Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Historical Places Of India

India is a diverse country steeped in history. Its past has seen a melting pot of different religions, rulers and empires -- all of which have left their mark on the countryside. Many historical places in India are listed as World Heritage sites due to their cultural importance.
Visit these popular historical places in India and take a trip back in time to ancient India. You'll marvel at the architecture of what are some of the most stunning and captivating historical attractions that India has to offer.

1. The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal looms fairytale-like from the banks of the Yamuna River. It's India’s most recognized monument and is also one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Taj Mahal has a rich history dating back to 1630 AD. It’s actually a tomb that contains the body of Mumtaz Mahal -- the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. He had it built as an ode to his love for her. It's made out of marble and took 22 years and 20 000 workers to complete. Words cannot do the Taj Mahal justice, its incredible detail simply has to be seen to be appreciated. 

The Taj Mahal looms fairytale-like from the banks of the Yamuna River. It's India’s most recognized monument and is also one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Taj Mahal has a rich history dating back to 1630 AD. It’s actually a tomb that contains the body of Mumtaz Mahal -- the wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. He had it built as an ode to his love for her. It's made out of marble and took 22 years and 20 000 workers to complete. Words cannot do the Taj Mahal justice, its incredible detail simply has to be seen to be appreciated. 
Taj Mahal Location:
The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, approximately 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Delhi. 
Getting to the Taj Mahal:
Agra is well connected by rail. The main railway station is Agra Cantt. High speed Shatabdi Express services operate from Delhi, Varanasi, and cities in Rajasthan. Alternatively you can fly from major Indian cities.

Trains from Delhi to Agra
Taj Mahal Opening Hours:
6 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Friday (when it's closed for prayer). The Taj Mahal is also open for moonlight viewing from 8.30 p.m. until 12.30 a.m., two days before and after each full moon.
Taj Mahal Cost:
For foreigners, the entrance fee to the Taj Mahal consists of a 250 rupee Entry Tax (Archeological Society of India) and 500 rupees Toll Tax (Agra Development Authority). Indian nationals only pay is 20 rupees (50 cents). Children younger than 15 years are free. Night time tickets cost 750 rupees for foreigners and 500 rupees for Indian nationals, for half an hour’s admittance. These tickets must be purchased 24 hours in advance from the Archaeological Survey of India office on Mall Road.
Taj Mahal Festivals:
The week long Taj Mahotsav takes place at Shilpgram in Agra, right near the Taj Mahal, from February 18-27 each year. The focus of this festival is on arts, crafts, Indian culture, and recreating the Mughal era. It gets underway with a spectacular procession that includes elephants, camels, and drummers. Elephant and camel rides are on offer, and there are also games for the kids, and a food festival. The venue has special significance, as it's apparently located on the site where the artisans who built the Taj Mahal once lived.
Taj Mahal Travel Tips:
The Taj Mahal appears to gradually alter its color in the changing light of the day. It’s well worth the effort to get up early and spend sunrise there, as it majestically reveals itself. Be prepared to encounter plenty of beggars and touts at the entrance. If you don’t want to pay the costly admission fee or battle the crowds, you can get a great view of the Taj from across the river bank. Agra is a rather dirty and characterless city, so don’t spend more than a day there. The best time to visit is from November to February, otherwise it can be unbearably hot or rainy. 
Agra Hotels:
Unfortunately, many of the hotels in Agra are as uninspiring as the city itself. However, these 5 Appealing Hotels in Agra should help make your stay a memorable one. There are hotels to suit all budgets. 
Side Trips from Agra:
The deserted Mogul capital of Fatehpur Sikri is 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Agra and can easily be visited on a day trip. Nature lovers will appreciate a trip to the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary at the Keoladeo Ghana National Park, 55 kilometers (34 miles) from Agra. Another place of interest is the beautifully carved, red ocher sandstone tomb that's Akbar's Mausoleum. It's located at Sikandra, only 13 kilometers (8 miles) from Agra.

2. Hampi

Hampi is a laid back village that was the last capital of Vijayanagar, one of the greatest Hindu kingdoms in India’s history. It has some extremely captivating ruins, intriguingly intermingled with large boulders that rear up all over the landscape.

The ruins, which date back to the 14th century, stretch for just over 25 kilometers (10 miles) and comprise more than 500 monuments. The most striking monument is the Vittala Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Its main hall has 56 pillars that make musical sounds when struck.

