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Monuments in India

Ajanta Caves (1983)

Beginning with the 2nd century B.C., and continuing into the 6th century A.D., the paintings and sculptures in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora, inspired by Buddhism and its compassionate ethos, unleashed a surge of artistic excellence unmatched in human history. These Buddhist and Jain caves are ornately carved, yet seem quiet and meditative and exude a divine energy and power.

About 107 km from the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra, are the rock-out caves of Ajanta nestled in a panoramic gorge, in the form of a gigantic horseshoe. A set of 29 caves, Ajanta is among the finest examples of some of the earliest Buddhist architecture, cave paintings and sculptures. These caves comprise Chaitya halls or shrines, dedicated to Lord Buddha and Viharas or monasteries, used by Buddhist monks for meditation and the study of Buddhist teachings. The paintings that adorn the walls and ceilings of the caves depict incidents from the life of lord Buddha and various Buddhist divinities. Among the most interesting paintings are the Jataka tales, illustrating diverse stories relating to the previous incarnations of the Buddha as Bodhisattava, a saintly being who is destined to become the Buddha. These elaborate sculptures and paintings stand in impressive grandeur in spite of withstanding the ravages of time. Amid the beautiful images and paintings are sculptures of Buddha, calm and serene in contemplation.

Ellora Caves (1983)

The cave temples and monasteries at Ellora, excavated out of the vertical face of an escarpment, are 26 km north of Aurangabad. Sculptors, inspired by Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, created elaborate rock carvings. Extending in a linear arrangement, the 34 caves contain Buddhist Chaityas or halls of worship, Viharas or monasteries and Hindu and Jain temples. Spanning a period of about 600 years between the 5thand 11th century A.D., the earliest excavation here is of the Dhumar Lena (Cave 29). The most imposing excavation is, without doubt, that of the magnificent Kailasa Temple (Cave 16) which is the largest monolithic structure in the world. Known as Verul in ancient times, it has continuously attracted pilgrims through the centuries to the present day.

Declared as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1983, the paintings and sculptures of Ajanta and Ellora, considered masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, have had a great influence in the development of art in India. The creative use of colour and freedom of expression used in depicting human and animal forms makes the cave paintings at Ajanta one of the high watermarks of artistic creativity. The Ellora preserved as an artistic legacy that will continue to inspire and enrich the lives of generations to come. Not only is this cave complex a unique artistic creation and an excellent example of technological exploit but also, with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.

Agra Fort (1983)

Near the gardens of Taj Mahal stands the important 16th-century Mughal monument known as the Red Fort of Agra. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses within its 2.5-km-long enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. The forbidding exteriors of this fort hide an inner paradise. There are a number of exquisite buildings like Moti Masjid - a white marble mosque akin to a perfect pearl; Diwan-E-Am, Diwan-E-Khaas, Musamman Burj - where Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan died in 1666 A.D., Jahangir's Palace, Khaas Mahal and Sheesh Mahal. Agra Fort, an excellent example of Mughal architecture, is one of the fewUNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.

The construction of the Agra fort was started around 1565, when the initial structures were built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar, and subsequently taken over by his grandson Shah Jahan, who added most of the marble creations to the fort. The fort is crescent shaped, flattened on the east with a long, nearly straight wall facing the river. It is ringed by double castellated ramparts of red sandstone, punctuated at regular intervals by bastions. A 9m wide and 10m deep moat surrounds the outer wall. An imposing 22m high inner wall imparts a feeling of invincible defensive construction. The layout of the fort was determined by the course of the river, which in those days flowed alongside. The main axis is parallel to the river and the walls bridge out towards the city.

The fort had originally four gates, two of which were later walled up. Today, visitors are allowed entry only through the Amar Singh gate. Jehangir Mahal is the first notable building that the visitor sees as he enters through Amar Singh gate. Jehangir was Akbar's son and the heir to the Mughal throne. Jehangir Mahal was built by Akbar as the women's quarters. It is built of stone and is simply decorated on the exterior. Ornamental Persian verses have been carved on a large stone bowl, which were probably used to contain fragrant rose water. Akbar built a palace, adjacent to Jehangir Mahal, for her favourite queen Jodha Bai.

Built by Shah Jahan, entirely of marble, the Khaas Mahal demonstrates distinctive Islamic-Persian features. These are well blended with a striking range of Hindu features such as chhatris. It is considered to be emperor's sleeping room or 'Aramgah'. Khaas Mahal provides the most successful example of painting on a white marble surface. On the left of the Khaas Mahal, is the Musamman Burj, built by Shah Jahan. It is a beautiful octagonal tower with an open pavillion. It boasts of its openness, elevation and cool evening breezes. This is where Shah Jahan lay on his deathbed, gazing at the Taj.

Sheesh Mahal or the Glass Palace is the finest example of decorative water engineering in the hammams. It is believed to have been the harem or the dressing room, and its walls are inlaid with tiny mirrors which are the best specimens of the glass-mosaic decoration in India. To the right of Sheesh Mahal is Diwan-I-Khaas, the hall of Private Audience. The marble pillars are inlaid with semi-precious stones in delightful floral patterns. Adjacent to this, is the Mammam-E-Shahi or the Shah Burj, used as the summer retreat.

The Diwan-E-Am used to house the famous Peacock Throne, which was taken to the Red Fort when Shah Jahan moved his capital to Delhi. The throne alcove is of richly decorated white marble. Nagina Masjid, built by Shah Jahan, was the private mosque of the ladies of the court. Moti Masjid or the Pearl Mosque is the prettiest structure at Agra Fort. The building is presently closed for visitors. Near Moti Masjid is Mina Masjid, which seems to have been constructed by Shah Jahan strictly for his private use.

