“If somebody asks me where the human mind has developed the most, I would surely point towards India…” remarked Max Muller when once inquired as to which race he considered the most progressive of all. True! When the buds of civilization were still sprouting in so many contemporary countries, India was at its brim of cultural progress and promotion.
Bequeathed with monumental legacies steeped in legends, historic stories and splendorous traditions – heritage destinations in India offer you a glimpse of a land rich in history with civilization roots that go as far back as the stone ages.
Bursting with architectural marvels, Indian heritage intrigue and pique while you regale artistic impressions created by man in moments of joy, sorrow and peace.
Visit the spectacular Taj Mahal in Agra, a 17th century mausoleum that tops the list of heritage destinations in India. The Taj is a dying queens wish converted into reality by a lovelorn and distraught emperor. A monument that stands unchallenged in beauty and splendor throughout the world, the Taj Mahal is much more than a mere heritage destination.
See the brilliant yet rustic forts of Rajasthan and enjoy the spellbinding beauty of stone sculptures chiseled to look alive on a temple tour of Khajuraho – a Unesco world heritage site.
Explore the rustic lanes of Fatehpur Sikri as you enter this 16th century Mughal city built on a craggy outcrop close to Agra. See Jodha Bai’s Palace, Panch Mahal, Saint Salim Chisti’s Mausoleum, Buland Darwaza, Jama Masjid et al.
Ride luxury trains such as the Palace on Wheels, Heritage on Wheels or the Fairy Queen and see golden Rajasthan – that is a glittering gem on the list of famous destinations in India. Imposing military fortresses such as Mehrangarh in Jodhpur, Amber in Jaipur, Chittor in Chittorgarh, Taragarh in Kota and the Junagarh Fort in Bikaner light up the Rajasthan landscape with heritage impressions of its imperial past. See the brilliantly painted havelis of Shekhawati and Jaisalmer that are among the important heritage destinations in India.
Explore the hidden treasures of Ajanta and Ellora while on a tour to heritage destinations in India. Tour the outstanding structures that dot the Mandu landscape, some of which were built as far back as the 13th century.
Set out on pilgrimages to ancient temples and Ghats of Varanasi aka Banares that is the oldest surviving city of India. Travel to Nalanda the ancient seat of learning in India while you scour Orissa beaches for shore temples and ancient legacies.
Visit the heritage attractions of Sanchi, Shivpuri, Gwalior, Orchha, Bhopal and other cities of India with Tour Travel Guide.
Five millennia of inspired architects have combined to create, in India some of the world’s most magnificent monuments to the building arts. Fabulous creations rise from every corner of this nation from every period of her history. There are monuments to the gods – be they Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or Christian; monuments to government, be they english or Indian; monuments to maharajahs, and India’s most famous- her glorious monument to love, the Taj Mahal.
The genius of the earliest builders in this land is evidenced in stuctures that awe us still: there is the great Stupa at Sanchi, India’s finest surviving Buddhist monument that stands silent and still on the great plains of Sanchi. The smooth, round monument is guarded by four gateways rich with ancient sculpture – every inch carved by master craftsmen.
There are the rock-cut caves at Ajanta, twenty eight caves carved from the basalt cliffs, once a Buddhist sanctuary. Gorgeous murals tell visual tales of yore, punctuated with stone Buddhas.
There beautiful sculpture in the caves at Ellora and on the island of Elephanta, breakthtaking solid rock representations of gods and men.
The mason’s craft reached its zenith in the exquisite, life like carvings at the love temples of Khajuraho, the soaring Jagannath temple at Puri, the astounding sculptural decoration on the Chennakeshava Temple at Belur.
Dilwara Jain Temple is Mount Abu’s main attraction and among the finest examples of Jain architecture in India. The Complex includes two temples in which the art of carving marble reached unsurpassed heights.
India’s best known monument is a superb example of the Islamic architectural tradition: the Taj Mahal’s onion dome, peaked arches, and towering minarets are typical of the Islamic architecture that swept India in the wake of the Muslim invasion.
Taj Mahal is the best-known monument that enshrines love styled in white marble it is consequential of a promise taken out by dying queen from her Monarch husband. Agra, once the capital of the Mughal Empire during the 16th and early 18th centuries, is just a while away from New Delhi. Tourists from all over the world journey to Agra to have a glimpse of Taj Mahal, the most famous architectural wonder.
Rajasthani palaces and nable havelis sport delicate carving, sheer as lace, and one of the most remarkable sights in the land is the Palace of the Winds in Jaipur, honeycombed with hundreds of windows.
Lively Hindu temple architecture dominates the South, flute playing gods and beautiful goddesses smiling from the elaborately carved gopurams (gateways). Within, devotes wash in sacred pools before offering prayers.
