LatestDiscover Your India

8 stunning medieval cities to discover in India

Are there really medieval cities to discover in India?

Yes, cities rich in their medieval history flourish side by side with their newer avtaar and are waiting to be discovered. No doubt these medieval cities can never cease to amaze and delight.

 Medieval cities - Lothal and Dholavera, Gujarat
Medieval cities – Lothal and Dholavera, Gujarat

The Middle Ages, sometimes known as the medieval period, spanned roughly from the fifth through the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Indigenous kings, such as the Chalukyas, Pallavas, Pandyas, Rashtrakutas, and finally the Mughal Empire, dominated medieval Indian history.

A good guide can take you to the old quarters of these medieval cities of India, and tell you the history and legends surrounding these monuments, structures, and ruins that are deeply steeped in tradition and folklore.

Medieval cities – Lothal and Dholavera, Gujarat

The archaeological remnants of the Harappa port-town of Lothal, said to be 4,500 years old may be found in the Gulf of Khambat, along the Bhogava river, a tributary of the Sabarmati. Lothal is 80km southwest of Ahmedabad. Archaeologists are of the opinion that the city formed part of a major river system that was on the ancient trade route used from Sindh to Saurashtra in Gujarat.

The city was a thriving trading port during 3700 BCE. Lothal features two main zones inside its quadrangular defensive layout: the upper and lower town. Lothal’s thick (12-21 meter) exterior walls, which spanned around 7 hectares, were built to withstand the city’s frequent tidal floods, which most likely led to the city’s demise.

Dholavira is the larger of these two significant excavations of the Indus Valley Civilization or Harappan culture. Dholavira is spread over 100 hectares of semi-arid land on Khadir island in the Great Rann of Kutch. The journey to UNESCO World Heritage Site Dholavira is remarkable, as it takes you through giant salt desert plains of the Great Rann. Here you can see wildlife such as flamingos and other bird life, chinkara and nilgai among others.

Medieval cities – Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh

Fatehpur Sikri was the beautiful but short-lived capital of the Mughal empire. Akbar, the great Mughal emperor, built the town in 1569. Early Mughal structures may be found in Fatehpur Sikri, with Muslim and Hindu architectural elements. The palace of Akbar’s wife (Jodha Bai), a special audience hall, and dwellings are among them.

 Medieval cities -  Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh
Medieval cities – Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh

Because Fatehpur Sikri’s water supply was insufficient, the Mughal capital was relocated to Delhi in 1586. Fatehpur Sikri was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986 and is being maintained as a historic site.

Considered one of the most well-preserved medieval cities of India, the sandstone city in rose pink remains beautifully preserved and one can spend an entire day in the romantic pavilions and palaces, huge courtyards, rooftop platforms, and jharokas that catch the breeze, and the marble tomb of Salim Chishti where people of all faith come to seek blessings.

Medieval cities – Jodhpur, Rajasthan

To visit Jodhpur is to journey back in time. The ancient city of Jodhpur has its roots in medieval history and was built during the reign of the Rajput ruler “Rao Jodha”. The living heritage city is surrounded by a long barricade with eight entryways and more than one hundred towers all around the barrier.

  Medieval cities -   Jodhpur, Rajasthan
Medieval cities – Jodhpur, Rajasthan

The Rathore Clan is thus central to Jodhpur’s history. Rao Jodha, the Rathore clan’s head, is credited with founding Jodhpur in India. In 1459, he founded Jodhpur. Previously, it was known as Marwar. When India acquired independence in1947, the state was absorbed into the larger state of Rajasthan, with Jodhpur serving as its capital.

There are so many palaces, monuments, age-old temples, and forts with wonderful legendary tales. One of the most popular monuments of Jodhpur is the UNESCO World Heritage Site – the great Mehrangarh Fort built atop a mountain. There are ancient hidden stepwells and traditional bazaars with old stone shops that bring alive its medieval charm.

Medieval cities – Nalanda, Bihar

Nalanda presents a magnificent site of culture and learning and was established in the 5th century BC. With rich traditions, monasteries, and ancient monuments, this medieval city is an amazing destination for history lovers.

Medieval cities -  Nalanda, Bihar
Medieval cities – Nalanda, Bihar

In India’s ancient kingdom of Magadha (modern-day Bihar), Nalanda was a renowned Mahavihara, a major Buddhist monastery. From the fifth century CE to 1200 CE, the location was a center of learning about 95 kilometers southeast of Patna, in the town of Bihar Sharif. In the 5th and 6th centuries, Nalanda flourished under the Gupta Empire’s sponsorship, and afterward under Harsha, the Emperor of Kannauj.

