Thursday, January 22

Indian Monuments

Buland Darwaza

Buland Darwaza or the loft gateway was built by the great Mughal emperor, Akbar in 1601 A.D. at Fatehpur Sikri. Akbar built the Buland Darwaza to commemorate his victory over Gujarat. The Buland Darwaza is approached by 42 steps. The Buland Darwaza is 53.63m high and 35 meters wide. Buland Darwaza is the highest gateway in the world and an astounding example of the Mughal architecture. The Buland Darwaza or the magnificence gateway is made of red and buff sandstone, decorated by carving and inlaying of white and black marble. An inscription on the central face of the Buland Darwaza throws light on Akbar's religious broad mindedness.

The Buland Darwaza towers above the courtyard of the mosque. The Buland Darwaza is semi octagonal in plan and is topped by pillars and chhatris. Buland Darwaza echoes early Mughal design with simple ornamentation, carved verses from the Koran and towering arches. There are thirteen smaller domed kiosks on the roof, stylized battlement and small turrets and inlay work of white and black marble. On the outside a long flight of steps sweeps down the hill giving the gateway additional height. A Persian inscription on eastern arch way of the Buland Darwaza records Akbar's conquest over Deccan in 1601 A.D.

Char Minar

The Charminar in Hyderabad was constructed in 1591 by Mohammed Quli Qutab Shah. He built the Charminar to mark the end of plague in the Hyderabad city. Since the construction of the Charminar, the Hyderabad city has almost become synonymous with the monument. The Charminar is a massive and impressive structure with four minarets. In the evening, with illumination, the great Charminar looks even greater. With the passage of time the Charminar occupied so much importance that it became the heart of all bustling activities. It is in the bustling bazaars around the Charminar that you find the traditional nahari stalls and kulchas of Hyderabad. Hyderabad is one of those few cities, which have a fine blend of modernity and tradition.

The Charminar has four imposing arches, which face the four main directions. A row of small vaulted niches ornament each of the four arches. The Char Minar is a two-storied building with the first floor being covered. The balconies on this floor provide a great view of the surrounding areas. A small mosque adorns the top floor of the Charminar. This mosque is situated on the western side of the Charminar facing Mecca, the holy city of the Muslims. This mosque is said to be the oldest surviving mosque in Hyderabad city. Charminar, the hub of Hyderabad city, has four wide roads going in each direction. The Charminar is square in shape, each side measuring 100 feet, with a central pointed high arch at the center.

The four minarets of the Charminar dominate the landscape of the region. The minarets, their domed finials rising from their lotus-leaves cushion, rise to 180 feet from the ground. The whole structure contains various small and ornamental arches arranged in vertical and horizontal fashion. The cornice on the first floor upholds a series of six arches and capitals on each portico, rising to the double-story gallery of the minarets. The projected canopy, decorative brackets and decoration in stucco plaster add graceful elegance to the Charminar. On the upper courtyard, a screen of arches topped by a row of square jalis or water screens provides a delicate charm to the muscular look of the Charminar.

Gateway of India

One of the grand and magnificent landmarks of Mumbai, the Gateway of India was built to commemorate the visit of the British Monarch, King George V and Queen Mary. The Gateway of India is one of the hot spots of Mumbai city. The Gateway of India is a massive archway on the Apollo Bunder. For most of the tourists and travelers, the Gateway of India is the starting point to explore the Mumbai city. The Gateway of India was designed by the architect George Wittet. The first stone of the Gateway of India was laid on March 31st 1913. The foundations were completed in 1920 and the Gateway of India was formally opened in 1924 by the then Viceroy, Earl of Reading.

Built in the Indo-Saracenic style, the Gateway of India is a 26m high structure with four turrets and complicated lattice work engraved into the yellow Kharodi basalt stone. The central dome of the Gateway of India is 48 feet in diameter. It is interesting to note that the whole harbor front was realigned in order to come in line with a planned walkway, sweeping down to the centre of the town. The total cost of construction of the Gateway was approx. Rs. 21 lakhs. The Gateway of India is a major sightseeing hangout in Mumbai. At the back of the Gateway arch, steps lead down to the sea front. From here one can enjoy cruise through Mumbai's fabulous natural harbor. The nearby statues of Shivaji and Swami Vivekananda add charm to the massive structure, the Gateway of India.

Gol Gumbad

Gol Gumbad situated in Bijapur district of Karnataka is the second largest dome in the world. The Gol Gumbad is second in size only to St. Peter's Basilica, Rome. The Gol Gumbad is 124 feet in diameter. The architecture of Gol Gumbad is unique in the sense that the four minarets themselves are the staircases, leading to the top dome. Gol Gumbad is truly an amazing architectural wonder as the dome stands unsupported by pillars. The most fascinating and remarkable feature of the Gol Gumbad is its acoustical system. Even the faintest whisper around the dome echoes several times. The gallery around the dome of the Gol Gumbad provides a wonderful view of the town.