European churches stand on hill sides from Chennai to Delhi, legacy of two hundred years of British rule. The English also left a rich repository of colonial buildings, airy whitewashed structures fragrant with the grandeur of Empire. There’s the elaborate Victorian post office building in Calcutta; Mumbai’s imposing Gateway to India; Lutyen’s restrained Art Nouveau government buildings in New Delhi.
But Indian architecture is not all about history, for the nation’s young architects are intent on making history as well. Born of independent India, but child of her storied past, they create modern structures that fuse past and present East and West. From these builders of tomorrow comes buildings like the Bahai House of Worship in Delhi, the 1986 wonder that rises from the ground like a giant marble lotus.
Spirituality pervades the land that is India. Each stone, river, stream and mountain has a thousand-year old history behind it, and some part of that history has a tale to tell.
INDIA’s GLORIOUS DIVERSITY extends to religious life as well. Eighty-five percent of Indian’s diversity. Boasting a lively pantheon of deities that smile from exquisitely sculpted temple gopura, the Hindu religion absorbs beliefs and philosophies from all over, thus practices frequently differ from place to place. Nevertheless the basic tenets of Hinduism were laid out in the Vedas, and describe the goal of uniting with Brahma, the creator, via a life of asceticism and meditation. Hindu belief includes the concept of samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth, and release from samsara, or moksha.
Muslims are a significant ten percent of the population, and all over India, mosques are almost as ubiquitous as temple. Islam worships one God, Allah, eschews pork, and Muslim women are encouraged to veil themselves. Muslims are no longer a large part of the population, but their impact throughout Indian history is felt in its architecture and in several cities.
Other significant religious groups include the Jains and Buddhists, once much more prominent than they are now, and shoes temple architecture has left its mark on the Indian landscape, the Sikh community, Christians, and Zoroastrians.
Places of spiritual importance abound in India. From Badrinath, Kedarnath, Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag in the north to the numerous temples and places like Kanyakumari and Mammalapuram in the South, there is no dearth of spiritual places.
Badrinath – Set on the mountains at a height of about 11,000 feet, according to mythology, it is here that Lord Vishnu spent innumerable years in meditation. Lord Badrinath is worshipped here and Badrinath finds favor with all Hindus, but it is all the more sacred for the devotees of Vishnu.
Kedarnath – situated at a height of 3,581 metres, the Kedarnath shrine is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Holy places include the Kedarnath Temple, Shankarachary Samadhi and many others. Kedarnath is in close proximity to other places that are both beautiful and holy like Sonprayag, Gaurikund, Madmaheshwar and Tungnath.
Uttarkashi – Uttarkashi is known for its temples dedicated to Parshuram, Datatryea, Annapurna, Kali, Bhairon and other gods and goddesses. It is situated at an altitude of 1,550 meter at the banks of the Bhagirathi river.
Vaishno-devi – This cave temple situated at a height of 5,200 feet above sea level in Jammu and Kashmir, is dedicated to the three goddesses, Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The cave has a very low height – just 1.5 m. Devotees have to bend double for the first few yards and then wade through ankle deep chill water to see the deity. Devotees have to undertake an arduous 13 km trek to reach the temple. A staggering 15 to 20,000 people come to the temple everyday. It is believed that the arm of the goddess Sati fell here. It is only temple in India where all the three goddesses are worshipped in one place.
Other temples in the area are, Charan Paduka Temple, Ban Ganga Temple, Ardh Kuwari and the Bhairon Temple.
Kanya Kumari – located at the southern tip of India, it is here that the 1000 year old Guganathaswamy Temple, the Kumari Amman temple where Parvati as Devi Kanya, the Virgin Goddess is worshipped and the modern monuments of faith, the Vivekanand Memorial and the Gandhi Memorial are situated.
Mammalapuram – the city plays host to fourteen cave temples, nine monolithic shrines, three stone temples and four relief sculptured rock panels. Thiruvanamalai – according to tradition, it was the town of Lord Shiva. Located at the foothills of the Arunachala hill, of the numerous temples dedicated to Shiva, the most important is the Arunachal Temple.
‘Indian Food’ it is hardly surprising that a nation of such rich complexity and sheer vastness the definition of a national cuisine is, at best, elusive. Certainly, Indians are masterful with spices, blending ultimate combinations tailored to each dish. But beyond that, differences are perhaps more common than similarities. Northerners prefer wheat based, Southerners rice. The tropical south tends to be vegetarian; the north meat eaters or non-vegetarian. Even the ubiquitous Indian curry means different things to different people! The visitor will find that crossing state lines means crossing culinary lines as well, for India is a glorious riot of diversity. As in Europe, each state often lays claim to a unique history, culture, language – and food. One important caveat, however: the food a visitor comes across in hotels and restaurants may be surprisingly homogenous. When restaurants first became popular, after Independence, (traditional sensibilities frowned upon eating out), the vast majority were Punjabi and Mughal court inspired, and that continues today. The finest Indian cooking is still the preserve of private homes – needless to say, if you are so honoured as to receive an invitation to dine in India, do not hesitate.
