Top Heritage Tourist Attractions in India
Even though regarded as a developing country, India has much to be admired for. The expansive and diverse topography, the sheer size, the breathtaking landscapes, the warm hospitality, the rich culture, the grand heritage sites and monuments, all tell of the beauty and wonder of this marvelous country and the last category especially, highlights the past history, grandeur and glorious heritage of India.
It’s little wonder then that India has been promoted as an exciting tourist destination to the rest of the world and a lot of its old structures, monuments and sites have been declared as World Heritage sites.
So let’s acquaint ourselves with some of these heritage tourist attractions.
Mahabodhi Temple, Bodh Gaya – Bihar
The Mahabodhi temple is located at Bodh Gaya, which is around 96 kms away from Patna, in the state of Bihar. This location is renowned as the place where Buddha attained enlightenment more than 2000 years ago. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this ancient Buddhist temple was built entirely of brick and is one of the oldest surviving brick structures in eastern India. The 180 feet central tower of the temple has been rebuilt and restored since then and is surrounded by four smaller towers built in the same style. In the year 2013, the upper portion of the temple was covered with gold which was gifted by the King and other devotees of Thailand. The descendant of the Bodhi tree at this spot, under which Buddha attained enlightenment, has been a major pilgrimage destination for Buddhists ever since then.
Timings: 5 am till 9 pm.
How to reach :
By air – Gaya, the nearest airport at just 17 kms, has a lesser frequency of flights but is well connected with Kolkata by air. Patna too has an airport, which is about 135 kms away, but has regular flights to and from Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Lucknow, Ranchi and several other cities.
By train – The nearest rail head which is connected to major cities of India is at Gaya which is only at a distance of 13 kms from Bodh Gaya. The other railway station is at Patna, at 110 kms and is very well connected to several cities in India.
By bus – The Bihar State Tourism Corporation offers both standard and deluxe bus services from Patna to Bodh Gaya twice daily. Many other private bus operators too offer services from several other cities like Nalanda, Varanasi, Rajgir, Kathmandu etc.
Khajuraho Group Of Monuments, Madhya Pradesh :
Comprising of a group of Hindu and Jain temples, the Khajuraho Group of Monuments is located in Madhya Pradesh, south-east of Jhansi. Famous for their erotic sculptures and nagara-style architecture, this exquisitely sculpted group of monuments has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Of the 85 Khajuraho temples built by the Chandela dynasty over 20 sq kms till the 12th century, only about 25 temples spread over 6 kms have survived. The largest and most famous surviving temple of these is the Kandariya Mahadeva Temple which is decorated with numerous sculptures showcasing intricate details and ancient Indian art. Each temple is distinctly carved and built out of sandstone with a granite foundation which is almost concealed from view. The temple complex reflects the ancient Hindu tradition of building temples facing sunrise and near water bodies, as all temples, except one face sunrise and archaeologists have identified 56 water bodies out of the 64 stated to have been a part of this complex. These temples are a work of art and are concluded to have been built by hundreds of highly trained sculptors.
Timings : Sunrise to sunset.
How To Reach :
By air – Regular flights are serviced by Civil Aerodrome Khajuraho (IATA Code HJR) to and from cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Agra and Varanasi.
By train – The Khajuraho railway station is just 6 kms away from the mouth of the Khajuraho monuments and has regular trains coming in from several cities across the country.
By bus – Khajuraho is well connected to major cities of the country through regular buses.
Khangchendzonga National Park :
The Khangchendzonga National Park, also known as Kanchenjunga National Park or Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve, is located at picturesque Sikkim in the North-Eastern region of India. Declared as a World Heritage Site in 2016, this huge park is spread across 850 km and has an elevation of 1829 m to 8500 m above sea level. Most famous for its majestic mountains, breathtaking flora and fauna and delightful streams, this park also boasts of the famous Kanchenjunga Peak, which is the third highest peak in the world. The musk deer, clouded leopard and the rare snow leopard is also spotted here occasionally. The park is also known for some interesting trekking trails for trekking enthusiasts. The best time to visit this park is from April to May or September to mid-December, when there is no rain or just a little snow.
How to reach :
By air – Bagdogra Airport in Darjeeling is the closest to the national park and thereafter one can travel by road.
By train – The nearest railway station is at New Jalpaiguri.
By bus – The national park is well connected to many cities by a good road network. The nearest highway is the NH 31A via Sevlok-Gangtok.