Hampi Location:
Hampi is in central Karnataka, approximately 350 kilometers (217 miles) from Bangalore. 
Getting to Hampi:
The closest railway station is in Hospet, around half an hour away. Private buses also operate from Bangalore and Goa, and will drop you in Hospet. From Hospet, take an autorickshaw to Hampi. The fare is around 100 rupees ($2.30).
Hampi Opening Hours:
The ruins can be explored at leisure. The Vittala Temple is open from 8.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. daily, and it’s worth getting there as early as possible to beat the crowds. The Elephant Stables, which once housed the royal elephants, is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. 
Hampi Cost:
There’s no cost to explore most of the ruins. The Vittala Temple and Elephant Stables are two places that do charge an entrance fee of $US 5 each for foreigners. Children younger than 15 years are free.
Hampi Festivals:
If you enjoy culture, make sure you catch the three day Hampi Festival (also known as the Vijaya Utsav) that's held in the first week of November each year. Dance, drama, music, fireworks, and puppet shows all take place against the ruins of Hampi. Be prepared to battle the crowds though! Hampi also holds a Purandaradasa Aradhana classical music festival in January/February each year to celebrate the birthday of Purandaradasa, a poet who lived there. In March/April the largest religious festival in Hampi, the Virupaksha Car Festival, takes place to mark the annual marriage ritual of the gods and goddesses.
Hampi Travel Tips:
An incredible energy can be felt at Hampi. The sunrise and sunset over the village, viewed from atop the central Matanga Hill, are truly magical and are not to be missed. Be sure to have a comfortable pair of shoes with you as some of the ruins can only be accessed on foot and you’ll need to walk quite a distance in order to explore them. Try taking a ferry trip across the river to Anegondi and exploring the relics there. Alternatively, it's a good idea to hire a bicycle to get around. The best time to visit is from November to February. In March it starts getting unbearably hot. 
Hampi Hotels:
Unfortunately, Hampi is lacking in quality hotels, so if you want to stay in a place with more amenities, Hospet is a better choice. It lacks Hampi's eerie charm though. Ambient, simply furnished guesthouses are plentiful in Hampi. There are two main areas to stay in Hampi -- near the bus stand and Main Bazaar, and on the other side of the river in Virupapur Gadde. Virupapur Gadde, with it's chilled out environment on the edge of paddy fields, attracts plenty of hippie types.

3. Khajuraho Temples

If you want proof that the Kama Sutra originated in India, Khajuraho is the place to see. Erotica abounds here with over 20 temples devoted to sexuality and sex. These sandstone temples, which date back to the 10th and 11th century, are the only ones remaining out of 85 temples constructed during this time.

There are 3 groups of temples -- Western, Eastern, and Southern. The main temples are in the Western group, which features the magnificent Kandariya Mahadeo Temple. The Eastern Group contains a number of exquisitely sculptured Jain temples. There are only two temples in the Southern group. 

Khajuraho Location:
Khajuraho is in northern Madhya Pradesh, approximately 620 kilometers (385 miles) south east of Delhi.
Getting to Khajuraho:
Khajuraho is most easily reached by flight, or alternatively the new Khajuraho-Jhansi Link Express train service. The daily service covers the distance between Khajuraho and Jhansi in around four and half hours. Train 229A leaves Jhansi daily at 7.25 a.m. and arrives in Khajuraho at 12.10 p.m. Coming back, train 230A departs from Khajuraho at 12.30 p.m. and reaches Jhansi at 5 p.m. Avoid traveling to Khajuraho by road if possible. It's a very bumpy five to six hour drive from Jhansi. The bus can be particularly arduous, so hiring a car is a better option under the circumstances.
Khajuraho Opening Times:
The temples are open from sunrise until just before sunset.
Khajuraho Cost:
There is an admission cost of $US 5 for the western group of temples. The others are free. Children younger than 15 years are also free.
Khajuraho Festivals:
A week long classical dance festival is held in Khajuraho at the Chitragupta Temple complex each year, in late February/early March. The festival attracts performers and dance groups from all over India. It offers a captivating way of seeing the various classical styles of Indian dance, including Kathak, Bharat Natyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Manipuri and Kathakali. A large arts and crafts fair is also held during the festival.

Khajuraho Travel Tips:
Although Khajuraho is a little out of the way, don’t decide to give it a miss on this basis. No where else will you find such unique temples with meticulously detailed carvings. The temples are best known for their erotic sculptures. However, more than that, they show a celebration of love, life and worship. They also provide an uninhibited peek into ancient Hindu faith and Tantric practices. If you need another reason to visit, only half an hour away is the added attraction of the dense, wildlife filled jungle of Panna National Park. The best time to visit is during the cooler months from November to March.
Khajuraho Hotels:
There are plenty of places to stay in Khajuraho from cheap to luxury. Many are conveniently located close to the temples. Here are the 5 Best Khajuraho Hotels for All Budgets.

