India Sights & Places
Mumbai is the capital of the state of Maharashtra. Formerly known
as Bombay, it is the most populous city in India, with an estimated
metropolitan population of 12 million (2005). Mumbai’s busy
streets overflow with incredible sights, such as the centre of India’s
film industry, Bollywood. Mumbai is a highlight for travellers
whose ideal India vacation includes shopping: the city is full of
outdoor markets and fine stores. The SanjayGandhiNational Park
sits within the city limits, providing tranquil natural spots in the
middle of the crowded city.
Khajuraho (from Hindi, “khajur” for date palm) is a city in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, 620 kilometres southeast of Delhi. The city was once the religious capital of the Chandela Rajputs, a Hindu dynasty that ruled this part of Indiafrom the 10th to the 12th centuries. Now, Khajuraho is a small town with a vibrant history. The Khajuraho temple complex is the largest group of historical Hindu temples, complete with famous erotic sculptures. The temples were built over a span of 100 years and are now listed as one of the Seven Wonders of India and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Founded by Sultan Sikander Lodi in 1506, Agra is an old city on the banks of the YamunaRiver. It achieved fame as the capital of the Mughal empire from 1526 to 1658, and remains a popular destination in any India tour package for its world famous Mughal-era buildings. These include the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri, all UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Taj Mahal was commissioned by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan
as a mausoleum for his favourite wife, Mumtaz. Constructed
between 1631 and 1654 by 22,000 labourers, the Taj Mahal is
generally considered the finest example of Mughal architecture. It
masterfully combines elements from Persian, Indian and Islamic
building styles. While the white-domed marble mausoleum is the
best known component of the monument, the Taj Mahal is actually
an integrated complex of elegant structures. A symbol of India, and
beautiful both for its architecture and its romantic history, the Taj
Mahal is a must-see on any India vacation.
Fatehpur Sikri was the political capital of India under the reign of
Mughal emperor Akbar, starting in 1571. It is a magnificent city
carved predominantly from red sandstone, created as an act of
gratitude to a saint. It was abandoned in 1585, ostensibly due to
lack of water. This deserted city has two complexes: a royal
enclosure with palaces and official buildings, and a dargah for a
Sufi saint, with a mosque and a lofty gateway. It is located in
modern day Uttar Pradesh.
Agra Fort, also known as Lal Qila, FortRouge and the Red Fort of
Agra, is about 2.5 kilometres northwest of the Taj Mahal. The fort
is less of a military installation and more of a walled palatial city.
The fort’s beauty and history make it an essential stop on an India
vacation to Agra.
By most estimates, the fort was captured by the Akbar the Great in
the late 16th century. During his reign, Akbar shifted the government
of his empire from Delhi to Agra, and the fort was repurposed as a
royal estate. Akbar tended to build from red sandstone, often inlaid with white marble and intricate decorations. During the reign of Akbar's grandson Shah Jahan, the site was built up to its current state. Unlike his grandfather, Shah Jahan preferred buildings made from white marble inlaid with gold and semi-precious gems. He destroyed some of the earlier buildings inside the fort in order to remake it to his preferences.
After being deposed by his son Aurangzeb, the elderly Shah Jahan was imprisoned in this fort. Local legend says that he died in Muasamman Burj, a tower with an excellent view of the Taj Mahal. Agra Fort is also the site of one of the battles during the Indian rebellion of 1857, which ended the rule of the British East India Company and began a century of direct rule by Britain.
The city of Varanasi is located in North India on the banks of the river Ganges. It has a long history of being a religious, industrial and cultural centre of Northern India. According to myths, the holy city of Varanasi was founded by Hindu deity Shiva, making it one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in the country. It is one of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism. It is also an important city for Buddhism, as Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon nearby.
Varanasi was a commercial and industrial centre famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. During the time of Gautama Buddha (born circa 567 BCE), Varanasi was the capital of the kingdom of Kashi. Lord Buddha gave his first sermon at the nearby town of Sarnath. The city remained a centre of religious, educational, and artistic activities as attested by the celebrated Chinese traveller Xuanzang. Varanasi boasts its own style of classical Hindustani music, and has produced many prominent musicians, philosophers, poets and writers. The language spoken in the city is Bhojpuri, a dialect of Hindi.
Jaipur, popularly known as the PinkCity, is the capital of RajasthanState. Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Amber, founded the city in 1727. Built of pink stucco to imitate sandstone, the city is remarkable among pre-modern Indian cities for its wide, regular streets. Many India vacation packages include visits to Jaipur for sites including the Hawa Mahal, a palace built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Sing, Jantar Mantar, an observatory built from stone and marble, and the Amber Fort, a magnificent complex of palaces, halls, pavilions, gardens and temples.
Jaipur has the distinction of being one of the best-planned pre-modern cities. While most Indian towns from its era were a chaotic mess of twisted streets, Jaipur was built and planned strictly according to the principles of Hindu architectural theory. By the end of the 19th century, the town grew into a prosperous city, with a population of 160,000. The city's wide boulevards were paved and lit with gas, and it became a centre for education, health and banking with several hospitals, colleges and art schools. In 2011, its population passed 3 million.
Hawa Mahal, or “the Palace of Winds", was built in 1799 by
Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh and designed by Lal Chand Usta.
