1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Top 20 Must Visit Heritage Attractions In India

Discussion in 'Destination Guides' started by Debapriya Deb, Feb 1, 2016.

  1. Debapriya Deb

    Debapriya Deb Active Member

    Heritage is one aspect that has been luring people from all over the world into visiting India. The heritage sites provide the tourists an amazing opportunity to learn about India's glorious past and wealthy culture. Heritage has steadily become a tourism mascot for India and it's hardly a surprise considering the diversified range of historical attractions that you get to explore in this beautiful country.

    If you wish to get genuine insights on India's ancient relics and architectural marvels, then do make sure to visit the 20 heritage sites listed below. Rest assured, you are going to fall in love with India's riches of culture, craft, philosophy, tradition, architecture and overall a civilization that dates back to over 5000 years!

    20 Best Heritage Sites in India

    20. Victoria Memorial

    Location: Kolkata, West Bengal
    Architecture Style: Indo-Saracenic

    The huge white Makrana marble monument is not only a pride of Kolkata, but the entire country. It took around 15 years, from 1906 to 1921, to construct this eye-catching structure. Dedicated to Queen Victoria, the magnificent Victoria Memorial is designed by the famous British architect Sir William Emerson - who was the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

    The Victoria Memorial is considered as one of the finest examples of Indo-Saracenic style of architecture with Venetian and Egyptian architectural influences. Built on a rectangular base measuring 338 feet in length and 228 feet in width, the domed structure has an imposing height of 184 feet. The monument has a huge dome at the center and smaller domed towers at the four corners. On top of the central dome, there is the 16 feet tall figure of the Angel of Victory.

    Today it serves as a museum with a beautiful garden operated under the Ministry of Culture. It has a notable collection of weapons, sculptors, paintings and other artifacts belonging to the 18th and 19th centuries. There are numerous paintings and illustrations from the life of Queen Victoria. Post independence, a gallery was introduced with the portraits and relics of the freedom fighters of India.

    19. Group of Temples at Pattadakal

    Location: Pattadakal, Karnataka
    Architectural Style: Predominantly Dravidian with Aryan elements

    A UNESCO World Herita Site, Pattadakal in Karnataka is a must visit site for witnessing the riches of Indian architecture and splendid culture. Pattadakal is one of those exotic Indian heritage sites that you have always wished to capture on your lenses. An epicenter of Chalukya and Rashtrakuta art forms, at Pattadakal you will observe an excellent blend of traditional Dravidian architectural with elements from Aryan style.

    Most of the structures at Pattadakal were constructed between the 7th and the 8th century, however the oldest of the lot, the Sangameshwara temple, was constructed in the second half of the 6th century. The historical rock-carved Virupaksha Temple or the majestic Sangameshvara Temple or the elegant architecture of the Chandrashekhara Temple or the detailed stone-art portrayed in the Jambulinga Temple - you will be spoilt for choices when it comes to the variety of architectural styles that the ancient sites at Pattadakal depicts.

    18. Konark Sun Temple

    Location: Konark, Odhisa
    Architectural Style: Traditional Kalinga

    A 13th century architectural marvel has brought the tiny Odhisa town of Konark into the tourism map of the world. Constructed under the rulings of King Narasimhadeva I around the year 1250, this Hindu temple was designed like a grand chariot with exquisite stone cravings decorating the entire structure. The temple is built from Khondalite rocks and it follows the traditional style of Kalinga architecture.

    A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984, the Sun Temple at Konark symbolizes the passage of time. The marvelous exterior depicts a huge ornamented chariot with 12 pairs of stone-carved wheels pulled by a group of 7 elegant horses. The 7 horses symbolize the days of the week, while the 12 wheels represent the months in a year. In the main sanctum, there resides a statue of Surya, the Sun God. The beautiful idol carved on green chlorite stone is one of the masterpieces of Konarak. The walls of the temple are carved with exquisite stone sculptures. You will be amazed by the intricate stoneworks depicting the erotic scenes of maithunas based on Kama Sutra and appreciate the excellent craftsmanship on display.

