Authored by Himanshu Agarwal
What is the first thing that comes to mind whenever you think of India? Obviously, you try to picture its varied and diverse culture. But apart from being a land of multilingual and multi-ethnic communities, India has one more feather in its cap: it’s history.
India is probably the only country to boast of a rich and glorious past that spans for more than a 750 centuries. (Almost since the beginning of time!) So it won’t come as a surprise that the country has no less than a 100 monuments in each of its 29 states. You can do the math to arrive at that total!
To visit every single monument is, of course, an impossible task. But the following 7 structures and sites will offer a glimpse into the historical richness of the land.
7 Must Visit Historical Places in India
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Taj Mahal and Agra Fort (Agra, Uttar Pradesh)
Who hasn’t heard about the one of the 7 Wonders of The World? This marble clad structure is the pride of Agra, and stands out amongst all other places there. It was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a token of his love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. That’s for the history we know.
What is really so compelling about it is the architecture and the intricate carvings engraved on the domes and not to forget the massive chandeliers. Add to it the mesmerizing gardens and the breath-taking view you get as soon as you enter the place. It feels like heaven!
And very close to it stands the Fort in which the Emperor actually lived – The Agra Fort. Built from a combination of Red Sandstone and Marble, the place is the best example to understand the architecture of Royal palaces. And a guide will readily tell you the various anecdotes about the activities of the place.
Sanchi Stupa (Madhya Pradesh)
The UNESCO World Heritage Site is the oldest stone structure in India, which is preserved till date.
Originally it was built as a monument to honor and sustain the relics of Buddha by the great emperor Ashoka. Later, future dynasties extended the site by adding strings of Buddhist temples and pillars (Stupas) as well.
Today, it is one of the most visited historic sites in India. The artistic blend of stone, brick, wood and sandstone from which the structure is made and the elaborate hand carvings which relate the scriptures of Buddha are incredible.
Khajuraho Temples (near Jhansi, Madhya Pradesh)
This is, again, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; a group of 85 temples built by the Chandela dynasty, dedicated to Hindu and Jain (two important religions in India) deities. Today only 20 of them survive.
What to keep your eyes peeled for are the sculptures which adorn the walls and the pillars of each temple. They are expressive of the architecture and ancient art of those times, which dates back to around 950 CE.
They are one of the finest monuments that serve as examples for temple architecture till today.
Ajanta and Ellora Caves (Aurangabad, Maharashtra)
Archaeologists and historians believe that these caves were cut out of mountain rocks by Buddhists and made into ancient monasteries. They go back to 480 CE and also consist of various Hindu and Jain temples.
It’s a beautiful picturesque location, with stunning paintings carved out on their walls. And if you love stories, you are in for a real treat! They give a pictorial narration of the Jataka Tales (teachings of the Buddha in form of short stories) and depict the various scriptures.
Don’t shy away from hiring a guide if you want to understand the details and the full history of the place. The paintings here are considered the finest masterpieces in the world.
Konark Sun Temple (Near Puri, Odisha)
To quote Rabindranath Tagore – “Here the language of stone surpasses the language of human.”
Indeed, among all the places which you can visit in Puri, this massive edifice outmatches even the most beautiful stone structures in the world. No wonder it is one of the seven wonders of India!
This temple was built by Narsimhadev I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. It is dedicated to the Sun God (Surya). Built in the shape of a chariot in which Surya himself rides, its caricatures and figurines are stupefying.
The architecture of the temple is so precise that it makes you think whether the people of Stone Age were smarter than us! Again, do go for a guide to understand the history and the architecture fully.
Cellular Jail (Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands)
Surprised? Well most people will not think of a jail as a very interesting place for a visit, but trust me, this one is worth the shot.
The cellular jail was built by the ruling Brits to deport Indian freedom fighters to an isolated island where they could serve their ‘sentence’ without causing trouble. And the jail was designed and built in such a way so as to inflict maximum torture on the inmates. Fearful, isn’t it? But don’t worry, nobody is going to lock you in now!
Today it is a national monument dedicated to all the Indian freedom fighters. And the place is bustling with civilisation so you may as well forget the isolation part!
The jail is the best examples of solid British architecture to survive till date. Do attend the light and sound show at the place in the evening and don’t forget to ask for a guide.
Rakht Talai, Haldighati and Kumbhalgarh (Udaipur, Rajasthan)
These are the sites of the Epic battle that took place between the forces of the great Mughal emperor Akbar; and the bravest warrior who never tasted defeat – Maharana Pratap.
While Rakht Talai and Haldighati are the battle fields, Kumbhalgarh is the Royal Palace where Maharana Pratap was born. It boasts of the longest wall in the world, second only to the Great Wall of China.
The light and sound show at Kumbhalgarh palace will relate to you the complete history of the place and of the battle. The journey to Kumbhalgarh will be amongst the ones you will never forget!
These locations give you a glimpse at the majestic history of the bloodshed and the wars of the past. They are not very far from Udaipur city, where you can visit other remarkable monuments as well, one of which is dedicated to Maharana Pratap.
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Photo credits: Sanchi Stupa by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra & Travelling Slacker. Khajuraho Temple (+ use in Pinterest image) by Liji Jinaraj. Ajanta Caves Sumeet Jain & Jorge Láscar. Konark Sun Temple by sukanta maity, Dinudey Baidya & sukanta maity. Cellular Jail by Ankur P & Algae Rhythm.