5 cities that are testament of rich Indian cultural heritage and awe-inspiring architecture

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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:

Hampi

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.

Madurai

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.

Kurukshetra

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.

Dwarka

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.

Ayodhya

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.

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    These are the must visit places for people from all over the globe. India’s rich culture is purely showcased in these cities

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Ram Mandir To Be Built In Ayodhya By 2022

The Grand Ram Temple will be built in Ayodhya by 2022

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Ram
The Ram temple is proposed to be built at the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya by 2022. Wikimedia Commons

The much awaited temple proposed to be built at the Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya after the Supreme Court verdict, will be completed before 2022, the 75th year of India’s independence.

The Uttar Pradesh government has released a picture of what the temple, and the Ram statue proposed near it, would look like on their completion. Sources said the Ram idol will take three years to complete.

Details are also trickling in of the grand temple complex planned. Spread over an area 240 feet long and 145 feet wide, it will be 141 feet in height. Its 4 feet periphery will have 251 columns.

Ram temple
The Ram temple will have a prayer hall, a lecture hall, a educational facility, a saints residence and a hostel for visitors. Wikimedia Commons

The temple complex will have a prayer hall, a Ramkatha Kunj (lecture hall), a Vaidik Pathshala (educational facility), a Sant Niwas (saints residence) and a Yatri Niwas (hostel for visitors).

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Around the idol of Lord Ram, there will be other facilities such as a digital museum, a centre for description on holy scriptures, a library, a cafeteria and parking space. (IANS)

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128-Ft Tall with 212 Pillars and 5 Entrances: VHP’s Plan for Proposed Ram Mandir in Ayodhya

Though the walls of it are believed to be ready, the 'garbhagriha' (sanctum sanctorum) isn't

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VHP, Ram Mandir, Ayodhya
While for years, doors and pillars are being carved in Ayodhya, the sanctum sanctorum needs to be built with great details where Ram Lalla, the deity, will be placed and worshipped. Wikimedia Commons

In what will go down in history as one of its most landmark verdicts, the Supreme Court on Saturday granted the ownership of the 2.77 acres of disputed land in Ayodhya to the Hindus, paving the way for the construction of a Ram Temple, and ruled that the Muslims will get 5 acres of land at an alternative site.

What’s next? When will the construction of Ram Mandir begin? How long it will take to finish and most importantly, how will it look like?

The Ram Janambhoomi Nyas is eager to start construction at the earliest with help from the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). Though the VHP has toyed with many maps of the Ram temple, there’s a blueprint based on the most agreeable version that the majority believes resembles the ‘original’ Ram Mandir.

While for years, doors and pillars are being carved in Ayodhya, the sanctum sanctorum needs to be built with great details where Ram Lalla, the deity, will be placed and worshipped. Though the walls of it are believed to be ready, the ‘garbhagriha’ (sanctum sanctorum) isn’t.

VHP, Ram Mandir, Ayodhya
The Ram Janambhoomi Nyas is eager to start construction at the earliest with help from the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). (Representational Image) Wikimedia Commons

A total of 212 pillars will be required across the temple. It will be assembled in two stages with 106 pillars in each stage. Almost half of the pillars are ready, while the remaining needs to be carved.

The assembly of pillars will take place in two tiers with the top tier having a roof. According to the approved design, the roof will have a “shikhar” that will give the massive structure a look and feel of “Bhavya Ram Mandir” (grand Ram temple).

The proposed structure will be 128 feet high. It will be 140 feet in width and 270 feet in length. No steel will be used in the support base.

The Ram temple will have five entrances: Singh Dwar, Nritya Mandap, Rang Mandap, Pooja Room and the all important “Garbhagriha” with parikrama. Ram Lalla, the idol, will be placed on the ground floor.

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At least 1.75 lakh cubic feet of sandstone will be required to construct the temple. A lot has been done, with work starting as early as in 1990. But a lot needs to be done as well.

More sandstones, more carving experts and expansion of the existing carving centre need to run against time to finish the temple. Even then, sources say, it won’t be an easy task and will require a minimum of four years to complete the work.

“I cannot give you a timeframe on when the work will be finished. But we wish the construction begins as early as possible after completing the legal requirements,” Alok Kumar, international working President of VHP told IANS.

VHP, Ram Mandir, Ayodhya
Though the VHP has toyed with many maps of the Ram temple, there’s a blueprint based on the most agreeable version that the majority believes resembles. Wikimedia Commons

One of the main reasons for time consumption is accessibility to the “karyashala”. The roads are uneven and hence the supply of stones are also slow. Moreover, hand carving makes the process slower. However, the work for the ground floor is over.

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However, there is a confusion over erecting a gigantic statue of Lord Ram, as many people want. It will need deliberation on the statue. (IANS)

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Ayodhya Verdict Attracts Mixed Reactions From Twitteratis

Ayodhya verdict attracts mixed opinions, memes and jokes from Netizens

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Judgement by Supreme Court on Ayodhya attracts reactions from netizens. Wikimedia Commons

After a historic judgement by Supreme Court on Ayodhya, netizens took to social media sites and hailed the apex court’s decision.

In a historic judgement, the Supreme Court on Saturday directed the Centre to form within three months a trust which will build a temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya.

The Sunni Waqf Board, which was a party to the 7-decade-old title suit, should be given an alternate five-acre land at some other suitable place for construction of a mosque, a 5-member bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, said in a unanimous judgement.

Netizens on Twitter sharing their reactions with these hashtags #AYODHYAVERDICT, #RamMandir, #BabriMasjid, #MandirwahiBanega, and #RanjanGogoi.

Ayodhya verdict attracted thousands of mixed reactions, memes, jokes and joy on Twitter.

Ayodhya verdict
Netizens on Twitter use hashtags like
#AYODHYAVERDICT, #RamMandir, #BabriMasjid, #MandirwahiBanega, and #RanjanGogoi. Pixabay

Here are some reactions from Twitter on Ayodhya verdict:

“#AYODHYAVERDICT, Supreme Court could have ended the verdict with “Happy Birthday LK Advani,” a person wrote from his Twitter account.

“Feels good to be alive while history is being created. This is a tale I can tell my grandkids. We witnessed justice being done. We witnessed the #RamMandir,” another tweet read.

Another Twitter user wrote: “All Hindus should be Thankful to Advocate K Parsaran, 92 years old who is Leading Counsel appearing for Ram Lalla Virajman, who argued for Ram Mandir in SC. Dhanyavad Mahodaya #AYODHYAVERDICT.”

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A person with username @Ajaygangwal2 posted an image of cartoon ‘Bob the builder’ with a caption: “Amit shah discussing plan to built temple with bob the builder #mandirwahibanega.” (IANS)