The most striking features of Gol Gumbad are the seven-storied octagonal spires at the four corners and the heavy bracketed cornice below the ramparts. The Gol Gumbad was built by Muhammad Adil Shah in the year 1656. Constructed at his orders before his death, the gigantic Gol Gumbad dominates the landscape of Bijapur for miles around. The Gol Gumbad or Gol Gumbaz has a floor area of 1700 sq., height of 51 m. and a diameter of 37 m. The walls of the mausoleum are 3 m. thick. The dome contains tombs of Muhammad Adil Shah, his two wives, his mistress, his daughter and grandson. The structure in front of the tomb has been converted in to a museum. Other prominent structures in the Gol Gumbad complex are a mosque, a Naqqar Khana, a gateway and a dharmashala.


Hampi was the capital of Vijayanagar Empire, the last great Hindu Kingdom. Under the Vijayanagar rulers Hampi grew fabulously. The princes of Vijayanagar built numerous Dravidian temples and palaces. The records of foreign travelers between 14th and 16th century bear testimony to the grandeur of Hampi. However the magnificent capital of Vijayanagar was destroyed by the Deccan Muslim league in 1565. Hampi is a village in northern Karnataka, India. It marks the ruins of Vijayanagar, the former capital of the Vijayanagar Empire. The Hampi village also houses the well-known Virupaksha temple.

Hampi contains several monuments belonging to the erstwhile capital city. The Hampi ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hampi is also identified with the legendary Kishkindha, the monkey kingdom mentioned in the Ramayana. The rulers of Vijayanagar chose Hampi as their capital because of its strategic location. Hampi was bounded by the Tungabhadra River on one side and granite cliffs on the other three sides. The ruins at Hampi bear testimony to the patronage of the Vijayanagar rulers to art and architecture. Excavations at Hampi have unearthed beautiful temples, one of them underground and also the ruins of once splendid palaces and gateways.

Humayun's Tomb

After wandering in wilderness for 25 years, Humayun reoccupied Delhi in the year 1555 AD but he was not destined to rule any longer and died barely six months of his arrival, from a fall in his library, Sher Mandal. Humayun's tomb was built by his widow, Hajji Begum around 1565 AD. The Taj Mahal and many other Mughal buildings are said to have been inspired from Humayun's tomb. Humayun's tomb is one of the world heritage sites. The tomb of Humayun is based on Islamic paradise gardens. This type of garden is known as a Charbagh and is based on a grid system. The square garden is divided into four large squares and separated by causeways and channels with each square again divided into smaller squares.

Humayun's tomb is remarkable in many ways. Humayun's tomb is the first Indian building to use the Persian double dome; it is noteworthy for its harmonious proportions. Like many later Mughal tombs, Humayun's tomb is set upon a platform. Humayun's tomb is built with red sandstone, but white and black marble have also been used to relieve the monotony in the structure. The lofty mausoleum is positioned at the centre of the enclosure and rises from a plinth faced with series of cells with arched openings. The central octagonal chamber of Humayun's tomb, containing the cenotaph is encompassed by octagonal chambers at the diagonals and arched lobbies on the sides and their openings closed with perforated screens.

Each of the sides of the monument is dominated by three emphatic arches with the central one being the highest. The same plan is repeated on the second storey and a 42.5m high double dome of marble surmounts the roof with "Chhatris" (pillared kiosks) placed around it. Some of the apparent Indian features in the monument are the small kiosks or chhatris on the roof. Humayun's tomb is also remarkable for its inlaid tile work and carving, representing both Indian and Persian decorative elements. Humayun's tomb was designed by the Persian architect, Mirza Ghyas. In addition to the remains of Humayun, the complex also houses the grave of many other distinguished members of the Mughal dynasty.

India Gate

India Gate, situated on the Raj Path in New Delhi, was built to memorialize the 70,000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives during the First World War, fighting for the British army. The India Gate also bears the name of 13,516 British and Indian soldiers killed during the third Afghanistan war, 1919. The foundation stone of India Gate was laid down by the Duke of Connaught in the year 1921 and was designed by the famous British architect, Edward Lutyens. It was Lord Irwin who dedicated India Gate to the nation in 1931. Later, another memorial, Amar Jawan Jyoti or the eternal soldier's flame was added to the monument. The Amar Jawan Jyoti is burning since 1971 to remind the nation of soldiers who laid down their lives in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.