    There is an archaeological museum adjacent to the temple complex that houses antique paintings, photographs, ancient scripts and many other artifacts of historical importance. The museum is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India and it's a must visit place for those who are looking to get genuine insights on the history and culture of the erstwhile Kalinga empire.

    17. Jaisalmer Fort

    Location: Jaisalmer, Rajasthan
    Architectural Style: Fusion of traditional Rajput style with Islamic elements

    Fondly called as the Sonar Qila (the fort of Gold) because of its yellow sandstone walls, the colossal Jaisalmer Fort is set on top of the Trikuta Hills amidst the sandy expanse of the great Thar desert. Constructed in 1156 by the Rajput King Rawal Jaisal, the fortress at Jaisalmer is one of the largest citadels in the world. It was granted the status of a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 2013.

    For the statistical minds, the Jaisalmer Fort is 460 meters in length and it has a width of 230 meters. The fort has 99 bastions which used to be guarded by more than 6000 soldiers. As far as the architecture is concerned, the fort showcases a subtle fusion of traditional Rajput and Islamic architectural styles. Within the enclosure, it houses a royal palace, a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, and a number of Havelis (smaller palaces) used by the royal employees.

    16. Hawa Mahal

    Location: Jaipur, Rajasthan
    Architectural Style: Traditional Rajputana

    When it comes to the heritage sites of Rajasthan, the Hawa Mahal at Jaipur is not too far behind the Jaisalmer Fort. The Hawa Mahal is a must visit attraction as you won't find a second one like this anywhere in the world. Constructed in 1799 by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh, the Hawa Mahal was designed with red and pink sandstones. Lal Chand Ustad was the architect behind this wonderful palace and it exhibits pure Rajputana architecture style.

    The imposing pyramidal shaped structure is one of the most well-maintained historical attractions in the city of Jaipur which draws the visitors' attention to its neatly crafted design elements. From the outside, the palace resembles the crown of Lord Krishna. Can you imagine that this magnificent five storey building consists of 953 windows (or Jharokas) which are decorated with intricate designs! Thanks to the royal wishes and whims, today we are getting to see such gem of an architectural marvel. There is an archaeological museum inside the palace which deserves to be visited as well.

    15. Mysore Palace

    Location: Mysore, Karnataka
    Architectural Style: Mix of Indo-Saracenic, Dravidian, Oriental and Gothic Styles

    Constructed in the year 1912, the Mysore Palace was the seat of the Wodeyar dynasty — the Maharajas of Mysore. This exquisitely decorated golden domed structure is considered to be one of the most beautiful heritage palaces on the Indian soil. The 3-storeyed main structure, accompanied by a five-storied tower having a gilded dome, display an intrinsic blend of Dravidian, Indo-Saracenic, Oriental and Gothic architectural styles. The exterior of the palace is crafted in Gothic style. On the other hand, the interior carvings demonstrate a combination of Hindu and Rajput architectures, while the marble domes represent a strong Islamic influence. Intricately decorated ceilings, ornate mosaic floors, wood-crafted artifacts and beautiful chandeliers bring the royal charm alive. The palace is surrounded by a huge garden that has a few ancient Hindu temples constructed between the 14th and the 18th centuries.

    An illuminated Mysore Palace at night is a sight to behold. More than 97,000 bulbs are used to lighten up the palace. If you are interested to catch a glimpse of the enthralling sight, then plan your Mysore trip either on a Sunday or any other national holidays. The palace also remains illuminated throughout the Dussehra festival.
    You are allowed to enter the palace after depositing your shoes and cameras at the designated check post. Photography is prohibited inside the palace, but you are permitted to capture the exterior structure. The palace is open to visitors from 10 AM to 5:30 PM everyday. INR 40 is the entry fee for the Indian citizens, while foreigners need to pay INR 200 to enter the premises.

