India is an ancient country rich in monumental heritage. There are ancient caves, tombs, forts and temples that are known for their breathtaking beauty and exquisite architecture.
Here we will take a tour of three very distinct and well-known monuments which are a must watch for all the tourists visiting India, A magnificent tomb of Mughal period, a cluster of ancient caves and a Hindu temple whose beauty surpasses everything around.
Humayun’s Tomb is the landmark of Delhi and my favorite monument of Mughal times.
The first distinct example of Mughal architecture in India, it was built by the emperor Humayun’s widow, Hamida Begum, in 1565 AD. Designed by the Persian architect, Mirza Ghyas, Humayun’s Tomb is one of the finest mausoleums built in red sandstone & colored tiles for ornamentation. It is the first garden tomb made in India.
The complex is a World Heritage Site and it is not only an excellent example of early Mughal architecture, but also the predecessor of the magnificent Taj Mahal at Agra.
The mausoleum merges the Persian architecture and Indian traditions to give a beautiful effect – the arched alcoves, corridors and the high double dome are the significant aspect of the Persian touch and the kiosks, which give it a pyramidal outline from distance, denote the Indian tradition.
Located in the midst of a geometrically arranged garden crisscrossed by numerous water channels and screened by high walls, the tomb is surmounted by a magnificent marble dome that stands 140 feet from the base of the terrace and is topped with a copper pinnacle. The entrance is a massive double-storey gateway that shows the majesty of the building. The architectural design, known as ‘Hasht Bahisht’ (Eight circles of Paradise), used in Humayun’s Tomb was the first in the sub-continent.
It is homage to The Royal Dynasty and several rulers of the Mughal Sultanate lie buried in the mausoleum, although impossible to identify their graves.
Around the complex, there are several other beautiful monuments like Nila-Gumbad or the Blue Dome. It is an impressive tomb of plastered stone covered with a dome of blue tiles. Octagonal externally but square within, the ceiling of this tomb is intricately decorated with painted and incised plaster. It has a high neck the usual double dome is absent, which makes it a unique construction for this period.
Nai Ka Gumbad, the tomb of Humayun’s barber, is another impressive square tomb with a double-dome built in the same complex.
Humayun’s Tomb is an impressive monument and a masterpiece of Indo- Islamic culture.
The Elephanta caves are situated at the Elephanta islands in India, at a distance of 11-km from Mumbai and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The island of Elephanta was a commercial, military and religious center for centuries and has traces of early Buddhist culture. The Elephanta caves date back to the period between 9th – 12th centuries.
The entire cave temple complex covers an area of about 60, 000 square feet. It is known as The World of Lord Shiva. It is at this place where the main events in the mythology of Lord Shiva are powerfully depicted. The temples in the Elephanta caves and the carvings on the walls show Shiva in different moods and poses.
It is an exquisite example of rock-cut artistry. There are seven cave excavations in the Elephanta group of caves. The entire cave temple complex covers an area of about 60000 square feet and consists of a main chamber and two lateral ones. It also has courtyards and several subsidiary shrines. A mass of natural rock lies above the temple.
The most magnificent aspect of the caves is the enigmatic image of Trimurthi Sadasiva carved in relief at the end of the north south axis of the temple. This colossal 20 feet high image of the three-headed Shiva, Trimurthi is breathtaking and is considered a masterpiece of Indian art. The caves are filled with intricate and detailed carvings. Some of them depict the fabled legends and mythical stories.
The Mahesh Murti cave has special importance because it has the magnificent Trimurthi Sadasiva that stand at a height of about 20 ft and also known as Panchmukhi Shiva. Three faces Panchamukha Shiva are carved into the wall of the northern entrance. Here Shiva is portrayed in the Shiva lingam or phallus form.
To the east of the main temple, there is a courtyard, and the secondary shrine. This temple contains six pillars at its entrance, four of which are free standing. The entrance leads to a hall decorated with sculptured panels depicting legends from the Shiva Purana. Nothing has disturbed the sublime beauty of this place for centuries although many of the sculptures were destroyed by the Protégées rulers who vandalized the place.
Elephanta caves are the ultimate place to get an insight of religious and cultural aspects of India. Here the Indian art has found an expression in stones and is a great visual treat.
It leaves one wondering about the creative and artistic energy of those unknown artisans who brought life into the rocks around here.
Konark Sun Temple
The magnificent Konark Sun Temple is located in the state of Orissa near the sacred city of Puri. It is dedicated to the sun God or Surya and is a masterpiece of Orissa’s medieval architecture.
This temple was built in the thirteenth century by the King Narasimha Deva. It is considered as one of the grandest temples of India and is often referred to as the Black Pagoda. The ruins of this temple were excavated only in late 19th century.
Konark derives its name from Konark, the presiding deity of the Sun Temple. It is actually a combination of two words, Kona (corner) and Arka (sun), which, when combined, means the sun of the corner.
The massive structure of the temple, now in ruins, sits in solitary splendor of drifting sands. The entire temple was designed in the shape of a chariot with 24 wheels, each about 10 feet in diameter, with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings carrying the Sun God across the heavens. Seven horses drag the temple. Two lions guard the entrance, crushing elephants.
The huge intricate wheels of the chariot carved around the base of the temple are the major attractions of the temple. Shadows formed by these can give the precise time of the day. There are carved erotic human figures on the temples walls. The pyramidal roof of the temple is made of sandstone and soars over 30 m in height.
The sun temple is a world heritage site as and is no doubt world’s most beautiful temple buildings.