The India Gate is 42 m tall and the entire arch stands on a low base of red stone and rises in stages to a huge molding. From the base of the arch of India Gate one can have a magnificent view of the Rashterapati Bhavan (the President's house). At the top of India Gate, on both sides is inscribed INDIA. There is a vast expanse of lush green lawns surrounding the India Gate. India Gate is certainly one of the most visited spots of Delhi. The lawns of India Gate bustle with people, particularly during summer evenings. The lawns of India Gate house the famous boat club and a children's park. It lends more beauty to India Gate.

Jama Masjid
Jama Masjid of Delhi is the largest mosque in India. The Jama Masjid stands across the road in front of the Red Fort. Built between 1644 and 1658, Jama Masjid is one of the last architectural works of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. The spacious courtyard of the Jama Masjid holds thousands of faithful. Jama Masjid is located on a mound in the heart of the old city and projects beautifully into the Old-Delhi skyline. Jama Masjid Mosque was built in red sandstone and marble by more than 5000 artisans. Originally called the Masjid-i-Jahan-Numa, or "mosque commanding view of the world", the Jama Masjid stands at the center of the erstwhile capital city of the Mughals, Shahjahanbad.

The Jama Masjid was completed under the supervision of Saadullah Khan, the Prime Minister of Shah Jahan. A sum of Rs 10 lakhs was spent on the construction of the Jama Masjid. The Jama Masjid is built on a red sandstone porch, about 30 feet (10 m) from the level of the ground and is about 1400 square yards (1200 m²) in extent. The Jama Masjid has three gateways, four towers and two minarets. The gateways in the north and south are led by a fleet of steps. The main entrance is on the eastern side facing the red fort. It was probably used by the emperors. The tower of the Jama Masjid is made up of five distinctive storeys. Each one of the storeys has a projecting balcony. The adjoining edifices are beautifully done with calligraphy.

The first three storeys of the Jama Masjid tower are made of red sandstone and the fourth one is made of marble, while the fifth is made of sandstone. The Jama Masjid is covered with intricate carvings and has verses inscribed from the holy Koran. The grand Red fort (Lal Qila) stands on the eastern side of the Jama Masjid. The main prayer hall of the Jama Masjid is made up of high cusped arches and marble domes. The cabinet in the north gate of the Jama Masjid contains a collection of Muhammad's relics - the Koran written on deerskin, a red beard-hair of the prophet, his sandals and his footprints, implanted in a marble block.

Khajuraho Temples

Known for their breathtaking sculptors and elegance, the magnificent Khajuraho temples present aesthetics at its best. The beauty and elegance of the Khajuraho temples is beyond words and imagination. After visiting the Khajuraho temples one is left wondering about the advancement of Indian art and sculpture as back as the 10th century. Perhaps, there is no place other than Khajuraho, where all kinds of human emotions have been portrayed with such great excellence.

The Chandela Rajputs constructed the Khajuraho temples between 950 and 1050 A.D. The name Khajuraho comes from the Khajur tree (the date palm tree) which is found in abundance in the area. These temples are considered the "high point" of Indian architectural genius in the medieval period. Khajuraho was the capital city of the Chandela rulers. It was the Chandela rulers who built these wonderful temples, known all over the world for their passionate sculptures.

The Khajuraho temples have prominence of Indo-Aryan architecture. Many of these temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and the Jain Tirthankaras. Originally, the Khajuraho temples numbered 85 but unfortunately only 22 are in good shape. The images at Khajuraho temples are a matter of great research for art historians and main source of attraction worldwide. The erotic sculptures at the Khajuraho temples are of different significance to different people.

Each temple at Khajuraho stands on a high platform with a distinctive upward direction to their structure. This is further enhanced by numerous upright projections to create the effect of an overall lightness. The three main compartments In the Khajuraho temples are the "Ardhamandapa" (entrance), the "Mandapa" (assembly hall) and the "Garbha griha" (sanctum sanctorum). The Khajuraho Temples are divided into 3 groups, Western, Eastern and Southern.

The Western group of temples lies in the center of green meadow and kaleidoscopic flowerbeds. This group of temples is included in World Heritage site and showcases one of the most remarkable sculptures of Khajuraho. The most notable among these temples are the Jagadambi temple, the Kandariya Mahadeva temple and the Chitragupta temple. The temple of Lord Vishnu built by Yasovarman is also known an important temple.

Near the Khajuraho village you will find the Eastern group of temples, which include temples like Brahma, Vamana and Javari located near the Khajuraho Sagar and many Jain pilgrims visit the Ghantai, Adinath and Parsvanath situated little further.