4. Ajanta and Ellora Caves

Astonishingly carved into hillside rock in the middle of nowhere are the Ajanta and Ellora caves. There are 34 caves at Ellora dating from between the 6th and 11th centuries AD, and 29 caves at Ajanta dating back to between the 2nd century BC and 6th century AD. 

The caves at Ajanta are all Buddhist, while the caves at Ellora are a mixture of Buddhist, Hindu and Jain.

Ajanta and Ellora Caves Location:
The caves are in northern Maharastra, around 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Mumbai.

Getting to the Ajanta and Ellora Caves:
The closest railway stations are in Aurangabad for the Ellora caves (45 minutes away) and Jalgaon for the Ajanta caves (1.5 hours away). There’s also an airport in Aurangabad. It’s possible to hire a car and drive between the two cave sites. Traveling time is around 2 hours.
Ajanta and Ellora Caves Opening Hours:
9am until sunset (around 5.30 p.m.). The Ajanta caves are closed on Mondays, and the Ellora caves are closed on Tuesdays. Both caves are open on national holidays. However, try to avoid visiting then as the crowds can be maddening and you won't have a peaceful experience.
Ajanta and Ellora Caves Cost:
Admission for foreigners is $US10 for the Ajanta caves. The Ellora caves are free to enter except for the magnificent open air Kailasa temple which charges $US 5. Children younger than 15 years are free at both places.
Ajanta and Ellora Festivals:
The four day Ellora Ajanta Festival is held at Soneri Mahal (Golden Palace), an historic 17th century architectural marvel in Aurangabad near Ellora, in the last week of November each year. The festival features some of the most distinguished singers and dancers of India.
Ajanta and Ellora Caves Travel Tips:
The most incredible thing about these caves is that they were crafted by hand, with only a hammer and chisel. While the Ajanta caves are rich in paintings and sculpture, the Ellora caves are renowned for their extraordinary architecture. You can get an excellent view and perspective of inside the Kailasa temple by climbing up the hill around it. Its immense size covers twice the area of the Pantheon in Athens and is one and a half times as high. Bring a torch with you to the Ajanta caves as many of them are quite dark and lighting is poor. The best time to visit is from November to March when it's cooler and dry.
Ajanta and Ellora Hotels:
The Hotel Kailas is located right opposite the Ellora caves. It's a relaxing, tranquil place with stone walls and a scenic landscape. Rates are 900 rupees ($20) for a hostel room, 1500 rupees ($35) for a cottage, and 2000 rupees ($50) for a cottage facing the caves. The hotel has plenty of amenities for guests including a restaurant, internet access, a library and games. You can also go paragliding. Quality accommodations at Ajanta are limited so if you need to stay in the area, it's best to head to the Maharastra Tourism Development Corporation's Holiday Resort in nearby Fardapur. Phone: 02438-244230.

5. Fatehpur Sikri

A city that was once the proud capital of the Mughal Empire in the 16th century, Fatehpur Sikri now stands deserted as a well preserved ghost town. It was abandoned by its occupants after only 15 years due to insufficient water supply.

Fatehpur Sikri was established by Emperor Akbar from the twin villages of Fatehpur and Sikri as tribute to famous Sufi saint, Sheikh Salim Chishti. The saint accurately predicted the birth of Emperor Akbar's much longed for son.

Fatehpur Sikri Location:
Fatehpur Sikri is located 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Agra, in Uttar Pradesh.
Getting to Fatehpur Sikri:
The most convenient way to visit Fatehpur Sikri is on a day trip from Agra. A taxi will cost around 700 rupees ($16) return. Alternatively you can travel by bus for less than Rs 50 ($1.20).
Fatehpur Sikri Opening Hours:
Sunrise until sunset.
Fatehpur Sikri Cost:
Admission for foreigners is $US5. Children younger than 15 years are free.
Fatehpur Sikri Travel Tips:
Constructed out of red sandstone, Fatehpur Sikri is full of regal palaces and courtyards. There are four main buildings, all full of architectural grandeur characteristic of the Mughal dynasty. These are the Buland Darwaza, Fatehpur Sikri Fort, Tomb of Salim Chishti, and the Panch Mahal. The best time to visit is during the cooler dry weather from November to March.
Fatehpur Sikri Hotels:
Accommodation is limited at Fatehpur Sikri so it's a good idea to stay in Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. However, if you want to be close to the site, the Goverdhan Tourist Complex is a decent place. It's clean with hot water, and prices range from 250 rupees to 700 rupees depending on the size of the room. Alternatively stay in Bharatpur, 25 minutes away, and check out the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary (also known as Keoladeo Ghana National Park) there as well. 


  1. Wow! great article. I want to add one more historical sites known as Hawa Mahal in Jaipur. The palace has something to notice, mainly if you will see the architecture angle.