    14. Fatehpur Sikri

    Location: Agra, Uttar Pradesh
    Architectural Style: Persian Architecture with Mughals, Hindu and Jain design elements

    Fatehpur is located at a distance of around 40 KM from Agra. It's an historical marvel that deserves to be visited by all history lovers. Fatehpur Sikri has one of the best preserved collections of Mughal architecture in India and it got the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site in the year 1986. Fatehpur was the Capital of Mughals from 1571 to 1585 when Emperor Akbar was at the helm. The site is considered to be one of the purest available expamples of the raved Persian architecture seemlessly blended with that of the Mughals, Hindu and Jain design elements.

    Fatehpur Sikri sits on rocky ridge, 3 KM in length and 1 KM in width. The fortified city, entirely guarded by an outer wall, houses several royal palaces, a harem, courts and a mosque. The Buland Darwaza, Jama Masjid, Tomb of Salim Chishti, Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Ibadat Khana, Mariam-uz-Zamani's Palace, and the five storied Panch Mahal are some of the must visit architectural marvels at Fatehpur.

    13. Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram

    Location: Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
    Architectural Style: Mix of Dravidian and Tibetan Buddhist Styles

    Mahabalipuram is one of the very few places where you can witness a unique fushion of Dravidian Architecture and Tibetan Buddhist Elements belonging to the 7th Century. A bustling port city during the medieval era, the historical sites of Mahabalipuram are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

    The Shore Temple is the oldest of the lot and also the most decorated one in terms of popularity. Constructed in the early 7th century, it is an epitome of finest artistic taste that has successfully withstood the test of time. The Five Rathas are engraved stone sculptures that can mesmerize you. Arjuna’s Penance, Descent of the Ganges, Krishna’s Butterball and numerous caves & carvings that decorate the vast expanse of Mahabalipuram's landscape are sure to take you back into those glorious days of medieval India.

    12. Humayun's Tomb

    Location: Nizamuddin, Delhi
    Architectural Style: Indo-Persian

    Humayun's Tomb or the Maqbara e Humayun is the mausoleum of the second Mughal Emperor Humayun, located at Nizamuddin in Delhi. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993. It is considered as the first distinct example of large-scale Mughal architecture - which showcases an excellent blend of traditional Indian style with Persian design elements. Mirak Mirza Ghiyath, a Persian architect, was the chief designer of this beautiful double-domed structure.

    The tomb stands in the centre of a square garden, divided into four main parterres by elevated causeways. Built with red sandstones, this two-storied structure with chamfered corners rises from a 7 meters high square base. There are two lofty double-storied gateways to enter the main premises. The central octagonal chamber contains the cenotaph, encompassed by octagonal chambers at the diagonals and arched lobbies on the sides. Decorated with white marbel borders and panels, this is the first Indian monument to use the famous Persian double-layered dome on a high neck drum.

    11. Jama Masjid

    Location: Chandni Chawk, Delhi
    Architectural Style: Traditional Islamic

    This colossal mosque of Old Delhi is the largest in India, with the ability to house 25,000 devotees at once. It was the final architectural extravagance of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan constructed in 1656. It took 12 long years from 1644 to 1656 for 5000 workers to complete this gigantic structure.

    Jama Masjid is built on a 30 feet high red sandstone porch and spreads over an area of 1200 square metres. The eye-catching feature of this heritage site is its highly decorative exterior with three giant gateways, four towers, and three domes surrounded by two 40 meters tall minarets. The minarets are of five storeys, each with a protruding balcony. Designed with longitudinal strips of red sandstone and white marbles, the monument has a distinctly contrasting outlook which is sure to leave you awestruck.

    10. Ajanta and Ellora Caves

    Location: Aurangabad, Maharashtra
    Architectural Style: Predominantly Buddhist with Hindu and Jain Elements

    Ajanta and Ellora caves, located near Aurangabad in the state of Maharashtra, boast of paintings and sculptures of extreme artistic excellence. Declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1983, the paintings and sculptures of Ajanta and Ellora are described by the Archaeological Survey of India as "the finest surviving examples of Indian art". The caves are unique in the sense that they seamlessly combine three forms of art - architecture, sculpture and painting - in a single basket.