DELHI Although a city rather than a region, Delhi is included here in part because a millennium’s worth of history and rulers can almost be traced in her local cuisine: the high tea and cake of the Raj era is still served in tiny drawing rooms throughout the city. Equally, Delhi stands out as the founding father of Punjabi restaurant fare. The city’s Punjabi community, who came to Delhi at the time of Partition, brought with clay oven (tandoors), the robust red tandoori chicken has quickly became a Delhi – and Indian restaurant – staple.
KASHMIR – The breathtaking landscape here, snowcapped mountains enclosing a lush valley, grows some of the nation’s sweetest rice and finest bakers. When a Kashmiri sits down to dine, likely it will be on this rice and kohlrabi, cooked with chillies. Lamb is another favourite – the delectable rogan jhosh, for example – although Hindus and Muslims will spice them differently, as are aubergines, lotus root, and cabbage. The distinct flavour of Kashmir comes from ver, a dried spice paste (the ingredients, which might include chillies, coriander, cumin, cloves, ginger, turmeric, and cardamom, and differ from family to family) which is sprinkled on dishes. Kashmiris dry the bounty of summer in preparation for the winter, hence the abundance of dried fruits and nuts in restaurant dishes like ” Kashmir naan” and Kashmir Pullao”.
WEST BENGAL – The state that gave its name to the Bay of Bengal loves fish. At least one fish dish will be included in each meal, and the favourite way of cooking hilsa-fish-is to cook elishbhapa. Fish pieces coated in a mix of mustard seeds, mustard oil, and turmeric are wrapped in banana leaves and cooked. Indeed, these mustard seeds and mustard oil are classic Bengali spices. And if no meal is complete without fish, similarly, no meal should end without a sweet, for Bengalis have a notoriously sweet tooth. Rasgullas, the fresh cheese-dough balls in syrup, is a favourite throughout India, but the array of delicious sweetmeats seems endless here.
ANDHRA PRADESH – The seat of the fabulously wealthy Nizam of Hyderabad whose Muslim court ruled with all the fabled excesses of a maharajah, Hyderabad’s setting in Hindu South India has produced a splendid cuisine. There are simple dishes, like rice and lentils – kitchri – accompanied by pappadums, mango pickle and kheema curry. There are more complex dishes, like the deep fried pastry dough squares, stuffed with minced meat, called lukmi. There is chippe ka gosht, meat marinated in a heavenly combination of green chillies, coconut, yogurt, garam masala, garlic and onion; there are delicate fried minced meat balls, dunked in to a yogurt mixture, called kacche dahi ke koftay. Meals end with the famous marzipan baadaam ki jaali, layered with edible silver tissue.
MAHARASHTRA – With bustling Mumbai as its capital, foodies call Maharashtra state the dividing line between the wheat-eating north and the rice-eating south (the Kashmiri northbeing the exception that proves the rule). Denizens of Maharashtra enjoy both. This is the region that produces the famed Alphoso mangoes, a gourmet delicacy in mango-loving circles, The fishermen of the coastline bring in seafood that is prepared in pastes of chilli, coconut, cinnamon, cloves, turmeric; rubbed with coconut paste and flavoured with chillies. In Mumbai, everyone gathers around the bhel-puri man’s cart, sampling the puffy bread along with sweet-sour chutneys, hot and spicy sauces, crunchy wheat flour bits.
Fairs and Festivals of India
India is a land of often bewildering diversity. It is a jigsaw puzzle of people – of every faith and religion, living together to create a unique and colourful mosaic. There is a festivals celebrate the various harvests celebrate the various harvests, commemorate great historical figures and events, while many express devotion to the deities of different religions. Every celebration centres around the rituals of prayer, seeking blessing, exchanging goodwill, decorating houses, wearing new clothes, music, dance and feasting.
» Fairs and Festivals in India
MAKAR SANKRANTI : Is a celebration of spring on the occasion of the ‘ascent’ of he sun to the north (Uttarayana). In Maharshtra, Karnataka as well as parts or Andhra, Makar Sankranti is a day of goodwill and friendship. Sesame ladoos and sugar drops are distributed as a symbol of he need to be generous and kind to everyone. Women wear new clothes, new glass bangles and hold get-togethers to share sweets and gifts. A New bride is given ornaments made of sugar drops and her new relatives are invited to meet and welcome her at a Haldi Kumkum celebration.