Taj Mahal (1983)

Sheer poetry in marble. Majesty and magnificence, unrivalled, the Taj Mahal is the only one of its kind across the world. The monumental labour of love of a great ruler for his beloved queen. The ultimate realisation of Emperor Shahjahan's dream. One of the wonders of the world. From 1631 A.D., it took 22 years in its making. An estimated 20,000 people worked to complete the enchanting mausoleum, on the banks of the Yamuna. For a breathtaking beautiful view of the Taj Mahal, one has to see it by moonlight.

History

The construction of this marble masterpiece is credited to the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan who erected this mausoleum in memory of his beloved wife, Arjumand Bano Begum, popularly known as Mumtaz Mahal, who died in A.H. 1040 (A.D. 1630). Her last wish to her husband was "to build a tomb in her memory such as the world had never seen before". Thus emperor Shah Jahan set about building this fairytale like marvel. The construction of Taj Mahal was started in A.D. 1632 and completed at the end of 1648 A.D. For seventeen years, twenty thousand workmen are said to be employed on it daily, for their accommodation a small town, named after the deceased empress-'Mumtazabad, now known as Taj Ganj, was built adjacent to it.

Amanat Khan Shirazi was the calligrapher of Taj Mahal, his name occurs at the end of an inscription on one of the gates of the Taj. Poet Ghyasuddin had designed the verses on the tombstone, while Ismail Khan Afridi of Turkey was the dome maker. Muhammad Hanif was the superintendent of Masons. The designer of Taj Mahal was Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. The material was brought in from all over India and central Asia and it took a fleet of 1000 elephants to transport it to the site. The central dome is 187 feet high at the centre. Red sandstone was brought from Fatehpur Sikri, Jasper from Punjab, Jade and Crystal from China, Turquoise from Tibet, Lapis Lazuli and Sapphire from Sri Lanka, Coal and Cornelian from Arabia and diamonds from Panna. In all 28 kind of rare, semi precious and precious stones were used for inlay work in the Taj Mahal. The chief building material, the white marble was brought from the quarries of Makrana, in district Nagaur, Rajasthan.

Entrance

The main gate of Taj faces the Southern gate. The gateway is 151 feet by 117 feet and rises to a height of 100 feet. Tourists can enter the main compound by a small gate at the side of the main gate.

Main Gate

This main gate of red sandstone measures 30 mt. in height. It is inscribed with verses from the Koran in Arabic. The small domed pavilions on top are in Hindu style and signify regality. A striking feature of the gateway is that the lettering appears to be of the same size. The engravers have skillfully enlarged and lengthened the letters which create an illusion of uniformity.

Well laid out gardens measuring 300 x 300 mt. in the form of a Charbagh are spread on either side of the pavement. In the centre is a platform from where tourists can capture the Taj on film.

Taj Museum

To the left of the above mentioned platform is the Taj Museum. Original drawings available here show the precision with which the architect had planned this monument. He even anticipated that it would be completed in 22 years. Drawings of the interiors show the position of the graves in such precision that the foot of the graves faces the viewer from any angle.

The Mosque and the Jawab

To the left of the Taj is a mosque made of red sandstone. It is common in Islam to build a mosque next to a tomb, as it sanctifies the area and provides for a place for worship. This mosque is still used for Friday prayers.

An identical mosque is also built to the right of the Taj and is known as the Jawab (answer). Prayers are not held here as it faces west i.e. away from Mecca, the holy city of the Muslims. It was built to maintain symmetry.

The Exterior

The Taj itself stands in a raised platform. The four minarets at each corner of the plinth provide a perfect balance to the tomb. The minarets measure 41.6 m high and each has a deliberate slant outwards so that in an unlikely event of an earthquake, they would not fall on the tomb but away from it. The bulbous dome of the Taj Mahal rests on an extraordinarily high drum and rises to a total height of 44.41 mt. From the base of the drum to the apex to the finial. The central dome, irrespective of the angles of the view. There is only one point of access to the plinth and tomb, a double staircase facing the entrance. One has to remove shoes over or can put on the shoe covers which are provided at a nominal cost by the staff stationed here for this purpose.

Interior of the Taj

The interior of the mausoleum comprises a lofty central chamber, a crypt immediately below this and four octagonal corner rooms originally intended to house the graves of other royal family members.

In the centre are the cenotaphs of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan's cenotaph is to the left and is higher than that of his beloved which rests immediately below the dome. The cenotaph of Mumtaz Mahal stands in the centre of the marble screen, it has inscribed on it in Persian with texts from the Koran. The cenotaph has the single epitaph inscribed on it - "Marqad Munavvar Arjumand Ban Begum Mukhatib bah Mumtaz Mahal Tanifiyat ferr sanh 1040 Hijri" (Here lies Arjumand Bano Begum called Mumtaz Mahal who died in 1040 A.H. or 1630 A.D.).

The cenotaph of Shah Jahan is inscribed in Persian - "Marqad Mutahar Aali Hazrat Firdaus Ashiyani Sahib-qiran Saani Saani Shah Jahan Badshah taab surah sanh 1076 Hijri" (The sacred sepulchre of his most exalted Majesty, dweller of Paradise, the second lord of constellations, the king Shah Jahan, may his mausoleum ever flourish, 1076 A.H. (1666 A.D.). Above the tombs is a Cairene lamp, the flame of which is supposed to never burn out. Marble screen of trelliswork surrounds the graves. Both tombs are exquisitely inlaid with semi precious stones. The acoustics of the building are superb with the domed ceiling being designed to echo chants from Koran and musician's melodies. It is suggested that one walk around the outside of the tomb, before retrieving your shoes, to appreciate it from all sides.

Sun Temple, Konarak (1984)

Konark Sun Temple, located in the eastern State of Orissa near the sacred city of Puri, is dedicated to the sun God or Surya. It is a monumental representation of the sun God Surya's chariot; its 24 wheels are decorated with symbolic designs and it is led by a team of six horses. It is a masterpiece of Orissa's medieval architecture and one of India's most famous Brahman sanctuaries.