Of the southern group of temples the Duladeo and the Chaturbhuja temples are very famous. The Duladeo temple, built in1100-1150A.D. is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple is situated 1km. south of the Khajuraho village. On the other hand the Chaturbhuja temple, 3km from the town is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

Mahabalipuram Rathas

Famous as temple town, Mahabalipuram is situated along the shores of the Bay of Bengal about 60 km from the south of Chennai. Mahabalipuram is home to one of the architectural wonders of the world, the Ratha temples. It was the Pallava king Narsimha, who built the magnificent 'Ratha' cave temples of Mahabalipuram  in the 7th century. The Ratha temples at Mahabalipuram bear testimony to the artistic genius of Indian architects in ancient times. The Ratha temples also reflect the artistic tastes of the Pallava rulers. The Ratha temples gave birth to a new style of architecture, the South Indian temple architecture.

The 'Ratha' cave temples are usually called the "Panch Pandava Ratha" (the five chariots of the Pandavas). The Ratha temples are regarded as the transition point between the rock-cut cave temples and freestanding stone temples. The fact that each one of these temples is carved out from a single rock goes to prove that the Indian architects had great skills. The most remarkable thing about these Rathas is that till date most of them are well preserved and many of their carvings are as fresh as they were some 1,300 years ago.

The temples at Mahabalipuram are called as Ratha temples as they resemble the shape of rathas (chariots). These temples are known especially for their Rathas and "Mandapas" (an open pavilion or a hall). The total number of Rathas at Mahabalipuram is eight out of which five are named after the five Pandavas of Mahabharata and one after Draupadi, the wife of Pandava brothers. The five Pandava rathas are the Dharma raja Ratha, the Bhima Ratha, the Arjuna Ratha, the Draupadi Ratha and the Nakul Sahadev Ratha. The Rathas at Mahabalipuram are constructed in the style of the Buddhist viharas and chaityas.

Another remarkable feature of the Ratha temples is that they were excavated by scooping out the scarp of the hill from front to back.

The unfinished Dharmaraja Ratha is three storied and the largest whereas the one-storied Draupadi Ratha is the smallest and has an interesting thatch-like roof. Base of the three-storey Dharmaraja Ratha is supported by figures of a lion, alternating with an elephant. The base of the Dharmaraja Ratha is square and it rises to 13 meters as a pyramid. The Arjuna and Draupadi Rathas are dedicated to Shiva and Durga respectively.

Nalanda was a great center of Buddhist learning in ancient times. A large number of Buddhist students thronged the Nalanda University to study Buddhism. According to the Chinese traveler Hieun Tsang, the place owed its name to a Naga, who resided in a local tank. Lord Vardhamana Mahavir and Lord Buddha visited Nalanda quite frequently in the 6th century BC. Nalanda is also supposed to the birth place of one Sariputra, one of the chief followers of Lord Buddha.

The Nalanda University attracted large number of Buddhist students from different parts of the world. The University of Nalanda was founded in the 5th century by the Gupta rulers. There were thousands of students and teachers. The main courses which were taught there were the Buddhist scriptures (both Mahayana and Hinayana), Vedas, Logic, Shabda Vidya (grammar), Chikitsa vidya (medicine) etc.

The Nalanda University received patronage the great emperor, Harshavardhana of Kannauj and the Pala rulers. The famous Chinese pilgrims, Hieun Tsang and Fi Han were among the distinguished students of the Nalanda University. Hieun Tsang received here the Indian name Mokshdeva. The importance of Nalanda University as a monastic university continued until the end of the 12th century. The ruins of the Nalanda University extend over a large area. Excavations at Nalanda have uncovered nine levels of occupation. For revenue purposes, a large number of villages were assigned to the Nalanda University.

The Nalanda University complex had a great Stupa. The excavations show that this Stupa is flanked by flights of steps and terraces. Many of the stupas were two or even three times built one over the other on the same spot. In the course of excavation it has been found that the very small original structure was enlarged by later temples built over and around the ruins of the earlier ones. The main Stupa at Nalanda is the result of seven successive accumulations. The main Stupa at Nalanda apparently contained a massive image of Lord Buddha.

In the Nalanda University complex a row of monastery sites lies from south to north. Almost all of them have the same pattern. The monasteries consisted of a number of monk's cells with wide verandas in front, initially set round an open quadrangular court, but later separated from it by a high wall. It was originally a building of two or probably more storey as the existence of stairs in the south-east corner shows. In the courtyard of monasteries, there used to be Lord Buddha's shrine and a well.

