The Top Five – Monuments in India

TajMahal_India

Pic : Lakshmi Sharath

There is more to India than just the Taj Mahal. You will probably meet an ancient monument in almost every corner of the country. Temples, churches, monasteries, forts, mosques, palaces, museums,tombs mausoleums, rock cut caves, monolith sculptures jostle for space in every remote town. While it is difficult to choose just five of them,  my recommendations are based largely on the diversity , the uniqueness and the richness of the architecture.

1. The Shore temple at Mahabalipuram – It is believed that there were seven such temples located on the shore of the Coromandel Coast , but only one survives today. A World Heritage site, it was built in the 7th century by the Pallavas , an ancient dynasty who ruled over Southern India. An ancient lighthouse here indicates that this was probably a port of the Pallavas.

As you enter this coastal town, you see several carved rock cut cave temples and monolith sculptures strewn around. Soak in the beach, try some sea food , shop in the markets and take home a sculpture if you like. The closest city is Chennai, one of the four metros and capital of Tamil Nadu.

2. The ruins of Vijaynagar in Hampi – Often compared to Rome, Hampi is one of the destinations that one should not miss .A World Heritage site, the ruins of the 15th century dynasty is still preserved in the many sculptures ,pillars,  step-wells, temple complexes , palaces  and stables that are strewn around the city.

You would need at least a couple of days to explore Hampi and its monuments . Go for a coracle ride in the Tungabhadra river, shop in the local market, do some birding and wildlife at Daroji and watch the sunset from the rocks. There is a magic in Hampi that one cannot explain . Bangalore , the capital of Karnataka is one of the closest hubs to Hampi.

3. Ajanta and Ellora caves – These World Heritage sites are located near Aurangabad in Maharashtra and are some of the most ancient monuments excavated in India. Ajanta , with 31 rock cut caves carved with sculptures and paintings are typical of Buddhist art , built between the 2nd century BC to 7th century AD.

Ellora , with 34 caves built during the 5th-10th century is a representation of Buddhist , Jain and Hindu art and architecture .You would need at least 3-4 days to explore both Ajanta and Ellora caves and the surroundings around Aurangabad.

4. Forts of Rajasthan – It is tough to choose any one fort of Rajasthan. Almost every city here houses one or more forts and several palaces. Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner, Kumbalgarh, Chittorgarh, Jaisalmer, Bundi are just some of the destinations that tourists throng to see the forts. My personal favourites are Kumbalgarh and Chittorgarh which are closer to Udaipur, the city of palaces.

You would need an eternity to see the whole of Rajasthan. Jokes apart, it is difficult to see the state in a few days. Spend as much time as you can when you plan a trip here. There is more to Rajasthan than the forts – visit the palaces, soak in the culture, shop for local artefacts and let the colours dazzle you

5.Agra – Yes, you have to visit Taj Mahal in Agra and the Agra Fort of course, but I would recommend that you dont miss Fatehpur Sikri at any cost. Built by Moghul emperor Akbar in the 15th century, the town was abandoned after serving as his capital for about 15 years. A World Heritage site, it is now a ghost town. Built in red sandstone, do not miss the courts, palaces, the ponds, the door ways and the tombs around here. Keep Delhi as your hub and plan your trip to Agra

And finally, the Taj Mahal ! One of the wonders of the world, this mausoleum is  built  in sheer marble . Built by Moghul emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz, on the banks of the river Yamuna it is the epitome of romance. No one ever leaves India without seeing the Taj !

Lakshmi is a travel writer and blogger from India and she blogs at A Travel Blog of an Indian . This post was written for Affordable Calling cards which offers international cheap phone cards to India.

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