The Konark temple is widely known not only for its architectural grandeur but also for the intricacy and profusion of sculptural work. It marks the highest point of achievement of Kalinga architecture depicting the grace, the joy and the rhythm of life all its wondrous variety.

The temple declared a world heritage by UNESCO was built in A.D. 1250, during the reign of the Eastern Ganga King Narasimhadeva-I (A.D. 1238-64). There are two rows of 12 wheels on each side of the Konark sun temple. Some say the wheels represent the 24 hours in a day and others say the 12 months. The seven horses are said to symbolize the seven days of the week. Sailors once called this Sun Temple of Konarak, the Black Pagoda because it was supposed to draw ships into the shore and cause shipwrecks.

Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram (1984)

Butter Ball Mammalapuram Shore Temple

Kaziranga National Park (1985)

Kaziranga is a title of a remarkable success story of conservation of the One Horned India Rhinoceros and other wild lives in the North East India. It is not only the homeland of the Great Indian One Horned Rhinoceros, but also provides shelter to a variety of wild lives.

It is one of the significant natural habitat for in situ conservation of biological biodiversity of universal value. The values and criteria made Kaziranga National Park to get inscribed in the World Heritage Site List 1985. The Kaziranga National Park area consists of 429.93 Sq.Km. with an additional area of 429.40 Sq.Km. and situated in the two districts of Assam, namely Golaghat and Nagaon. The total area of the park within Nagaon district is 175 Sq.Km., out of which 135 Sq.Km. falls under Bagori Forest Range office and 40 Sq.Km. falls within Ghorakati Forest Range office.

A few centuries ago, the Indian one horned Rhinocerous ranged across the north Indian plains in the wetlands of the rivers Indus, Ganga, and Brahmaputra. Today this survivor from the prehistoric times is found only in pockets in the north eastern state of Assam and in Nepal. In Assam, their Rhino habitat is limited to just two national parks - Kaziranga and Manas.

Kaziranga National Park is a birding paradise; the grasslands are a raptor country that can be seen on safari makes a remarkable experience.

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary(1985)

Manas National Park or Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is a Wildlife Sanctuary,UNESCO Natural World Heritage site, a Project Tiger Reserve, an Elephant Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve in Assam, India. Located in the Himalayan foothills, it is contiguous with the Royal Manas National park[1] in Bhutan. The park is known for its rare and endangered endemic wildlife such as the Assam Roofed Turtle, Hispid Hare,Golden Langur and Pygmy Hog.

The name of the park is originated from the Manas River, which is named after the serpent goddess Manasa. The Manas river is a major tributary of Brahmaputra River, which passes through the heart of the national park.

The sanctuary has recorded 55 species of mammals, 380 species of birds, 50 of reptiles, and 3 species of amphibians. Out of these wildlife, 21 mammals are India’s Schedule I mammals and 31 of them are threatened.

The fauna of the sanctuary include Asian Elephants, Indian Rhinoceros, Gaurs, Asian Water Buffaloes, Barasingha, Tigers, Leopards,Clouded Leopards, Asian golden cat, Capped Langurs, Golden Langurs, Assamese Macaques, Slow Loris, Hoolock Gibbons, Smooth-coated Otters, Sloth Bears, Barking Deer, Hog Deer, Sambar Deer and Chital.

The park is well known for its rare and endangered wildlife which is not found anywhere else in the world like the Assam Roofed Turtle, Hispid Hare, Golden Langur and Pygmy Hog.

Manas houses about 380 species of birds. Manas have the largest population of endangered Bengal Florican. The major other birds includesGiant Hornbills, Jungle Fowls, Bulbuls, Brahminy Ducks, Kalij Pheasants, Egrets, Pelicans, Fishing Eagles, Serpent Eagles, Falcons,Scarlet Minivets, Bee-Eaters, Magpie Robins, Pied Hornbills, Grey Hornbills, Mergansers, Harriers, Ospreys and Herons.

Keoladeo National Park (1985) (Bharatpur Bird Sanchuary)

Pied White Brested Little Blue Purple Heron

The Keoladeo National Park or Keoladeo Ghana National Park formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Rajasthan, India is a famous avifauna sanctuary that sees (or saw) thousands of rare and highly endangered birds such as the Siberian Crane come here during the winter season. Over 230 species of birds are known to have made the National Parktheir home. It is also a major tourist centre with scores of ornithologists arriving here in the hibernal season. It was declared a protected sanctuary in 1971. It is also a declared World Heritage Site.

The sanctuary was created 250 years ago and is named after a Keoladeo (Shiva) temple within its boundaries. Initially, it was a natural depression; and was flooded after the Ajan Bund was constructed by Maharaja Suraj Mal, the then ruler of the princely state of Bharatpur, between 1726 to 1763. The bund was created at the confluence of two rivers, the Gambhir and Banganga. The park was a hunting ground for the maharajas of Bharatpur, a tradition dating back to 1850, and duck shoots were organised yearly in honor of the British viceroys. In one shoot alone in 1938, over 4,273 birds such as mallards and teals were killed byLord Linlithgow, the then Governor-General of India. After India's independence, the rulers of the princely states were allowed shooting rights until 1972. In 1982, grazing was banned in the park, leading to violent clashes between the local farmer and the government.

Churches and Convents of Goa(1986)

The Southern Indian State, Goa has some world famous churches and convents, particularly the Church of Bom Jesus, which contains the tomb of St. Francis-Xavier and Se' Cathedral. These monuments were influential in spreading forms of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art in all the countries of Asia where missions were established.

The Basilica of Bom Jesus, located 10 km east Panaji (Capital of Goa) was built in 16th Century. 'Bom Jesus' means 'Infant Jesus' or 'Good Jesus'. Renowned throughout the Catholic world, this cathedral is India's first Minor Basilica, and is considered as one of the best examples of baroque architecture in India. The layout follows simple Renaissance norms while the detailing and decoration is unabashed Baroque. It's an opulent structure, which incorporates white marble and has beautifully gilded altars decorated with frescoes and inlay work.

