almost all of which are constructed out of red sandstone. You can find palaces, courtyards, medieval architecture of varied types and more.
6. Pushkar Lake
Dating back to the 4th century BC, you can imagine how old this lake is and feel that imagination come to life when taking a boat ride across its ancient surface. The fame of Pushkar Lake has spread to China too when in the fifth century mention was made by the Chinese traveler Fa Xian regarding the Lake’s visitor-numbers. The Lake itself is an artificially created one.
This is but one of many historical facts about Puskar Lake. All the history and regal connections, coupled with it being in just one region, has brought this destination to number six. In the form of punched Greek and Kushan coins, you can find the notion of Numismatics here at the Lake, dating back to the fourth century.
The Mughal influence is strong in this region. The Mughal Emperor Jahangir had a hunting lodge built on its shores. You can see the ruins there even today.
7. India Gate
Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, this 42 m high stone arch of victory stands in Delhi, the capital of India. Check out the British influence behind this very Indian monument. The Duke of Connaught laid its foundations in 1921 and the then Viceroy, Lord Irwin, dedicated it to the nation in 1931.
This testament to India’s patriotism and sacrifice is comparatively more recent, meaning it happened in the 1900s than centuries ago. This is why India Gate occupies number seven on our list. The importance of this monument is one of memory.
The names of the 90,000 Indian Army soldiers who lost their lives in World War I and an additional 13,516 names of those who’d sacrificed their lives in the North-West Frontier in the Afghan War of 1919 are inscribed on the walls of the India Gate.
8. Humayun Tomb
Standing in Delhi, this is the very first Mughal Garden mausoleum of its kind to be constructed. Its signature red and white color code is stunning and is quite similar to the Taj Mahal in back story. It was commissioned by Humayun’s senior widow, Haji Begum, to be built for her husband in 1565. The fact that it’s similar to the Taj Mahal makes for the Tomb’s ideal allocation at number eight on the list.
The double-storey gateway opens into the garden where the mausoleum stands. Causeways, fountains and water channels divide the garden into four sections. You’ll also find the grave of Dara Shikoh, Shah Jahan’s scholarly son here.
The Humayun Tomb is one of those amazing buildings that prove their beauty and toughness for having stood the passage of time almost completely intact.
9. Jaipur Amber Fort
The elephant ride to Amber Fort in itself makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time. The Fort, its lake and inner courtyard make for an amazing visual experience. It’s also called the Amer Fort and is considered to be one of the best hilltop forts in the country.
The beauty is unmatched, no doubt about that, while the constant sights of forts and turrets can be a bit of a drag sometimes. Hence the ninth spot on this list for the Amber Fort. It exudes a picture of Rajput lifestyle in India and possesses both Hindu and Muslim design and style elements.
With the Lake of Moatha, built by Maharaja Man Singh in the year 1592, and the lovely red and white sandstones making up the entire complex, you’re in for a visual treat.
10. Jama Masjid
Another monument nestled in Delhi; this is the biggest mosque in all of Asia. Emperor Shah Jahan had it built in 1656, the same year in which the Taj Mahal was constructed. Twenty five thousand people can fill the Jama Masjid’s courtyard at one time and the Quran, which is present in all Muslim mosques, has one here that’s completely written on deer skin.
5,000 workers took six years to construct this mosque with seven domes, each of them holding a tower in the middle. With the 61-meter wide prayer hall, 11 entrances into it, two 41-meter high minarets and 130 steps built with red stone and marble, you can certainly expect to see grandeur multiplied.
As we all know, devotion to God can be strong guiding force to do just about anything. This nature behind its making has led to it taking up last place, because there are hundreds of such monuments throughout the globe that were built on similar ‘divine’ principles.
The Jama Masjid is yet another undertaking that’s admirable, considering the time and effort that went into its creation, but for a religious devotion than something comparatively ‘tougher’, like romantic love (the Taj Mahal’s inspiration).
And there you have it, the top 10 historical places to go see in India. Keep in mind, though, that these only scratch the surface of India’s vast history. Whereas there are several other locations to see in India, these are the ten must-see’s and you’ve got to check these out before heading elsewhere.
India’s history has set the standard for a lot of things, even internationally. It may not always be a known fact, but it’s true nevertheless. With such history and antiquity making up a nation that’s relatively smaller than others in size, it’s sure to be a fulfilling experience to bask in such greatness.