    Ajanta is a set of 29 caves that houses some of the finest Buddhist architecture, cave paintings and sculptures spanning a period of more than 700 years from 2nd century BC to 6th century AD. The paintings that adorn the walls and ceilings of the caves depict incidents from the life of lord Buddha and various Buddhist divinities.

    Ellora caves contains amazing rock-carved sculptures inspired by Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. The most imposing creation at Ellora is undoubtedly the magnificent Kailasa Temple, which is the largest monolithic structure in the world. The history of the Ellora dates back to the 5th century. There are a total of 34 caves at this heritage site constructed between the 5th and 11th century. 12 Buddhist, 17 Hindu and 5 Jain caves carved in close proximity at Ellora illustrate the spirit of religious tolerance, something which was the true characteristic of ancient India.

    9. Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi

    Location: Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh
    Architectural Style: Traditional Buddhist

    Located at a distance of just 46 KM from Bhopal, Sanchi is an abode of ancient Buddhism with great historical and archaeological significance. The Buddhist influence at Sanchi began during the Ashoka period. It was Ashoka who built the first 'stupa' at Sanchi in the 3rd century BC. It is from here that India got its national emblem - the crown of famous Ashoka Pillars, with four lions standing back to back.

    Sanchi has historical structures from the 3rd century BC to 12th century AD. The main attraction is the brick-stone Buddhist stupa, or rather a collection of stupas that tower above the countryside on a hillock. The beautifully carved gateways that depict scenes from the life of Buddha or Ashoka add grace to the place. The exquisite structural balance of the Ashoka Pillars are an excellent example of Greco-Buddhist style of architecture. The Buddhist Vihara, the Great Bowl, the Gupta Temple and the ASI Museum are the other major attractions at this place.

    8. Red Fort (Lal Qila)

    Location: Old Delhi, Delhi
    Architectural Style: Indo-Saracenic

    The massive Red Fort is one of the most striking reminders of the glorious Mughal era. Built by Shah Jahan in the year 1648 as the palace of his fortified capital Shahjahanabad, the fort was originally named as 'Qila-i-Mubarak', but, it went on to become popular as the Lal Qila. It draws the name of Lal Qila (or Red Fort) from the towering walls made of red sandstones that rises to a height of 33 meters from the ground level. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's the place from where the Prime Minister of India hoists the national flag on the Independence Day and delivers his speech to the nation.

    The Red Fort is octagonal in design and there are beautiful flower decorations and calligraphy on the walls. The fort complex has two entrances - Delhi Gate and Lahore Gate. The interior of the fort features the Naubat Khana (Drum House), Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of Public Audiences), Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audiences), the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque), the Shaji Burj, Royal Baths, the Hayat Bakhsh Bagh and the Rang Mahal (Palace of Colors). The Rang Mahal has a spectacular lotus-shaped fountain made out of a single piece of marble.

    7. Mahabodhi Temple

    Location: Bodh Gaya, Bihar
    Architectural Style: Traditional Indian

    A UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own rights, the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya is the place where Lord Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment. The history of the original Mahabodhi Temple dates back to the 2nd century BC. The famous king-turned-monk Ashoka was the architect of the original temple, who visited Bodh Gaya around 250 BC to establish a monastery and shrine on the holy site. While Asoka is considered the Mahabodhi temple's original founder, the current structure was not the one established by him. It was constructed during the 5th-6th century AD.

    As far as the architecture of the current temple is concerned, it is constructed as one of the oldest surviving brick structures in India. It is one of the finest specimens of Indian brickwork and it played a highly influential role in the development of later architectural legacy. According UNESCO, "the present temple is one of the earliest and most imposing structures built entirely in brick from the Gupta period". The temple has an imposing central tower that rises 55 metres in height and is surrounded by four smaller towers. The temple is surrounded on all four sides by 2 meters high stone railings. The walls are carved with beautiful paintings and relics including the images of Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Surya, decorated chariots, figures of stupa, Garudas (Eagle God) and lotus flowers. Mohabodhi Temple is one of the very few places that are visited by both religious pilgrims and heritage tourists in equal numbers.

    6. Gol Gombuz

    Location: Bijapur, Karnataka
    Architectural Style: Traditional Islamic

    Bijapur, recently rechristened as Vijayapura, is a town located in the Northern part of Karnataka which is famous for its rich historical heritage. It was the Kingdom of the Adil Shahi dynasty between the 15th and 17th century. Bijapur’s greatest attraction is unarguably the gigantic Gol Gumbaz - which is the largest unsupported dome in the world. At the time of its construction in 1659, the Gol Gumbaz was the largest dome in Asia, with a diameter of 44 meters. It was also regarded as the second largest dome in the world after the Saint Peter’s Basalica in Rome.

    The Gol Gumbaz is an engineering marvel in the sense that it does not have a single supporting pillar. With a floor area of 1700 square meters, height of 51 meters and diameter of 37 meters, this gigantic structure is the most distinctive landmark in the town. The highlight of Gol Gumbaz is its resonance effect. Even the slightest of sounds turns in to a series echos which can be heard from the opposite side of the dome. You can climb up the turret passages and can have a fabulous view of the town from the top of Gol Gumbaz.

    Constructed by Mohammed Adil Shah (1627-56), who was the 7th ruler of Adil Shahi dynasty, it took 20 long years for the completion of Gol Gumbaz. It serves as the mausoleum of the Sultan and his family. The commemorative plaque of Muhammad Adil Shah, his two wives, his mistress Rambha, his daughter and grandson are placed inside this monument.

    5. Khajuraho Rock Carvings

    Location: Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh
    Architectural Style: Traditional Hindu and Jain Styles

    Khajuraho has a distinct charm - artistic yet seductive and erotic. It is a celebration of life and love - carved in stone. Khajuraho has won over the hearts of tourists with the aggressively erotic sculptures that are deeply engraved in the heart of India, but not to forget the beautiful stone carved temples that make this UNESCO World Heritage Site a distinguished architectural marvel on the Indian soil. The groups of monuments at Khajuraho were built during the rule of the Rajput Chandela dynasty in the 9th and 10th century AD. Visit Khajuraho to witness the profusion of sculptures with intricate details, symbolism and expressiveness of ancient Indian art forms.

    Kandariya Mahadev Temple, Lakshmana Temple, Chaunsath Yogini, Matangeshwara Temple, Chitragupta Temple and Vishwanath Temple are a few of the must visit tourist attractions at Khajuraho. And yeah, don't forget to pay a visit to the Khajuraho Archeological Museum. With an impressive array of statues, sculptures and artifacts recovered from the temples of Khajuraho, this is the best place to get a few authentic glimpses of Khajuraho's glorious cultural past.

    4. Charminar

    Location: Hyderabad, Telengana
    Architectural Style: Indo-Saracenic with Persian and Hindu elements

    A global tourism icon of Hyderabad, the Charminar, constructed in 1591, is a monument cum mosque built by Sultan Muhammad Quli - the 5th ruler of the Qutb Shah dynasty. Interestingly the construction of Charminar coincides with the formation of the Hyderabad city. The capital of Qutb Shah dynasty was shifted to Hyderabad from Golkonda in the year 1591 and the Charminar was constructed to celebrate the occasion. Located on the eastern bank of Musi river, the Charminar is one of the most recognized architectural treasures of India.

    The Charminar is an epitome of Indo-Saracenic tradition. The city of Hyderabad is often identified with this majestic structure with four lofty minarets. This 400 year old imposing structure is also known as ‘The Arc de triomphe of the East’. The grand two-storied structure derived its name from the four minarets which stand tall at the four corners of this square-based building. The minarets rise as high as 50 meters from the ground level and have four stories each, marked by carved rings. 149 winding steps can take you to the top of the minarets from where you can catch some impressive views of the Golkonda Fort. The four arches of the building open to a huge courtyard. The arches have a width of 11 meters and a height of 20 meters from the base.

    While the minarets, domes and the arches resemble an Islamic style of architecture, the ornamentation on the interior walls, floors and roofs are primarily designed in Hindu style - similar to the South Indian temples.

    3. Ruins of Hampi

    Location: Hampi, Karnataka
    Architectural Style: Traditional Dravidian

    Hampi used to be the capital of Vijayanagar Empire in the medieval era. It's a place where the history unfolds its glorious past at every corner. Home to some of the finest rock carvings of all times, Hampi is one of the recipients of the coveted 'World Heritage Site' tag by the UNESCO. The place features in ASI's list of 'Top-10 Historical Places to Visit in India'. Hampi is an open museum of history, architecture and religion that can mesmerize anyone with the slightests of interest in historical affairs.

    When you turn back to the by-gone era, the history of Hampi originates from the establishment of Virupaksha temple in the 7th century. Virupaksha temple is a gigantic craftwork of rock carvings dedicated to the destructive avatar of Lord Shiva. Dedicated to Vittala, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, Vittala Temple is a marvel of the then Vijayanagar Kingdom constructed in the 15th century. The epicenter of Hampi's tourist attractions, this time-tested structure is the most extravagant architectural showpiece at Hampi.

    Riverside ruins, Vijayanagar Palace, Hemakuta Hill Temples, Lakshmi Narasimha Statue, Hazare Rama Temple, Lotus Mahal and Sugreeva's Cave are the other noteworthy historical sites at Hampi. The Hampi Archeological Museum is another place that you should not miss out.

    2. Qutub Minar

    Location: Mehrauli, Delhi
    Architectural Style: Indo-Saracenic

    Qutab Minar marks the end of Delhi's last Hindu Kingdom. The base of the soaring 120 meters tall tower of victory was erected by Qutab-ud-din Aibak immediately after dethroning Delhi's last Hindu King in the year 1193. His successor, Iltutmush, added three more storeys, and finally, Firoz Shah Tughlak constructed the fifth and the last storey in the year 1368.

    The tower has five distinct storeys, each marked by a projecting balcony supported by elaborately decorated brackets. The first three storeys are made of dark red sandstone bricks, while the fourth and the fifth have a combination of white marbles and sandstone. With an overall height of 120 meters, the Qutub Minar is the tallest brick minarety in the world. At the foot of the tower is the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, which is incidentally the first mosque to be built on the Indian soil.

    1. Taj Mahal

    Location: Agra, Uttar Pradesh
    Architectural Style - Typical Mughal Style with Indian, Persian and Islamic elements

    The Taj needs no introduction. One of the seven wonders of the world, it is by far the most recognized historical site on the Indian soil. The legacy of Taj Mahal has been luring tourists from all over the world into visit this epitome of love - which is one of the finest architectural marvels of all time. In short, the Taj Mahal is the most authentic sneak-peak into India's rich historical tradition and glorious past.

    The legacy of the Mughals is evident in every corner of the Agra town, where every aged monument has a rich historical story to tell. The magnificent Agra Fort or the architectural brilliance at Fatehpur-Sikri equally bemuse the tourists from all over the world. But the Taj Mahal is something which is special - peerless in terms of popularity and timeless in terms of brilliance. Set on a curve of the holy Yamuna River, the magical allure of the Taj Mahal draws millions of tourists to Agra like a magnet.

    Constructed over a period of 22 years by emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz, the Taj Mahal is considered by many as the most decorated abode of love in the world. The Taj stands tall at an height of 213 feet raised on a square platform, forming an unequal octagon with its four truncated corners and a majestic central dome, where each design element seamlessly integrates with the rest to produce a marvel. It is flanked on four sides by smaller domed chambers on slender minarets rising to a height of 162.5 feet. Built with shite marbles, the entire structure is decorated with an inlaid design of finest calligraphy using precious gems like agate and jasper - making it the only of its kind in the entire world.

    Thanks and Regards,
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2016