The Basilica houses the sacred relics of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of Goa who died in 1552. Cosimo de Medici III, Grand Duke of Tuscany, gifted the mortal remains of the saint to the church. Today, the embalmed body lies in an airtight glass coffin positioned in a silver casket crafted by a 17th century Florentine sculptor, Giovanni Batista Foggini. In accordance with his wishes, his remains were transferred to Goa the following year after his death. It is said that, while transferring, the saint's body was found to be as fresh as the day it was buried.

The mausoleum of St. Xavier is a marvel of Italian art (the marble base) and Hindu craftsmanship (the silver casket). The elaborately gilded altars are fine examples of sculptures and carvings in wood, stone, gold and granite. Columns are covered with marble and inlaid with precious stones. The church also houses paintings depicting the life of St. Francis Xavier.

Se' Cathedral, another celebrated religious buildings of Goa was constructed in 16th century the Roman Catholics under the Portuguese rule. The Cathedral, the largest church in Asia, is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria on whose feast day in 1510, Alfonso Albuquerque defeated the Muslim army and took possession of the city of Goa. Hence, it is also known as St. Catherine's' Cathedral.

The construction of this imposing edifice began in 1562 during the reign of King Dom Sebastião (1557-78) and substantially completed by 1619. It was consecrated in 1640.

The church is 250 ft in length and 181 ft in breath. The frontispiece stands 115 ft high. The building is Portuguese-Gothic in style with a Tuscan exterior and Corinthian interior. The exterior of the cathedral is notable for its plainness of style whereas, its vaulted interior overwhelms the visitors by sheer grandeur.

The main altar of the Cathedral is dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, and old paintings on either side of it, depict scenes from her life and martyrdom. On the right of the nave, is the screened Chapel of the Cross of Miracles.

Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi, Church of Lady of Rosary; Church of St. Augustine are among some other famous Churches and Convents of Goa.

Khajuraho Group of Monuments(1986)

Khajuraho, the ancient Kharjjuravahaka, is located in the State of Madhya Pradesh and was the principal seat of authority of the Chandella rulers who adorned it with numerous tanks, scores of lofty temples of sculptural grace and architectural splendour.

Yasovarman (A.D. 954) built the temple of Vishnu, which is now famous as Lakshmana temple, and is an ornate and evolved example of its time proclaiming the prestige of the Chandellas.

Temples of Khajuraho are world famous for their architectural art and have been declared world heritage byUNESCO. The Visvanatha, Parsvanatha and Vaidyanatha Temples belong to the time of king Dhanga, the successor of Yasovarman. The Jagadambi, Chitragupta, are noteworthy among the western group of royal temples of Khajuraho. The largest and grandest temple of Khajuraho is the immortal Kandariya Mahadeva, which is attributed to king Ganda (A.D. 1017-29). The other examples that followed viz., Vamana, Adinatha, Javari, Chaturbhuj and Duladeo, are smaller but elaborately designed. The Khajuraho group of temples is noted for lofty terraces (jagati) and functionally effective plans. The sculptural embellishments include, besides the cult images; parivara, parsva, avarana devatas, dikpalas, the apsarases and sura-sundaris, which win universal admiration for their delicate, youthful female forms of ravishing beauty. The attire and ornamentation embrace the winsome grace and charm.

Group of Monuments at Hampi (1986)

Hampi, the 14th century capital of one of the greatest empires of medieval India called the Vijayanagar Empire, lies in the Deccan heartland, in the state of Karnataka. The 14th Century ruins of Hampi lie scattered in about 26 sq. km areas, amidst giant boulders and vegetation. Protected by the tempestuous river Tungabhadra in the north and rocky granite ridges on the other three sides, the ruins silently narrate the story of grandeur, splendour and fabulous wealth. The splendid remains of palaces and gateways of the broken city tells a tale of man's infinite talent and power of creativity together with his capacity for senseless destruction.

The monuments of Vijayanagar city, also known as Vidyasagar in honour of the sage Vidyaranya was built between 1336-1570 A.D., from the times of Harihara-I to Sadasiva Raya. A large number of royal buildings were raised by Krishnadeva Raya (A.D. 1509-30), the greatest ruler of the dynasty.

The period witnessed resurgence of Hindu religion art, architecture in an unprecedented scale. Temples of Hampi are noted for their large dimensions, florid ornamentation, bold and delicate carvings, stately pillars, magnificent pavilions and a great wealth of iconographic and traditional depictions, which include subjects from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

The Vitthala temple in Hampi is an excellent example of Vijayanagar style. The monolithic statues of Lakshmi, Narasimha and Ganesha are noted for their massiveness and grace. The Krishna temple, Pattabhirama temple, Hazara Ramachandra and Chandrasekhara temple as also the Jain temples, are other examples. Majority of these temples in Hampi were provided with widespread bazaars flanked on either side by storied Mandapas.

Among secular edifices, mention may be made of the Zenana enclosure wherein a massive stone basement of the Queen's palace and ornate pavilion called 'Lotus-Mahal' are the only remnants of a luxurious 'Antahpura'. The corner towers of arresting elevation, the Dhananayaka's enclosure (treasury), the Mahanavami Dibba carrying beautifully sculptured panels, a variety of ponds and tanks, Mandapas, the elephant's stables and the row of pillared Mandapas are some of the important architectural remains of Hampi.

Recent excavations at the Hampi have brought to light a large number of palatial complexes and basements of several platforms. Interesting finds include a large number of stone images, beautiful terra cotta objects and stucco figures that once embellished the palaces at Hampi.