Ajanta-Ellora Caves – Maharashtra
The Ajanta caves at Aurangabad in Maharashtra, comprise of about 29 rock cut Buddhist cave monuments which date back to the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE. The caves were carved into a 250 feet wall of rock and served as monasteries and worship halls for different Buddhist traditions. The caves also include very expressive and unique paintings which depict the past lives and rebirths of the Buddha and other pictorial tales as well as rock cut sculptures of Buddhist deities. According to UNESCO these masterpieces of Buddhist religious Art influenced Indian art subsequently. The Ellora caves contain Hindu, Jain and Buddhist caves too which are similar in style to the Ajanta caves.
Timings : 9 am to 5.30 pm. The Ajanta and Ellora caves remain closed on Mondays and Tuesdays respectively.
How to reach :
By air – The closest airport is the Aurangabad airport which has flights coming in from several major cities across the country.
By train – The Aurangabad railway station and Jalgaon railway station are the closest and have a good rail network with most cities across the country.
By bus – Both private and government run buses ply to and from various cities in Maharashtra.
Konark Sun Temple – Orissa
The Konark Sun Temple is located at Konark, to the north-east of Puri in Odisha on the banks of the Bay Of Bengal. The temple was built in honour of King Narasimhadeva of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. Dedicated to the Hindu God Surya, this once impressive temple which was built over 200 feet high, has now been reduced to ruins and one can only find an approx. 100 foot chariot with huge wheels and horses all carved from stone. This structure is famous for its intricate and amazing artwork, iconography and themes. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this temple is a popular pilgrimage site for Hindus who assemble here every year for the famous Chandrabhaga Festival around the month of February. The temple was built from stone in the form of a giant ornamented chariot dedicated to Surya, the Sun God who in Hindu Vedic iconography is symbolized as rising in the east and travelling swiftly across the sky in a seven-horse-led chariot. The walls of the temple, from the base till the crown are ornamented with reliefs depicting the lives of the elite as well as the common people and intricately detailed in their finishing.
Timings : Sunrise to sunset.
How to reach :
By air – The closest airport to Konark is the Biju Patnaik Airport in Bhubaneshwar which has flights coming in from several major cities. One can take a taxi or bus from the airport to Konark.
By train – The closest railway stations are in Puri and then Bhubaneshwar, as Konark does not have a railway station of its own. Both railway stations have a very good rail network with other cities in the country.
By bus – The Government run Orissa Tourism Development Corporation has several buses plying to the various towns and cities in Orissa. One can also take private buses from Puri and Bhubaneshwar.
Jaisalmer Hill Fort – Rajasthan :
Situated in the city of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, the very impressive Jaisalmer hill fort is thought to be one of the very few ‘living forts’ in the world or perhaps the only ‘living fort’ in the world as a small proportion of the population still resides within the fort even though a whole township has sprung up outside the walls of the fort due to the expanding population. Bearing the status of the second oldest fort in Rajasthan, this magnificent, yellow sand-stoned fort which gets very well camouflaged during sunset, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with five other forts under the group ‘Hill Forts of Rajasthan’.
Timings : Early morning to 5 pm.
How to reach :
By air – Jaisalmer Airport is only a military airport and mostly supports only chartered flights and hence used very rarely. Jodhpur Airport is the closest domestic airport which has regular flights coming in from Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Udaipur.
By train – Jaisalmer has a good rail network with several other cities in the country. Taxis, auto-rickshaws and private cabs are available to take you from there on to the city.
By bus – There are no direct buses to Jaisalmer from Delhi. One can however change buses at Jaipur which will take you further on to Jaisalmer. Tickets however will have to be booked in advance as there are limited seats.
Group Of Monuments At Hampi, Karnataka :
Hampi, once a wealthy, prosperous and grand city near the Tungabhadra river, is located in Karnataka near the modern-era city of Hosapete. As part of the Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century, Hampi was plundered and destroyed in 1565 by a combination of Muslim sultanates and left in ruins. The grand, surviving ruins of forts, riverside features, temples, shrines, royal and sacred complexes, memorial structures, pillared halls and still more are spread over 4,100 hectares and have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also continues to be a prominent religious centre, home to the famous Virupaksha temple amongst others, monasteries, a mosque, a few tombs and various other monuments belonging to the bygone era.
Timings : Sunrise to Sunset
How to reach :
By air – The nearest airport to Hampi is at Hubli.
By train – As Hampi has no railway station, one can avail of regular trains to Kariganuru which is 10 km away from Hampi.
By bus – Hampi has several buses coming in from various other cities of India.
Picture Credits : Mahabodhi Temple – Indiamike.Com, Khajuraho Group Of Monuments – Cultural India, Khangchendzonga National Park – Hill Station Boss, Ajanta Ellora Caves – Faridabad Taxi, Konark Sun Temple – Maripelesir.Blogspot.Com, Jaisalmer Hill Fort – Supercabz.Com, Hampi Group Of Monuments – Tripadvisor