Among the most ancient medieval cities of India, Nalanda was designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The ruins and relics of the ancient Nalanda university along with the beautiful temples remain a testament to the splendid past of Nalanda.  It is a pilgrimage site for Buddhism, as it is believed that Lord Buddha visited here several times. It is also a special place as Hiuen Tsang, a famous Chinese historian was a part of Nalanda University for 12 years.

Medieval cities – Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Agra is a city with medieval roots, located on the banks of the Yamuna river about 210 km south of the national capital New Delhi.

 Medieval cities -   Agra, Uttar Pradesh
Medieval cities – Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Despite the fact that Agra was an ancient city dating back to the period of the Mahabharata (see above), Sultan Sikandar Lod, the Muslim monarch of the Delhi Sultanate, built the city in 1504. Sultan Ibrahim Lodi, the Sultan’s son, inherited the city after his father died.

This ancient city holds India’s most iconic historical monuments, some of which are essential UNESCO world heritage sites, including the world-famous wonder of the world -Taj Mahal, the magnificent red sandstone Agra Fort, several beautiful palaces, monuments, and verdant ancient gardens.

The old alleys and quarters of this ancient city still echo the tales of its great history and culture. It remains a vibrant hub for Indian culture, music, and dance, an amazing Indian handicrafts heritage as well as home to delectable Mughlai cuisine.

Medieval cities – Hasan, Karnataka

Among the famous medieval cities, Hasan typifies the eventful and rich history of Karnataka. The ancient city is famous for its beautiful natural scenic terrain which in turn holds a veritable treasure-house of stunning Hoysala architecture and sculpture, the best examples of which can be seen at Belur and Halebeed. 

Design 8 stunning medieval cities to discover in India
Medieval cities – Hassan Karnataka pix courtesy MANJESHK

The Hoysala era (1026 CE – 1343 CE) was known for its artistic, architectural, and cultural achievements. The Hassan district of Karnataka, India, was the epicenter of this activity.

Without a doubt, the most notable achievement of this age is in the realm of architecture. The desire to outperform the Western Chalukyan Empire (973 CE – 1189 CE) in its own domain provided even more motivation to succeed in architecture.

Shravanabelagola for instance is dominated by Jain monuments and is a popular pilgrimage centre for the Jains.  The long-held belief is that the place is called Hassan after the goddess Hassan-amma or Hasanamba, the blessed deity of the Hasanamba temple located in the old town area.

Medieval cities – Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

Varanasi, one of the oldest living cities in the world is situated in Uttar Pradesh, India, that dates back to the 11th century B.C. Mark Twain, described Varansi or Benaras in these words: “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”

Medieval cities -  Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Medieval cities – Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

This medieval city of temples, religion, art, culture, and tradition is also known as Kashi and has long been regarded as the ideal Hindu pilgrimage destination. The city thrives and lives its legends and history and is one of India’s most loved medieval cities that visitors throng.

Hindus believe that dying in Varanasi’s holy land will offer them salvation and deliver them from the cycle of birth and rebirth. Varanasi’s origins are unknown. Lord Shiva and Parvati call it home. The Ganges in Varanasi is said to have the power to wash away grave sins.

Varanasi remains a great center of learning and civilization for over 3000 years. Considering that Sarnath, the place where Buddha preached his first sermon after enlightenment, is just 10 km away, the city is also the starting point for Buddhist pilgrims.

A marvel among medieval cities of India, Varanasi has long been famous for its trade and commerce and has traditionally been known for the finest silks and gold and silver brocades, since ancient times.

Medieval cities – Badami, Karnataka

The ancient city of Badami is picturesquely situated at the mouth of a ravine between two dramatic rocky hills. This sets the mood of exploration in this medieval city with its exquisite sculptures and sandstone cliffs that bring alive many a tale from history and folklore.

There are four rock-cut caves dominated by ancient carved pillars and sandstone bracket figures that overlook the Agastya Theertha lake, where its banks are dotted with a series of beautiful Bhutanatha Temples. 

Among medieval cities of India, Badami holds significance in the heritage history of Karnataka. Badami, formerly known as Vatapi in Northern Karnataka, was the capital of the Chalukyas, one of Southern India’s largest and most enduring kingdoms.

The ‘Badami Chalukyas,’ who ruled here from 543 to 753 CE, was the first of three branches of the Chalukyas. As a result, there is a magnificence to the palaces, temples, and even the caves found here. The Ravana Phadi Caves, Badami Caves, Navbhramha series of temples, and Virupaksha temple at Hampi are examples of Chalukya’s contribution to temple architecture.

Read More: Latest