Excavation work has taken place over 14 hectares. All the structures are of red brick with beautiful gardens. In the complex, the buildings are divided by a central walkway that goes south to north, the monasteries or "Viharas" are located to the east of this central passage and the temples or "Chaiyas" to the west.

Qutub Minar
Qutub Minar is the highest stone tower in India. The construction of the Qutub Minar was started by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak in 1199 and it was finished by his successor and son-in-law, Iltutmish. The Qutub Minar was named after the Sufi saint, Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki. Though the exact purpose of the Qutb Minar is not known but it is believed that it served as a minaret to the adjoining mosque and was used by the muezzins to call the faithful to prayer.

Qutub Minar was built in red and buff sandstone and covered with intricate carvings and verses from the holy Quran. All the five storeys of Qutub Minar are surrounded by a projected balcony and supported by stone brackets, which are decorated with honeycomb designs. The Qutub Minar is 72.5 meters high and one has 379 steps. The diameter of the base of the Qutub Minar is 14.3 meters while the top floor's diameter measures 2.7 meters.

There are numerous inscriptions on the Qutub Minar. These inscriptions are in Arabic and Nagari characters. According to one inscription, the Qutub Minar was repaired by Firoz Shah Tughlaq (AD 1351-88), the Tughlaq ruler of the Delhi Sultanate. Sikandar Lodi (AD 1489-1517) also got the Qutub Minar repaired. Another repair work was undertaken by Major R. Smith in 1829. The Qutub Minar was built on the ruins of Lal Kot, the Red Citadel in the city of Dhillika, the capital of the Tomar and Chauhana Rajputs, the last Hindu rulers of Delhi.

In the Qutub Minar complex, there are many other remarkable buildings and structures, including the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. The Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque was the first mosque built in India. It was built by Qutub-ud-din Aybak using materials of 27 Jain and Hindu temples. There is also the famous Alai Darwaza at the entrance of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. It was built by Ala-ud-din Khalji. To the west of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque is the tomb of Iltutmish. Close to the mosque is the Iron pillar, one of Delhi's most curious structures. It is said to be erected in the 4th century AD by the Gupta King, Chandragupta II (375-413).

Safdarjung's Tomb
Safdarjung's tomb was built by Nawab Shuja-ud-Daulah, the son of Safdarjung. Safdarjung was the governor of Awadh and later became the Prime Minister of Muhammad Shah, the Mughal emperor. Built in 1753-1754, the Safdarjung tomb lies at the Lodi road, New Delhi. Safdarjung's tomb is set in the middle of a garden, which spreads over an area of 300 sq m. The garden of Safdarjung's tomb is laid down on the pattern of the Mughal Charbagh style. The Safdarjung tomb was erected roughly on the pattern of Humayun's tomb.

Safdarjung's tomb represents the last phase of the Mughal style of architecture. The tomb of Safdarjung was built in red sandstone and buff stone. There are two graves here, one of Safdarjung and the other apparently his wife's. The square central chamber of the mausoleum is surrounded by eight rooms all around. All the apartments, except the corner ones are rectangular in shape, the corner ones being octagonal. The dome of the tomb rises from a sixteen-sided base. On either side of the Safdarjung tomb are beautiful pavilions, known as "Moti Mahal" or the pearl palace, "Jangli Mahal" or the sylvan palace and "Badshah Pasand" or the emperor's favorite.

Sanchi Stupa
Sanchi is famous for outstanding specimen of Buddhist art and architecture, belonging to the period between the third century BC and the twelfth century AD. The most important of all the Sanchi monuments is the Sanchi Stupa. Stupas are large hemispherical domes, containing a central chamber, in which the relics of the Buddha were placed. The Sanchi Stupa is one of the best preserved early stupas in central India. The Sanchi Stupa is surrounded by a railing with four carved gateways facing all the four directions.

During the Shunga period the Sanchi Stupa was enlarged and faced with stones and decorated with railings, staircase and a harmika on the top. Around the main Stupa, there is a path for circumambulation. This path is enclosed by a railing with gates at each of the four directions. The railings and gates of the Sanchi Stupa are richly sculptured with different motifs and designs. Another interesting characteristic about the Sanchi Stupa is that Lord Buddha has been symbolically represented by footprints, wheels, thrones etc rather than by his own image. The gateways of Sanchi stupas contain ornamented depiction of incidents from the life of the Buddha and his previous incarnations as Bodhisattvas described in the Jataka tales. The Buddha has been shown symbolically in the form of tree or through other inanimate figures.