The Hawa Mahal forms part of the CityPalace, extending the Zenana
(the chambers for women). Its original intention was to allow royal
ladies to observe everyday life in the street below while remaining
unseen. It has five stories and is constructed of red and pink sandstone,
highlighted with white lime. The side facing the street outside the
palace complex has 953 small windows. The palace is famous for the
circulating breeze, which cools the palace and gives it its name.
The Jantar Mantar (“enchanted device”) is an observatory built between
1728 to 1734 by Maharajah Jai Singh II. Jantar Mantar is the largest and
best preserved of five observatories created by Jai Singh Jantar Mantar
consists of fourteen geometric devices made from stones that can
measure time, predict eclipses, track stars in their orbits, ascertain the
declinations of planets and more.
Amber Fort Palace
The Amber Fort is a massive 16thcentury palace complex not far from
Jaipur, in Rajasthan’s old capital. Travellers in India can explore this
beautiful building, part impregnable military fort, part art installation.
Drawing influence from both Hindu and Muslim architectural styles,
this palace is full of beautifully designed rooms and gardens.
Bharatpur is 176 kilometres south of Delhi. India vacation packages include a visit here to give visitors a chance to experience the natural beauty of India in the the KeoladeoGhanaNational Park. Home to over 300 bird species, including the common, demoiselle and rare Siberian cranes it is one of the finest water bird sanctuaries in the world. It is also an excellent place to see other animals. India travellers might see golden jackals, striped hyenas, jungle cats, nilgai, sambar, blackbuck and wild boars. The Keoladeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary provides unlimited opportunities for the bird watcher, wildlife photographer, nature writer and curious tourist. Keoladeo Ghana’s name refers to the location of the temple of Lord Shiva (Keoladeo) in the centre of the park.
The royal city at Fatehpur Sikri, situated 26 miles west of Agra, was built at the orders of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. It is predominately built in red sandstone. The Emperor built a magnificent city as an act of gratitude to a saint, made it the capital of his empire, and then, due to the shortage of water supply, the pristine complex was abandoned. This deserted city has two complexes. The first has the royal enclosure of the palaces and the official buildings. And the second dargah of a Sufi saint, with a mosque and a lofty gateway.
Kathmandu is Nepal’s largest city and capital. Once thought to be the fabled and elusive Shangri-La, Kathmandu has become a hub for independent travellers and tourists of all sorts.
Delhi is the capital city of the Federal Republic of India. Its ever-growing population of 22 million makes it the sixth most populous city in the world. The city has two distinct parts: Old Delhi and New Delhi. While Old Delhi surrounds on the Red Fort built by Emperor Shah Jahan between 1636 and 1658 (not to be confused with the Red Fort in Agra). New Delhi is the commercial and business hub of Delhi. Delhi was the capital of several empires in ancient India and has preserved many ancient monuments and archaeological sites.
Qutab Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world, and an important
example of Indo-Islamic architecture. It is listed as a UNESCO World
Heritage Site. The Qutab Minar is 72.5 metres high and requires 399
steps to get to the top, although the climb is off-limits to visitors for
safety reasons. The diameter of the base is 14.3 metres wide while the
top floor measures 3.8 metres in diameter.
Construction of the minaret begun in 1193. With it, Qutb-ud-din Aybak,
the first Muslim ruler of Delhi, hoped to surpass the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan. Only the basement was completed during his reign. His successor, Iltutmish, added three more storeys and, in 1368, Firuz Shah Tughluq constructed the final storey. The development of architectural styles from Aibak to Tuglak is quite evident in the different storeys. The minaret is made of fluted red sandstone and engraved with intricate carvings and verses from the Qur'an.
Humanyun’s Tomb is a spectacular demonstration of Mughal
architecture and the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. Listed as an
UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993, it is said that Haji Begum,
the widow of Humanyun, commissioned the Humanyun’s Tomb in
1560 at the cost of 1.5 million rupees.
The President’s House in New Delhi was designed by the famous
British architect Edwin Lutyens. Initially built for the British
viceroys in India it became the official house of India’s President
after independence. This building also contains the National
Museum and the beautiful Mughal Garden.
Also called the Lal Qila, the Red Fort is the largest historic
monument in Delhi. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan completed
construction of the massive fort in 1648. The outer wall extends up
to two kilometres and varies in height from 18 metres on the
riverside to 33 metres on the city side. Attractions within the fort
include Chatta Chowk, which housed Delhi’s most skilled craftsman,
Meena Bazaar, where ladies of the courts would do their shopping,
and Naubat Khana, the heart of the fort where musicians would
entertain the emperor. India travellers will see Diwan-i-Amor, where
the emperor listened to the complaints of common people.
India Gate, originally called the All India War Memorial, was
designed by Edwin Lutyens in 1921 as a memorial to soldiers who
lost their lives, particularly during World War I. This is the site of
the Amar Jawan Jyoti (or “the flame of the immortal soldier”) with
a torch that has been burning continuously since 1971.
Goa is the smallest and youngest state in India. Goa has a complicated colonial history. It has been ruled by the Dutch, the British, the Turkish and, until 1961, the Portuguese. Goa is full of beautiful tourist spots with intricate churches and
temples, evergreen hills and majestic mountains. India tourists come most often to enjoy the beaches and the colourful
culture. It is also famous for feni, a locally brewed liquor popular among both tourists and locals. Goa is a place for travellers who seek sun, sand, food and wine, but it has its share of old forts and temples too.