In addition, many gold and copper coins, household utensils, a square stepped-tank (Sarovar) at the south-west of Mahanavami Dibba, and a large number of ceramics, including the important variety of porcelain and inscribed Buddhist sculptures of 2nd-3rdcentury A.D. have also been unearthed.

Fatehpur Sikri (1986)

The royal city at Fatehpur Sikri, situated 26 miles west of Agra, Uttar Pradesh, was built under the orders of the great Mughal Emperor Akbar. In honour of saint Shaikh Salim Chisti, Akbar founded a magnificent city on Sikri ridge. In 1571, he ordered the construction of buildings for his own use and asked the noblemen to build houses for themselves.

Within a year, most of the work was finished and within the next few years, a well planned administrative, residential and religious buildings came into existence.

The Jami Mosque was perhaps among the first buildings to come up. Its epigraph gives AH 979 (A.D. 1571-72) as the date of its completion. The Buland-Darwaza was added some five years later. Among other important buildings are the tomb of Shaikh Salim Chishti, Naubat-or Naqqar Khana (drum-house), Taksal (mint), Karkhanas (royal workshop), Khazana (treasury), Hakim's quarters, Diwan-i-Am (hall of public audience), house of Maryam also called Sunahra Makan (Golden House), palace of Jodh Bai, Birbal's house, etc.

Group of Monuments at Pattadakal (1987)

Situated in the southern State of Karnataka, Pattadakal group of monuments are famous for their harmonious blend of architectural forms of northern and southern India. Pattadakal, the capital of the Chalukya dynasty of medieval India, is 22 km away from Badami and 514 km from Bangalore. This famous world heritage site consists of a group of ten major temples, each displaying interesting architectural features.

Built in the 7th and 8th centuries, the Pattadakal monument was famous for royal coronation called 'Pattadakisuvolal'. Temples constructed here mark the blending of the Rekha Nagara Prasada and the Dravida Vimana styles of temple building. The oldest temple at Pattadakal is the simple but massive Sangamesvara built by Vijayaditya Satyasraya (A.D. 697-733).

The Mallikarjuna and the Virupaksha temples at Pattadakal, were built by two queens of Vikaramaditya II, to commemorate the victory of the Chalukyas over the Pallavas. Virupaksha temple, built by Queen Lokamahadevi, was originally called Lokeshwara. This temple is built in the southern Dravida style and is the largest in the enclosure. It has a massive gateway and several inscriptions.

Virupaksha temple also served as a model for the Rashtrakuta ruler to carve out the great Kailasa at Ellora. The sculptural art of the early Chalukyas is characterized by grace and delicate details. The ceiling panels of the navagrahas, dikpalas, the dancing Nataraja, the wall niches containing Lingodbhava, Ardhanarisvara, Tripurari, Varahavishnu, Trivikrama bear ample testimony to the sculptor's skill as well as the cult worship that was in vogue. The narrative relief's illustrating certain episodes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavata and Panchatantra fitted well with these grand religious edifices.

The Jambulinga Temple at Pattadakal has a fine figure of the Dancing Shiva with Nandi (bull) & Parvathi by his side. Built with a northern style tower, there is a horse-shoe arched projection on its facade.

The Chandrashekhara and Kadasideeshwara are the other major temples here, and Pattadakal also has a Jaina basadi of Rashtrakuta times with two beautiful elephants in front.

Elephanta Caves (1987)

Elephanta anciently known as Gharapuri, the island capital of Konkan Mauryas, is celebrated for its colossal image of Mahesamurti with three heads each representing a different form. The Elephanta Caves serve as a great tourist attraction in the vicinity of the large Mumbai metropolis. The Elephanta island is located 10 km away from the Gateway of India at Mumbai in Maharashtra. The cave temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, was excavated sometime in the 8th century by the Rashtrakuta kings, who ruled the area between A.D. 757-973.

The Elephanta caves is a conglomeration of seven caves, out of which the most important is the Mahesa-murti cave. The main body of the cave, excluding the porticos on the three open sides and the back isle, is 27 metres square and is supported by rows of six columns each. The gigantic figures of 'dvarapalas' or doorkeepers are very impressive.

There are sculptured compartments in this cave with remarkable images of Ardhanarisvara, Kalyana-sundara Shiva, Ravana lifting Kailasa, Andhakari-Murti (slaying of Andhaka demon) and Nataraja Shiva.

The cave complex has been given the status of world heritage by UNESCO.

Great Living Chola Temples (1987, 2004)

Situated in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, this World Heritage site comprises the three great 11th and 12th century Chola Temples: the Brihadisvara temples of Thanjavur, Gangaikondacholisvaram, and the Airatesvara temple at Darasuram. The three Chola temples in India are exemplary production in the Dravidian style of temple architecture.

The Brihadisvara temples are situated at Thanjavur, the ancient capital of the Chola kings. King Rajaraja Chola constructed the Brihadisvara Temple in 10th century A.D., designed by the famous architect Sama Varma. The Cholas were great patrons of art, during their reign, as a result, the most magnificent temples and exquisite bronze icons were created in South India.

The Brihadisvara temple is crowned by a pyramidal 65-m vimana, a sanctum tower. Its walls are covered with rich sculptural decoration. The second Brihadisvara temple complex built by Rajendra I was completed in 1035. Its 53-m vimana has recessed corners and a graceful upward curving movement, contrasting with the straight and severe tower at Thanjavur. It has six pairs of massive, monolithic dvarapalas statues guarding the entrances and bronzes of remarkable beauty inside.

The other two temples, Gangaikondacholisvaram and Airatesvara were also built in the age of Cholas and testify their brilliant achievements in architecture, sculpture, painting, and bronze casting.

The great Temple of Tanjore (Thanjavur) was built between 1003 and 1010 in the reign of the King Rajaraja, of the Chola Empire which stretched all over South India and the neighbouring islands. Surrounded by two rectangular enclosures, the Brihadisvara Temple (built from blocks of granite and, in part, from bricks) is crowned with a pyramidal 13-storey tower, the vimana, standing 61 m high and topped with a bulb-shaped monolith. The walls of the temple are covered with rich sculptural decoration.

