Here are the top six ancient monuments to visit in India, which reflect eons of history, culture, heritage, spiritual healing, folklore and the arts.
Have you ever wondered how old is India’s civilisation? Where is the Sun Temple in India? Where are 2nd century BC caves with intricate sculptures? You can find answers in our curation of the top six ancient monuments to visit in India.
Discover India through its ancient heritage- its temples, monuments and caves which have seen empires rise and fall and witnessed the march of civilizations.
The country has seen numerous emperors and dynasties rise and fall and has thus become a rare repository, a treasure trove of rich cultures and customs.
In this vast land, one can find historical relics, scattered across its length and breadth, standing as testimonies to various eras in history, each with their own artistry and fluidity of thoughts and ideas.
AJANTA AND ELLORA CAVES
Among the top six ancient monuments to visit in India are the Ajanta and Ellora Caves near Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Significant discoveries in the history of India, the Ajanta and Ellora Caves have been inducted in the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. The caves depict paintings beginning with the 2nd century and continuing to the 6th century AD, inspired by Buddhism.
The Ajanta caves are located 107km from Aurangabad and 60km from Jalgaon. Comprising 32 caves, it is a protected site under the aegis of the Archaeological Survey of India. Ellora Caves consist of 34 caves, which are Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religious monuments carved in rock.
The caves consist of Chaitya shrines which are dedicated to Lord Buddha and Viharas (monasteries) used by Buddhist monks for meditation and the study of Buddhist teachings. Also, Cave 16 in Ellora houses the famous Kailasa temple, the abode of Lord Shiva.
KONARK SUN TEMPLE
Located in Puri district, Odisha, The Sun Temple of Konark is a fascinating old structure, which is a culmination of Oriya architecture and finds its place among the top six ancient monuments to visit in India.
Built in 13th century by King Narasimhadeva, the temple is designed in the shape of a colossal chariot with seven horses and twelve wheels, carrying the sun god Surya, across the heavens.
The name Konark comes from the amalgamation of two Sanskrit works, ‘Kona’ meaning ‘corner’ and ‘Arka’ meaning ‘sun.’
The Sun temple comprises a sanctum with a lofty (over 68m high) sikhara, a jagamohana (30sq.m. and 30m high) and a detached nata-mandira (hall of dance) in the same axis, besides numerous subsidiary shrines. The temple used to be referred to as the Black Pagoda in earlier days, by the Europeans.
KHAJURAO GROUP OF TEMPLES
Located in the state of Madhya Pradesh, Khajurao is a fascinating temple complex that is visited by tourists from across the world and certainly among the top six ancient monuments to visit in India. Built by the Chandella rulers, between AD 900 and 1130, during the golden period of the Chandela dynasty, it is believed that every Chandela ruler built at least one temple here.
The intricately carved erotic designs are much revered and considered to be one of the finest examples of temple carvings. The images sculpted on the temple walls actually represent the divine Shakti and Shiva, the male and female principles.
The temple is scattered over an area of 9sq.m and some are dedicated to the Jain pantheon and the rest to Hindu deities – to the holy trilogy of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva and various Devi forms, such as the Devi Jagadambi. The temple complex is under the UNESCO World Heritage’s protected sites.
Built in the year 1770, Humayun’s Tomb, located in New Delhi’s Nizamuddin East, is of great cultural and historical significance and is considered to be the first garden-tomb in the Indian subcontinent.
The incredible architecture of the tomb has inspired many others, including the famous Taj Mahal. The tomb stands at the centre of the square garden and is divided into four main parterres, known as ‘charbaghs,’ in the centre of which ran shallow water-channels.
The high rubble-built enclosure is entered through two lofty double-storeyed gateways on the west and south. A baradari (pavilion) occupies the centre of the eastern wall and a hammam (bath chamber) in the centre of the northern wall.
The tomb has many rulers of the Mughal dynasty buried here, including Humayun, for whom it was built. The tomb has now been restored and is open to visitors and finds a place among the top six ancient monuments to visit in India.
Located on the banks of the River Yamuna, in Agra, the Taj Mahal is widely revered in India and abroad, and is among the top six ancient monuments to visit in India The ivory-white marble mausoleum was commissioned by the then Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, in 1632 AD, to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal.
Initially, the mosque, the guest house and the main gateway on the south were completed in 1648 AD; later, the outer courtyard and its cloisters were added to complete it in 1653 AD.
Considered to be the epitome of love, the Taj Mahal is a hot favourite among couples coming to visit India. In terms of architecture, the structure is in perfect balance of composition, the octagonal tomb chamber in the centre, encompassed by the portal halls and the four corner rooms.
Also known as Sri Harminder Sahib, the Golden Temple is the spiritual abode of the Sikhs and is located in Amritsar, Punjab. The central focus of the Temple is the tank around which the shrine stands. The tank, known as Amrit Sarovar, from which Amritsar takes its name, was excavated by guru Ram Das, the fourth guru of the Sikhs, in the year 1577.
The holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, is installed every morning inside the temple and is later returned to the Akal Takhat at night. The Golden Temple has an elegantly carved marble section at the lower level, above which is the shimmering second level in gold panels.
The tip of the temple is a golden dome of 750kg of gold. Inside, one could lose oneself in the exceptionally soothing music and chanting from the Guru Granth Sahib, as performed by priests and musicians throughout the day. It is one of the most visited shrines and is thus among the top six ancient monuments to visit in India
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