By Gaurav Sharma
Delving into the depths of the historical waters of India can often be an overwhelming experience. Each city is shrouded by a distinct and individualistic culture, religion, way of life, language, literature, art, monuments, architecture and music among a plethora of other facets, which form an incredible kaleidoscope that, besides leaving one mesmerized, can also prove to be awe-inspiring.
To give you a glimpse into India’s rich cultural heritage and awe-inspiring architecture, NewsGram brings to you 5 most interesting places to visit in India:
Traditionally, Hampi is known as Pampa-Kshetra, meaning the city that is situated on the banks of the Pampa river, which now is called as Tungabhadra River. The name Hampi, which means ‘champion,’ is an anglicized version of the Kannada Hampe(derived from Pampa).
Hampi was the capital of Vijayanagara Empire, which flourished from the mid 1300s to the mid 16th century. It is located in northern Karnataka.
The place is an important religious centre, home to the Virupaksha Temple and other monuments, the ruins of which have been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For more easy-going travelers, the main attraction is the Hampi Bazaar, a village housing an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, budget lodges and temples. The tranquil Virapapur Gaddi across the river has also become a major hangout for tourists.
Overall, Hampi with its forlorn temple ruins, rock edicts and miles of dusty terrain interspersed with green plantations and paddy fields offers a visual treat that will leave you spellbound and itching for more.
Popularly known as Thoonga Nagaram, ‘the city that never sleeps,’ Madurai is derived from the word Madhura, meaning ‘sweetness’–the divine nectar, which was showered by the Hindu God Shiva.
Some also believe that Madurai is the derivative of Marutham–a type of landscape that existed during the Sangam Age.
Madurai, which is a major city in southern state of Tamil Nadu, is believed to be of significant antiquity, mentioned in the ancient history by Megasthenes, the Geek ambassador to India.
With its towering temples and a rapidly expanding IT economy, the city offers a taste of both the traditional and the modern India.
One of the most famous landmarks in the city is the Meenakshi Amman temple. Dedicated to the consort of Shiva, Parvati, the temple has been nominated among the ‘New seven wonders of the world.’
Other important architectural feats are the Koodar Azhagar Temple, Kazimar Big Mosque and the Goripalayam Mosque.
Madurai is also famous for Jallikattu, a bull taming festival part of the Pongal festival celebrated during January.
Another famous festival is the Chittirai festival, which celebrates the legend of Hindu God Vishnu as Alagar, riding a horse to attend the celestial wedding of Parvati (as Meenakshi) and Shiva ( as Sundareshwarar).
With all its energy and excitement, the metropolis of Madurai is truly a jasmine– loud, full of spunk–something that everyone craves.
Also known as Dharmakshetra or Holy Place, Kurukshetra is an important historical and religious place located in the northern Indian state of Haryana.
Etymologically, Kurukshetra is comprised of two words, namely Kuru–referring to King Kuru, the ancestor of Kauravas and Pandavas– and Kshetra–meaning place. Thereby, Kurukshetra literally stands for the ‘place of Kuru’.
The place holds much significance due to the fact that the Mahabharata or the Kurukshetra war took place on this piece of land. Moreover, the land becomes sacred because of the Bhagavad-Gita, another important philosophical treatise put forth by Lord Krishna to Arjuna in the midst of the war when Arjuna was inflicted by a terrible dilemma.
The place is also said to have been visited by King Harsha, Chinese scholar Hieun Tsang, and through archeological grounds, it has been proved that King Ashoka had made a center of learning in Kurukshetra.
Brahmasarovar, the ceremonial tank, is the main attraction as thousands of people take a dip in the pond, which is believed to relieve the person from the cycle of birth and death by removing his sins.
Apart from the rich history, Kurukshetra offers many places to visit for nature lovers, such as the Crocodile Breeding Sanctuary, Chhilchhila Wildlife Sanctuary, Saraswati Wildlife Sanctuary.
There is an impressive mausoleum of the Sufi mystic poet Sheikh Chaheli, a rich Krishna museum, and a science center containing a gory diorama of the Mahabharata battle for tourists to magnify their experience.
Regarded as one of the Sapta Puri or the seven holy cities of India, the ancient city of Dwarka is located in Gujarat and is also known as Mokshapuri. Dwar means gateway and Ka means heaven. Hence, Dwarka literally means ‘the Gateway to heaven.’ The city also had a Roman name ‘Bari.’ It is popularly referred to as the City of Gold.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Krishna settled in Dwarka after killing his uncle Kansa in Mathura. In the Puranic era, the city is said to have been the established capital of the Aryans in Saurashtra.
These stories have gathered much attention as the archeological excavations have brought to light submerged settlements, stone-built jetty of large size and triangular stone anchors with three holes. The settlements in the form of exterior and interior walls and fort bastions have led archaeologists to conclude that a city indeed got submerged in 1500 BC.
The place boasts some of India’s most famous temples such as the Dwarkadhisa Temple, Rukmini Temple, Hanuman Dandi Temple and Nageshwar temple.
Legend has it that Meera, an unalloyed devotee of Krishna, merged with the deity of the Dwarkadhisa temple.
The remote town situated on the tip of western peninsula of Kathiawar is well organized, and apart from the temples, the town houses a magnificent lighthouse at the end of the peninsula. The lighthouse, powered by a solar photovoltaic module, offers a panoramic view of city.
On the western part of the city, there is a lake or tank called Gopi Talab, which includes a mound called Gopi Chandan, literally meaning ‘the sandal paste of the Gopis.’
Dwarka is a unique place, which bestows a true spiritual experience upon the seeker, far away from the realm of the religious dogma.
The city of Ayodhya is considered to be the birthplace of Lord Rama and the setting topic of the holy text, Ramayana. Ayodhya is derived from the name King Ayudh, the forefather of Rama. It literally translated to ‘the city that cannot be fought and won over in a fight.’
The city has been known by various names during different times: Saketa at the time of Buddha, it was known as Awadh during the Mughal rule, and during the British rule, the city was known as Ajodhya.
The city, along with Dwarka and Varanasi, is contended as Mokshdayani Puri or the land which provides freedom from bondage of Karma.
Ayodhya holds much significance for Jains and Buddhists too. Buddha is believed to have visited the city more than once, although there is no written text to support this claim. Jains consider the city to be the birthplace of five Tirthankaras, including the more famous ones, Rishabha and Ganadhara.
The infamous Babri Masjid was also situated in Ayodhya. It is believed that the mosque was built over the foundations of the birthplace of Rama or Rama Janmabhumi. The mosque was destroyed in 1992, when a right wing Hindu nationalist rally snowballed into a riot.
At present, one-third land has been given to Sunni Central Board of Waqfs, one-third to Nirmohi Akhara and one-third to the Hindu party.
Other places of worship include a massive four-sided fort with circular bastions, known as Hanuman Garhi. It is believed that Hanuman, the monkey God lived in a cave and guarded the Janmabhoomi. It is said that the wishes of the faithful come true with a visit to the shrine.
The Chakravarti Maharaj Dashrath Mahal is a shrine where King Dasarath was said to reside with his family.
The Nageshwarnath Temple also has an interesting mythological tale related with it. The temple is said to have been built by Rama’s son, Kush, in commemoration of his love for a woman who was a devotee of Shiva.
Ayodhya, with its rich mythological background and splendid temples, offers the visitor a close encounter with the presence of Lord Rama, a peaceful and serene experience in spite of the hustle-bustle of city life.
So, what are you waiting for? Come live the divine life.