Sundarbans National Park (1987)

The Sundarbans National Park (Bengali: সুন্দরবন জাতীয় উদ্যান Shundorbôn Jatio Uddan) is aNational Park, Tiger Reserve, UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve located in the Sundarbans delta in the Indian state of West Bengal. This region is densely covered bymangrove forests, and is one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger. It is also home to a variety of bird, reptile and invertebrate species, including the salt-water crocodile.

In 1911, it was described as a tract of waste country which had never been surveyed, nor had the census been extended to it. It then stretched for about 165 miles (266 km) from the mouth of the Hugli to the mouth of the Meghna, and was bordered inland by the three settled districts of the Twenty-four Parganas, Khulna and Backergunje. The total area (including water) was estimated at 6,526 square miles (16,902 km2).

The present Sundarbans National Park was declared as the core area of Sundarbans Tiger Reserve in 1973 and a wildlife sanctuary in 1977. On May 4, 1984 it was declared a National Park. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1987.[1] Whole Sundarbans area was declared as Biosphere Reserve in 1989.

The Sundarbans forest is home to more than 400 tigers. The Royal Bengal Tigers have developed a unique characteristic of swimming in the saline waters, and are world famous for their man-eating tendencies.

Apart from the Royal Bengal Tiger; Fishing Cats, Macaques, Wild Boar, Common Grey Mongoose, Fox, Jungle Cat, Flying Fox, Pangolin,Chital, are also found in abundance in the Sundarbans.

Some of the fish and amphibians found in the park are Sawfish, Butter Fish, Electric rays, Silver carp, Star Fish, Common Carp, King Crabs, Prawn, Shrimps, Gangetic Dolphins, Skipping Frogs, Common Toads and Tree Frogs.

The Sundarbans National Park houses an excellent number of reptiles as well, including estuarine crocodiles, chameleons, water monitors, Hard Shelled Batgun Terrapins, Mouse Ghekos, monitor lizards, and Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman; turtles, including Olive Ridley, hawksbill, and green turtles; and snakes including pythons, King Cobras, rat snakes, Russell's vipers, Dog Faced Water Snakes, Chequered Killbacks, and Common Kraits.

The endangered species that lives within the Sundarbans are Royal Bengal Tiger, Estuarian Crocodile, River Terrapin (Batagur baska), Olive Ridley Turtle, Gangetic dolphin, Ground Turtle,Hawks Bill Turtle and King Crabs (Horse shoe).

Nanda Devi National Park (1988)

The Nanda Devi National Park is a national park situated around the peak of Nanda Devi, 7,817 m (25,646 ft), in the state of Uttarakhand in northern India. It was established as national park in 1982 and was inscribed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988. It covers 630.33 km.

The park encompasses the Nanda Devi Sanctuary, a glacial basin surrounded by a ring of peaks between 6,000 metres (19,700 ft) and 7,500 m (24,600 ft) high, and drained by the Rishi Ganga through the Rishi Ganga Gorge, a steep, almost impassable defile. Together with the nearby Valley of Flowers National Park to the northwest, it is a designated World Heritage Site. Both parks are encompassed in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (223,674 ha) which is further surrounded by a buffer zone (5,148.57 km²).[

The Sanctuary can be divided into two parts, Inner and Outer. Together, they are surrounded by the main Sanctuary Wall, which forms a roughly square outline, with high, continuous ridges on the north, east, and south sides. On the west side, less high but still imposing ridges drop from the north and south toward the Rishi Ganga Gorge, which drains the Sanctuary towards the west.

The Inner Sanctuary occupies roughly the eastern two-thirds of the total area, and contains Nanda Devi itself and the two major glaciers flanking the peak, the Uttari (north) Rishi Glacier and the Dakkhni (south) Rishi Glacier. These are fed by the smaller Uttari Nanda Devi and Dakkhni Nanda Devi Glaciers respectively. The first recorded entry of humans into the Inner Sanctuary was by Eric Shipton and H. W. Tilman in 1934, via the Rishi Gorge.

The Outer Sanctuary occupies the western third of the total Sanctuary, and is separated from the Inner Sanctuary by high ridges, through which flows the Rishi Ganga. It is split in two by the Rishi Ganga; on the north side lies the Ramani Glacier, flowing down from the slopes ofDunagiri and Changabang, and on the south lies the Trisul Glacier, flowing from the peak of the same name. This portion of the Sanctuary is accessible to the outside (though requiring the crossing of a 4,000 m (13,000 ft) pass). The first serious climbing expedition to pass through the Outer Sanctuary was that of T. G. Longstaff, who climbed Trisul I in 1907 via the eponymous glacier.

Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi(1989)

Sanchi, also known as Kakanaya, Kakanava, Kakanadabota and Bota-Sriparvata in ancient times is situated in the state of Madhya Pradesh. It is a religious place with historical and archaeological significance. Sanchi is famous in the world for stupas, monolithic Asokan pillar, temples, monasteries and sculptural wealth dating from 3rd century B.C. to 12th century A.D.

The Sanchi stupas are noteworthy for their gateways as they contain ornamented depiction of incidents from the life of Buddha and his previous incarnations, "Bodhisattvas", as described in the Jataka tales. Here, Gautam Buddha is depicted by symbols, such as the wheel, which represents his teaching.

Sanchi was virtually forgotten after the 13th Century until 1818, when General Taylor, a British Officer rediscovered it, half buried and well preserved. Later in 1912, Sir John Marshal, Director General of Archaeology, ordered the restoration work at the site.

