India is home to diverse cultures and it is this culture that defines our beautiful country and sets us apart from the rest of the world. True to this, India also has plenty of word heritage sites, officially recognised by UNESCO. As of May 2017, a total of 1052 World Heritage Sites have been listed by the UNESCO and of these 35 are listed in India. Here is a list of the 5 must visit heritage sites in India.
Taj Mahal, Agra
A list of Heritage sites in India cannot begin without the iconic Taj Mahal. It is an international symbol of India and is spectacular in terms of architecture and its breathtaking beauty. Located on the banks of river Jamuna, the Taj Mahal is India’s most popular site and is built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial and mausoleum to his beloved wife Mumtaj Mahal. There are many interesting facts about the Taj Mahal, making it a must visit for any traveller.
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Mahabodhi Temple Complex, Bodh Gaya
Sometime in the 3rd century BC, King Ashoka built a temple around the tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment. This was the original temple, however, over the years the temple has been reconstructed and the current temple dates back to a time somewhere between the 5th and 6th century AD. The temple is an epicentre of the Buddhist religion and the place from where Buddhism propagated around the world. It is a central attraction today to Buddhists as well as people of all religions. The temple is situated about 16 kilometres from the town of Gaya in Bihar.
In the state of Karnataka is located the ruins of a once glittering city called Vijayanagara. The place is now the town of Hampi is a World Heritage Site. The city of Vijayanagara dates back in time to somewhere between the 14th and 16th centuries. Hampi is a collection of temples including the famous Virupaksha temple, civil buildings, aqueducts and canals, living quarters, markets and stables for horses and elephants. The stone ruins of Hampi whisper stories that have been lost in time. Stories of a glorious chapter in its history. Hampi is located about 365 kilometres from Bangalore and just about 74 kilometres from Bellary.
The intriguing caves of Ajanta are situated about 97 kilometres from the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. These caves are home to some of the oldest and best examples of Indian art and sculpture. The paintings and rock cut sculptures are estimated to date back to a period between 2nd century BCE and 480 or 650 CE. There is a total of 30 caves cut into the rocks, which house these invaluable paintings and sculptures. A visit to the Ajanta caves is sure to take one back in time on a scintillating journey when the people practices an esoteric art of painting and rock sculpture.
Sun Temple, Konark
If you travel a distance of about 75 kilometres from Bhubaneshwar, the capital city of Orissa, you reach one of the most fascinating of World Heritage Sites in India, the Sun Temple of Konark. The Wheel of Konark is easily one of the most recognisable symbols of India. The temple was built sometime in the 13th century CE by a king named Narasimha Deva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. The temple dedicated to the Sun has been built in the shape of a chariot, unfortunately, a major part of the temple is in ruins. The main sanctum of the temple which was a whopping 229 feet high was ruined sometime in 1837 because of the nature of the soil. The temple has beautiful sculptures of Musicians, dancers, and animals on its outer walls as well as erotic sculptures that are similar to the ones found in Khajuraho.
These are just 5 must-see heritage sites of India and each of them fascinating in their own right. It is interesting to note that there are 30 others in India, each of them a gem in the crown of the country.