The Stupa at Sanchi is one the most wonderful structures of ancient India. It has been included by the UNESCO as one of the heritage sites of the world. The Sanchi Stupa is a fine example of the development of the Buddhist architecture and sculpture beginning from the 3rd century B.C. to the 12th century A.D. The site of Sanchi was discovered in the year 1818 by General Taylor and an archaeological museum was established in 1919y Sir John Marshall.

Taj Mahal
Famous as one of the wonders, the Taj Mahal  at Agra, India, is epitome of true love. Taj Mahal was built by the famous Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaj Mahal. The architectural beauty and magnificence of the Taj Mahal has never been surpassed. The Taj Mahal is said to be the most beautiful monument built by the Mughal rulers and it represents the zenith of the Mughal architecture. Built entirely of white marbles, the beauty of the Taj Mahal is beyond description. The beauty of the Taj Mahal has been aptly summarized by the famous English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold, as "Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor's love wrought in living stones."

The Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan married Arjumand Banu Begam, better known by the name Mumtaj Mahal, in the year 1612 AD. Mumtaj Mahal was Shah Jahan's second wife. After their marriage, Mumtaj Mahal became her husband's comrade and counselor. Mumtaj Mahal became an inseparable companion of Shah Jahan on all his journeys and military expeditions and an inspiration behind Shah Jahan's acts of charity and benevolence. In the year 1631 the cruel hands of destiny snatched Mumtaj Mahal from Shah Jahan. To immortalize the memory of Mumtaj Mahal, Shah Jahan decided to build a monument of eternal love. This monument of eternal love is none other than the spectacular and magnificence Taj Mahal.

A beautiful location on the banks of the river Yamuna was chosen and the foundation of the Taj Mahal was laid down. The master architect of the Taj Mahal was Ustad Isa. He was one of the most renowned Islamic architects of his time. Taj Mahal, the much-celebrated saga of royal love was brought to life by competent and skilled artisans from places like Delhi, Kannauj, Lahore, Multan, Baghdad, Shiraz and Bukhara. The construction work of the Taj Mahal began in 1631. More than 20,000 workmen, sculptors and master craftsmen worked painstakingly for 22 years to carve out the most famous symbol of eternal love, the Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal was built entirely in white marbles and the material was brought in from all over India and central Asia. The Taj Mahal complex was finally completed in 1653 at a cost of 32 Million Rupees (approx USD 68000) on the banks of river Yamuna in Agra, the capital of the Mughal monarchs.

The Taj Mahal stands on a raised and square platform with its four corners shortened, forming an unequal octagon. Interlocking arabesque concept is the architectural design that has been used in the construction of the Taj Mahal. In this style each element stands on its own and perfectly integrates with the main structure. The central dome of the Taj Mahal is fifty-eight feet in diameter and rises to a height of 213 feet and is flanked by four subsidiary domed chambers. There are four graceful, slender minarets in the structure of the Taj Mahal. Each of these minarets is 162.5 feet each. Precious gems and stones were used for decoration and calligraphy purposes.

The main archway of the Taj Mahal is a wonder in itself. This archway is chiseled with passages from the Holy Quran and bold scroll work of flowery pattern. The Taj Mahal mausoleum is a part of a vast complex comprising of a main gateway, an elaborate garden, a mosque (to the left), a guest house (to the right), and several other palatial buildings. The Taj Mahal stands at the farthest end of the Taj Mahal complex, with the river Yamuna behind it. The large garden contains four reflecting pools dividing it at the center.

Victoria Memorial Hall
The Victoria Memorial was built to commemorate the peak of the British Empire in India. The Victoria Memorial, conceived by Lord Curzon, represents the architectural climax of Kolkata city. Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy specified its classical style but the actual plan of Victoria Memorial was laid down by the well-known architect, Sir William Emerson. The Victoria Memorial blends the best of the British and Mughal architecture. The Victoria Memorial hall was built with white Makrana marbles. The Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone of Victoria Memorial in 1906 and it was inaugurated in 1921 in memory of Queen Victoria. The Victoria Memorial is 338 by 228 feet and a height of 184 feet.

Today the Victoria Memorial Hall is a museum having an assortment of Victoria memorabilia, British Raj paintings and other displays. As night descends on Calcutta, the Victoria Memorial Hall is illuminated, giving it a fairy tale look. It is interesting to note that the Victoria Memorial was built without British government funds. The money required for the construction of the stately building, surrounded by beautiful gardens over 64 acres and costing more than 10 million was contributed by British Indian states and individuals who wanted favors with the British government. At the top of the Victoria Memorial is a sixteen foot tall bronze statue of victory, mounted on ball bearings. It rotates with wind.