During Sunga times, several edifices were raised at Sanchi and its surrounding hills. The Asokan stupa was enlarged and faced with stones and decorated with balustrades, staircase and a harmika on the top. The reconstruction of Temple 40 and erection of Stupas 2 and 3 also date back to the same time. In the first century B.C., the Andhra-Satavahanas, who had extended their sway over the eastern Malwa, caused the elaborately carved gateways to Stupa 1. From the second to 4th century A.D., Sanchi and Vidisha came under the Kushanas and Kshatrapas and subsequently passed on to the hands of the Guptas. During the Gupta period, some temples were built and sculptures were added.

The largest stupa, known as the Great Stupa, is surrounded by a railing with four carved gateways facing all the four directions of the compass. The gateways were probably carved around 100 A.D. Stupas are large hemispherical domes, containing a central chamber, in which the relics of the Buddha were placed. The stupas at Sanchi trace the development of the Buddhist architecture and sculpture at the same location beginning from 3rd century B.C. to 12th century A.D. One of the most interesting features of all the sculptures here, is the lack of images of the Buddha in human form. The carvings have a wonderful vitality and show a world where people and animals live together in happiness, harmony and plenty. stylised depiction of nature is exquisite. Lord Buddha has been shown symbolically in inanimate figures. Presently under a UNESCO project, Sanchi and another Buddhist site, Satdhara, is being further excavated, conserved and environmentally developed.

Humayun's Tomb, Delhi (1993)

Humayun's tomb in the capital Delhi is a fine specimen of the great Mughal architecture. Built in 1570, the tomb is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. Its unique beauty is said to have inspired several major architectural innovations, culminating in the construction of the unparalleled Taj Mahal. In many ways, this magnificent red and white sandstone building is as spectacular as the famous 'monument to love' in Agra. This historic monument was erected by Humayun's queen Hamida Banu Begam (Haji Begam) at a cost of about 1.5 million. It is believed that she designed the tomb.

The splendour of this monument becomes evident on entering the grandiose double-storeyed gateway. High rubble walls enclose a square garden divided into four large squares separated by causeways and water channels. Each square is divided again into smaller squares by pathways, forming a typical Mughal garden called Charbagh. The fountains were worked with simple yet highly developed engineering skills quite common in India during this period. The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar II had taken refuge in this tomb during the first War of Independence in 1857. Several rulers of the Mughal dynasty lie buried here. Humayun's wife is buried here too.

The main sarcophagus stands in the central hall, oriented - in accordance with Muslim practice - on the north-south axis. Traditionally, the body is placed with the head to the north, the face turned sideways towards Mecca. The dome is what is called a full dome, a complete semi-circle which is a special feature of Mughal architecture. The structure is built with red sandstone, but white and black marble has been used in the borders. UNESCO has declared this magnificent masterpiece a world heritage.

Qutub Minar and its Monuments, Delhi (1993)

Qutub-Minar in red and buff sandstone is the highest tower in India.

Built in the 13th century, the magnificent tower stands in the capital, Delhi. It has a diameter of 14.32m at the base and about 2.75m on the top with a height of 72.5m. It is an architectural marvel of ancient India.

The complex has a number of other important monuments such as the gateway built in 1310, the Alai Darwaza, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque; the tombs of Altamish, Ala-ud-din Khalji and Imam Zamin; the Alai Minar, a 7m high Iron Pillar, etc.

Qutub-ud-Din Aibak of Slave Dynasty laid the foundation of Minar in A.D. 1199 for the use of mu'azzin (crier) to give calls for prayer and raised the first storey, to which were added three more storeys by his successor and son-in-law, Shams-ud-Din Itutmish (A.D. 1211-36). All the storeys are surrounded by a projected balcony encircling the minar and supported by stone brackets, which are decorated with honey-comb design, more conspicuously in the first storey.

Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, to the north-east of minar was built by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak in A.D. 1198. It is the earliest extant - mosque built by the Delhi Sultans. It consists of a rectangular courtyard enclosed by cloisters, erected with the carved columns and architectural members of 27 Hindu and Jaina temples, which were demolished by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak as recorded in his inscription on the main eastern entrance. Later, a lofty arched screen was erected and the mosque was enlarged, by Shams-ud- Din Itutmish (A.D. 1210-35) and Ala-ud-Din Khalji. The Iron Pillar in the courtyard bears an inscription in Sanskrit in Brahmi script of fourth century A.D., according to which the pillar was set up as a Vishnudhvaja (standard of god Vishnu) on the hill known as Vishnupada in memory of a mighty king named Chandra. A deep socket on the top of the ornate capital indicates that probably an image of Garuda was fixed into it.

The tomb of Itutmish (A.D. 1211-36) was built in A.D. 1235. It is a plain square chamber of red sandstone, profusely carved with inscriptions, geometrical and arabesque patterns in Saracenic tradition on the entrances and the whole of interior. Some of the motifs viz., the wheel, tassel, etc., are reminiscent of Hindu designs.

Alai- Darwaza, the southern gateway of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque was constructed by Ala-ud-Din Khalji in A.H. 710 (A.D. 1311) as recorded in the inscriptions engraved on it. This is the first building employing Islamic principles of construction and ornamentation.

Alai Minar, which stands to the north of Qutub-Minar, was commenced by Ala-ud-Din Khalji, with the intention of making it twice the size of earlier Minar. He could complete only the first storey, which now has an extant height of 25 m. The other remains in the Qutub complex comprise madrasa, graves, tombs, mosque and architectural members.

UNESCO has declared the highest stone tower in India as a world heritage.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) (1999)

By 1871 Railway lines had been laid till Goalundo (now in Bangladesh), and proved profitable to the Eastern Bengal Railway (EBR). Such was the good dividend being obtained that its directors shot down any proposal for extensiontowards Siliguri, let alone Darjeeling. Thus it was left to the state-owned Northern Bengal Railway (NBR) to lay a track from Poradaha to Damukdiya on the right bank of the Ganga (13 miles), and then a metre-gauge stretch from Saraghat on the left bank to Siliguri (197 miles), the Ganga crossing being made on steam ferries. But neither NBR nor EBR was willing to take on the hills of Darjeeling, and sink money in an enterprise that appeared to be unprofitable.