LOHRI : In the North Makar Snakranti is called lohri. It is the only Hindu festival which falls regularly on the 14th of January every year. Lohri is the time after which the bring cold of winter begins to taper off. On this day the children go from door to door to collect funds for community bonfires which are lit in the evening. Lohri is more of a community festival, where the birth of a son or the first year of marriage is celebrated with great fun and frolic. People gather around the bonfires and offer sweets, crisp rice and popcorn to the flames. Songs are sung to the beat of vigrous claps and greetings and exchanged.
VASANT PANCHAMI : Is a ceremonial welcome to spring on the fifth day of the waxing moon of Magh, When Saraswati, Shiva- Durga and Vishnu-Lakshmi are worshipepd. People wear colourful attires, especially in bright shades of yellow and they dance, sign and make merry.
In west Bengal, ‘Saraswati’ – the Goddess of learning in worshipped. The festival is celebrated with great fervour in the university town of Shantiniketan.
MAHASHIVARATRI : On the 14th night of the dark half of Magh occurs the festival of Mahashivaratri, the great night of Lord Shiva. The devotees stay awake throughout the night offering their prayers to Lord Shiva. They offer special food made from the fruits of the season, root vegetables and coconuts to Lord Shiva. Having observed the requirements of the all night fast, devotees eat the prasad offered to Shiva. Special celebrations are held in some of the major Shaivite temples at Varanasi, Kalhasti (Andhra Pradesh) and Chidambaram (Tamil Nadu).
SURAJKUND CRAFT MELA : In order to promote the traditional Indian handicrafts, a delightful handloom and handicrafts fair is held annually at Surajkund. Skilled artisans and craftsmen display their skills and crafts in a rural setting. Cultural programmes and rural cuisine are also a part of this colourful fair.
HOLI : Is the most boisterous of all Hindu festivals, observed all over the North. It heralds the end o winter and the beginning of the spring. The night before the full moon, crowds of people gather together and light huge bonfires to burn the residual dried leaves and twinge of the winter. People throw coloured water and powders (gulal & kukkum) at each other and make merry. Singing and dancing add to the gaiety of the occasion.
In the northern, western as well as eastern regions. Holi celebrates the joyful raasleela of Krishna and the gopis. They play phag which is a game of many colourful hues. It is a joyous celebration of he rejuvenation of nature, and renewed hope of happiness and peaceful coexistence. Especially famous is the Lathmaar Holi of Barsana and Nandgaon. In Anandpur Sahib, Sikhs celebrate a special festival Hola Mohalla on the day after Holi. It marks a displays of ancient martial arts and mock battles. Holi is also an occasion for the celebration of the burning of Kama, the Hindu cupid, with the fire that emanated from Lord Shiva’s third eye.
RAMNAVAMI : The birthday of Lord Rama, the celebrated hero of the famous epic, the Ramayana, is enthusiastically celebrated on the ninth day of the waxing moon of chaitra. Temples are decorated, religious discourses are held and the Ramayana is recited for ten days. People gather in thousands on the banks of the sacred river Saryu for a dip.
People sing devotional songs in praise of Rama and rock image of him in cradles to celebrates his birth. Rathyatras or chariot procession of Rama, his wife Sita, brother Lakshmana and devotee Hanumana re taken out from many temples.
ID-UL-ZUHA : TIs a Muslim festival celebrated all over India. Prayers are offered in the mosques and special delicacies are prepared and served among family and friends on the occasion.
KHAJURAHO DANCE FESTIVAL : Is a week-long festival of classical dances held at the Khajuraho Temples, built by the chandella kings.
GOOD FRIDAY : Is observed all over India by the Christians. This is the day when Lord Christ was crucified. The Christians offer special prayer services in the churches.
BAISAKHI : Is celebrated in Punjab with great fervour. It was on this day that Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa (Sikh brotherhood). The holy book of the Sikh, Granth Sahib is taken in a procession, led by the Panj Pyaras (five senior sikhs) whoa re symbolic of the original leaders. The occasion is marked by lot of feasting and merry making. All night revelries termed Baisakhi di Raat (Night of Baisakhi) or Baisakhi da Mela (Baisakhi fair) are held, where men and women dance to the rhythmic beat of drums.
In Kerala the festival is known as Vishu. A display of grain, fruits, flowers, gold, new cloth and money, is viewed early in the morning to ensure a prosperous year ahead.
Known as Rangali Bihu in Assam, the festival is celebrated with lively dances, music and feasting.