At present the Victoria Memorial has notable collection of weapons, sculptors, paintings, maps, coins, stamps, artifacts, textiles etc. The Royal gallery in Victoria Memorial has portraits of the Queen and Prince Albert. There are numerous paintings, illustrating events from Victoria's life. Another remarkable peace in Victoria Memorial is a painting by the Russian artist Vasseli Verestchagin, portraying the state entry of the Prince of Wales in Jaipur in the year 1876. In the post independence period a new addition was made to the Victoria Memorial. It was the addition of the National leaders' gallery with the portraits and relics of the freedom fighters.

Hawa Mahal
Jaipur is synonymous with Hawa Mahal. This beautiful monument of India was built by Maharaja Sawai Pratap Singh in the year 1799. Also known as the Palace of Winds, this beautiful monument is the landmark of Jaipur. The monument is five stories high and the front of the monument is delicately carved with beautiful motifs. It provides an outstanding example of Rajput style of architecture. Hawa Mahal is not exactly a palace but a screen of superbly sculpted windows that look like the front of a palace. It was built for the royal ladies of Rajasthan who wanted to view the busy city life from inside a veil. Read on about Hawa Mahal of Rajasthan.

The structure comprises of 953 beautiful windows made out of pink sandstone. These windows are known as "Jharokhas" and are built in a way that it resembles a honeycomb. Behind every window is a small chamber meant for sitting comfortably and viewing the busy city life. The palace is called Hawa Mahal because these small windows allow natural circulation of air, thus allowing ventilation from all parts of the palace.

The monument is visited by scores of tourists every year, both local and foreign who are completely mesmerized by the sheer magnitude and elegance of this monument. The best time to view this monument is early morning during sunrise when it looks exceptionally gorgeous. The upper floors of the palace can be reached by climbing the narrow ramps. There are no stairs inside the Hawa Mahal.

The palace is now maintained by the Archaeological Department. There is a small museum located in the premises of Hawa Mahal that houses ancient artifacts related to the Rajput lifestyle. This beautiful pink sandstone structure is a must see if you are visiting Jaipur. It is located right in the center of the city and can be easily reached from anywhere in Jaipur. You can always hire an auto or a taxi to get to this famous monument.

Leh Palace
Leh Palace of Ladakh, though in a dilapidated condition continues to lure tourists from far and wide. Located in the Himalayas, the adventurous journey one has to undertake to reach the palace is what makes it even more special. Leh palace was built in the 17th century by King Singe Namgyal as the royal residence. It was deserted in the mid 19th century after the family shifted to Stok. The Leh Palace of Ladakh still retains an old worldly charm about it.

The Leh Palace has nine stories which are in ruins now. Though it has been maintained now, it is uninhabited. The majestic palace overlooks the Namgyal hill and is nestled amidst breath taking locales of the Himalayas. It resembles Potala in Lhasa, though in comparison is much smaller. Right above the palace is the famous Victory Tower that was built in the memory of the triumphant brave Ladakhi soldiers who fought the invading armies of Balti Kashmiris in the early 16th Century. Today, the palace serves as an office for Indian Government's Archaeological Conservation Organization.

The temple architecture is basically medieval Tibetan architecture. The main features of this style of architecture are massive buttressed walls and overhanging wooden balconies. The Leh Palace has been a silent spectator of some of the most brutal wars and has suffered much damage from cannon balls. The palace still exudes charm and provides wonderful views of the snow capped mountains and landscape. There are some murals still left in the palace that speak of the royal glory of the bygone era.

Mattancherry Palace
Located at a distance of 10 kilometers from Ernakulam city, Cochin, Mattancherry Palace is a storehouse of ancient paintings and art forms. The Mattancherry Palace came to be known as the Dutch Palace after the Dutch carried out some renovation and extension work. This palace was built by the Portuguese in 1555 A.D. and was then given as a present to the Maharaja of Kochi, Veera Kerala Varma. This palace of Kerala has now been converted into an art gallery showcasing some of the best paintings and murals of Hindu mythology. Read about Mattancherry Palace, which is an important monument in south India.

Two arches built in Portuguese style form the entrance of the palace compound. The rooms on the upper level of the palace can be reached through a flight of stairs located on the south of the entrance. The palace has a central courtyard that is typical of Kerala architectural style. This central courtyard is known as "Nalukettus". The palace has the architectural style of the Portuguese though it follows the design pattern of Kerala temple architecture. This is indicated in features like sloping tiled roof and wooden balconies.

A small temple is located inside the inner court that is dedicated to Goddess Pazhayannur Bhagavati, who is supposed to be the protector of the royal family of Kochi. There are temples dedicated to Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva on either sides of the palace. The interior of the palace is decorated beautifully with royal possessions like ceremonial robes, headgear, weapons, palanquins and royal furniture. There are stunning murals depicting scenes from the Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata adorning the walls of the palace.