While corporate organisations did not attempt a rail route to Darjeeling, an individual not only dared envision it, but also translated his dream into reality. After train services reached the plains of Siliguri in 1878, Franklin Prestage, Agent of the Eastern BengaL Railway, foresaw the utiLity of a rail link between the hills of Darjeeling and the plains. He submitted a scheme for the construction of a two feet gauge railway line from Siliguri to Darjeeling. His scheme was mainly driven by hard economic considerations viz., the huge difference in the cost of essential commodities between Darjeeling and Siliguri, the need to carry out tea for export and the inability of the existing road to handle the growing traffic.

In a detailed scheme submitted to the Government of Bengal and approved by the Lt. Governor Sir Ashley Eden, he pointed out how a railway could substantially reduce the cost of transport between Darjeeling and the plains. Rice, which sold at Rs. 98 a ton at Siliguri, cost Rs. 238 at Darjeeling! He was also convinced that the cost of construction of the 2 feet gauge rail-line would not be prohibitive, and locomotives, small but powerful enough to climb steep gradients, could be designed.

Prestage received final sanction for his project on April 8, 1879 and formed the Darjeeling Steam Tramway Co. However, the idea of operating the line as a steam tramway was soon abandoned and, on September 15, 1881, the company adopted the designation of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Co. (DHR), which remained effective until it was taken over by the Government of free India on October 20, 1948. Throughout that period Gillanders Artbuthnot & Co., one of the oldest managing houses in Calcutta, handled its financial, legal and purchasing interests.

Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya (2002)

The Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Bodh Gaya is located in the central part of the state of Bihar, in the northeastern part of India. It is the part of the great Ganges plains. The Mahabodhi Temple is located at the place of Lord Buddha's enlightenment. Bihar is one of the four holy sites related to the life of the Lord Buddha, and particularly to the attainment of Enlightenment.

The first temple was built by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century B.C., and the present temple dates from the 5th or 6th centuries. It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely with brick, still standing in India, from the late Gupta period. The site of the Mahabodhi Temple provides exceptional records of the events associated with the life of Buddha and subsequent worship, particularly since Emperor Ashoka built the first temple, the balustrades, and the memorial column. The sculpted stone balustrades are an outstanding early example of sculptural relics in stone.

Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (2003)

The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, a recognized world heritage site by UNESCO, are in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains on the southern edge of the central Indian plateau in the State of Madhya Pradesh. Bhimbetka is also known as Bhima's Lounge (Bhima was the second of the five Pandava princes in the Hindu epic Mahabharata).

Within massive sandstone outcrops, above comparatively dense forest, are five clusters of natural rock shelters, displaying paintings that appear to date from the Mesolithic Period to the historical period. The cultural traditions of the inhabitants of the twenty-one villages adjacent to the site bear a strong resemblance to those represented in the rock paintings.

Most of the paintings here are in red and white with occasional dashes of yellow and green, with themes culled from events in everyday life, thousands of years ago. The scenes depicted are mainly of dancing, playing music, hunting, horse and elephant riding, decorating bodies, and collecting honey. Household scenes too constitute an occasional theme. Animals like tigers, lions, wild boar, elephants, dogs and crocodiles have also been portrayed in the paintings. The walls of these shelters are also adorned with religious symbols that were popular with these pre-historic artists.

Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park (2004)

A concentration of largely unexcavated archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage properties cradled in an impressive landscape which includes prehistoric (chalcolithic) sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital, and remains of the 16th-century capital of the state of Gujarat. The site also includes, among other vestiges, fortifications, palaces, religious buildings, residential precincts, agricultural structures and water installations, from the 8th to 14th centuries. The Kalikamata Temple on top of Pavagadh Hill is considered to be an important shrine, attracting large numbers of pilgrims throughout the year. The site is the only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city.

The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park with its ancient Hindu architecture, temples and special water retaining installations together with its religious, military and agricultural structures, dating back to the regional Capital City built by Mehmud Begda in the 16th century, represents cultures which have disappeared.

The structures represent a perfect blend of Hindu-Moslem architecture, mainly in the Great Mosque (Jami Masjid), which was a model for later mosque architecture in India. This special style comes from the significant period of regional sultanates.

The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is an outstanding example of a very short living Capital, making the best use of its setting, topography and natural features. It is quite vulnerable due to abandonment, forest takeover and modern life.

The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is a place of worship and continuous pilgrimage for Hindu believers.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) (2004)

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus in Mumbai, Maharashtra is a fine example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India, with a blend of themes derived from Indian traditional architecture. The terminus exhibits an important interchange of influences between the two. The building, designed by the British architect F.W. Stevens, became the symbol of Bombay (now Mumbai) as the 'Gothic City' and the major international mercantile port city in the Indian subcontinent within the British Commonwealth. The terminal was built over ten years, starting in 1878 according to a High Victorian Gothic design based on late medieval Italian models. Its remarkable stone dome, turrets, pointed arches, and eccentric ground plan are close to traditional Indian palace architecture.

This famous terminal also displays the beauty of late 19th century railway architecture in the British Commonwealth characterized by its advanced structural and technical solutions. It has become an inseparable part of the people of Mumbai as the station operates both suburban and long distance trains. This magnificent terminus serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways in India and is one of the busiest stations of the nation. Till 1996, it was known as Victoria Terminal, named so in the honour of Queen Victoria.

On 2nd July 2004, the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO nominated this magnificent specimen of late 19th century railway architecture as a World Heritage Site. This terminus is one of the rare specimens of the excellent fusion of traditional western and Indian architecture and adds a unique variety to the rich Indian heritage.

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