With a history dating back to almost 5000 years or more, India is known for its rich past and cultural heritage. Several dynasties ruled India during different time periods. From Chalukyas, Cholas, and Mauryas to Mughals and British; each dynasty left its mark on the Indian soil in the form of various architectural marvels that have today, become the cynosure of world’s eyes. From historical monuments in Delhi and magnificent forts in Rajasthan to rock carvings in Mahabalipuram and Dravidian temples in South, the list of Indian architectural masterpieces is endless. Your visit to India is incomplete without witnessing the richness of some of its architectural sites listed below.
It was the first of its kind garden-tomb in India that reflects the Mughal style of architecture. The tomb was built in the memory of Humayun in 1569, by his widow, Banu Begum. Reflecting a true Mughal architecture with its garden squares, water channels by the side of pathways and a double-domed mausoleum located in the center of the charbagh, it is also known as the ‘Mini Taj’. Not many people know that Taj Mahal was built after Humayun’s Tomb and it is the design of the Humayun’s Tomb that actually inspired the layout and architecture of the iconic ‘Taj’
Ruins of Hampi
Another world heritage site known for its ancient ruins and temples. The temples are built in the Dravidian style of architecture. Delicate carvings on the temple walls and pillars, narrating the stories of Ramayana and Mahabharata, give an insight into the architectural splendor of the artisans of the Vijayanagara Empire during the reign of Raja Krishnadeva Raya between 1509 AD and 1529 AD. Apart from Hindu mythology, carvings of people, animals, and demigods can also be seen on the walls and pillars. ‘Shri Vijayavitthala Temple’, dedicated to Lord Vishnu is the major attraction in Hampi and is known for its Stone Chariot, which is a testimony to the excellent design skills of the then Vijaynagara sculptors.
A world heritage site, the place is famous for its monolithic rock-cut monuments and temples dating back to 7th century. The five monolithic rock-cut ‘Rathas’, each dedicated to a Pandava brother from the Mahabharata, is worth noting their architectural elegance. Each ratio is carved in a different shape and size. Magnificently carved walls and façade with sculptures of animals, humans, and gods on the rates, give you an insight into the architectural skills of the sculptors during the Pallava rule.
Other worth visiting attractions in Mahabalipuram include the ‘Shore Temple’, ‘Arjuna’s Penance’ and rock-cut cave temples in the nearby areas.
The temple, located in the holy city of Madurai, is a masterpiece of the Dravidian architecture built during 6thcentury BC by the Pandya rulers. According to the legends, the temple is believed to have been destroyed by Muslim raiders in the 14th century and was restored again by the Nayak rulers in the 16th century. Richly sculptured and decorated towers known as ‘gopurams’ of today’s Meenakshi Temple, can be seen from a far-off distance. Dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, this temple is an architectural wonder and will surely leave you spellbound.
Intricately carved sculptures and figurines from Indian mythology can be seen in various halls of the temple. Some of the sculptures worth noticing include the scene of the ocean of milk being churned by devas and asuras, nine heads Ravana playing veena, Markandya hugging Shivlingam and scenes from the wedding ceremony of Sundareswarar & Meenakshi.
Another worth admiring feature of the temple is its thousand pillared hall which in itself is an engineering marvel. Each pillar of this hall is built with a single granite rock and produces different musical notes when tapped.
Ajanta and Ellora Caves
One of the most visited tourist attractions in India, these caves boast of the glorious architectural splendors of the Buddhist monks in ancient India. Dating back to the Gupta period, the sculptures and paintings on the walls of the Ajanta & Ellora Caves depict incidents from the life of Lord Buddha, most interesting of which are the Jataka tales. The paintings in these caves are considered to be an epitome of artistic creativity and a tribute to the craftsmanship of the sculptors of the bygone era.
Rani Ki Vav
Another excellent example of architectural excellence in India, ‘Rani ki Vav’ is a stepwell located on the banks of the Saraswati River in Patan, Gujarat. The design of well is an amalgamation of architectural and technological brilliance illustrating a true mastery of the craftsmanship. With its figurative motifs and sculptures depicting gods, humans and scenes from mythology, this architectural masterpiece is not worth missing.