The royal bedchamber known as "Palliyara" is located at the left of the entrance. It is famous for its low wooden ceiling and the walls that are covered with some 48 paintings depicting the Ramayana. These paintings date back to the 16th century and are preserved with much care till date. There are also paintings depicting "Krishna Lila" and other instances from the life of Lord Krishna. One can also see paintings that depict the famous works of literary geniuses like Kalidasa.

Mysore Palace
One of the largest palaces in India, Mysore Palace of Karnataka is a fine example of unique blend of different styles of architecture. The Mysore Palace is one of the most attractive and gorgeous monuments in Karnataka. It is also known by the name of Amba Vilas and was the residence of Wodeyar Maharaja. The Mysore Palace was rebuilt in 1912 after the original palace was destroyed in a fire accident in the year 1897. It was re-designed in Saracenic style by a famous British architect Henry Irwin. One can see the blend of different forms of architecture and design in the Maysore Palace.

The palace has three stories and a series of square towers with domed arches. A gold-plated dome about 145 feet from the ground covers the open courtyard in the center. The architecture has a blend of Hindu, Mughal, Rajput and Gothic styles. The entrance of the palace has 'Gombe Thotti' or Doll's Pavilion, which has a collection of Indian and European sculptures and ceremonial objects. The main gate of the palace building is known as Elephant Gate and is beautifully decorated with floral motifs and the royal symbol of Mysore, the two-headed Eagle. One finds the royal ceremonial elephant howdah decorated with 84 kilograms of gold and other precious stones.

The south of the Palace has the splendid Kalyana Mandapam" or the wedding pavilion, which is decorated with multi colored stained glass with peacock motifs arranged in geometrical patterns. One can find elaborate chandeliers and tall slender wrought iron pillars imported from countries like Scotland and Czechoslovakia. The floor is made up of glazed tiles that have been imported from England. The walls are decorated with paintings depicting the celebration of Dusshera festival during the royal rule.

The second floor has the splendid durbar hall known as 'Diwan-I-am', which is around 155 feet long and 42 feet broad. The hall is marked by an exquisitely decorated ceiling, a glistening floor and sculptured pillars that are painted in gold. The walls have murals depicting the eight avatars of Goddess Shakti. There are paintings that depict scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata and also an original painting of the famous painter Raja Ravi Varma. Towards the south on the same floor is the Diwan-I-Khas (private audience hall), which is decorated with beautifully carved entrance doors and stained glass ceiling.

The palace is surrounded by twelve temples, spread in the compound. Most of these are built in the Dravidian architectural style. The famous ones include Varashaswamy Temple, which has actually inspired the design for Sri Chamundeswari Temple on Chamundi Hill. The temples are decorated beautifully during special occasions like festivals and other auspicious days. The Department of Archaeology and Museums of Karnataka Government now looks after the maintenance of Mysore Palace. The palace has the largest collection of gold items (quantity wise). The famous 200-kilogram gold throne is kept for display every year during the festival of Dusshera. Every Sunday night the monument looks like a heavenly palace as it is illuminated with thousands of light bulbs.

Vivekananda Rock
Located in the midst of the ocean, just 400 meters from Kanyakumari, is the magnificent Vivekananda Rock Memorial. This colossal structure was built in the year 1970, under the guidance of Shri Eknath Ranade. The Vivekananda rock temple is dedicated to one of the greatest spiritual philosophers of India, Swami Vivekananda. It is said that Swami Vivekananda meditated here before setting out on one of the most crucial religious campaigns in India in 1892. The idea of building Vivekananda Memorial Rock temple was conceptualized on his birth centenary in the year 1962.

Vivekananda Rock Memorial was built with a blend of traditional as well as contemporary architectural styles of India. A life size statue of Swami Vivekananda has been set up inside the memorial. The rock has always been considered as holy and according to Hindu mythology, Goddess Devi Kumari has blessed the rock with the touch of her sacred feet. It is thus known as 'Sripada Parai'. In fact, there is a projection on the rock that resembles a human foot and is brownish in color, which is regarded as Sri Padam.

The memorial has two main structures known as the Shripada Mandapam and the Vivekananda Mandapam. The Shripada Mandapam has the main sanctum sanctorum surrounded by an outer platform. The Vivekananda Mandapam has a meditation hall known as Dhyana Mandapam. Visitors can sit, relax and meditate over here. The atmosphere here is very calm and serene. A statue of Swami Vivekananda can be seen here. From the rock, one can check out the breath taking view of the merging of the three major water bodies namely Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean.