From mystical temples and age-old monuments to mausoleums devoted to love, these 30 photos reveal India’s rich, diverse and intriguing heritage. By Amitha Ameen

1. Humayun’s Tomb

 

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The Humayun’s Tomb is the first garden-tomb to be built in India that houses 150 members of the Mughal royalty clan. The domed and terraced mausoleum features a garden based on the Quran’s depiction of paradise.

2. The Western Ghats

 

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Sprawling over 34 million acres of mountains, the Western Ghats are blessed with some of the country’s best national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves. The region is also home to over 352 endemic species and more than 300 globally endangered flora and fauna.

3. Taj Mahal

 

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No list of heritage monuments in India is complete without mentioning the iconic Taj Mahal which needs no introduction. One of the seven ‘Wonders of the World’, the mausoleum was commissioned by the 17th-century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his deceased wife.

4. Monuments at Hampi

 

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Hampi is now home to more than 1,600 otherworldly-looking historical ruins that include age-old temples, granite forts, and the most striking Vitthala temple, that features musical pillars.

5. Fatehpur Sikri

 

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The ‘City of Victory’ once served as the official residence of Emperor Akbar for a brief period and is also home to the 17th-century Jama Masjid Mosque, one of the largest mosques in the world.

6. Agra Fort

 

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One of the most noteworthy elements here is that the fort’s architecture features both Hindu and Islamic influences.

7. Rani-Ki-Vav

 

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Perhaps the most famous step-well in the country, the Queen’s Stepwell situated on the banks of Saraswati River and featuring over 1,500 sculptures were commissioned by Queen Udayamati of the 11-century Solanki Dynasty in 1060. 

8. Khajuraho Monuments

 

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One of the most noteworthy undertakings by the Chandela Dynasty who ruled most of the Indus Valley Civilisation, the Khajuraho temple Complex features more than 800 intricately carved statues that depict the life and times of the dynasty.

9. Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka

 

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The Bhimbetka rock shelters in Madhya Pradesh are home to ancient rock paintings that date back to more than 30,000 years ago and feature the life and times of the villagers who lived there during that period.

10. Monuments of Pattadakal

 

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Built by the Chalukya Empire, the impressive nine temples of Pattadakal was the venue of choice for coronations in the seventh and eighth centuries. The site represents eclectic art that reflects tinges of early Chalukyan architecture.

11. Monuments at Mahabalipuram

 

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Called the ‘land of temples’ Mahabalipuram is known for its seaside shore temples, a precariously balanced 250-ton boulder, caves, and thousands of Shiva sculptures all built by the 7th and 8th century Pallava kings.

12. Nanda Devi & Valley of Flowers National Park

 

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There’s no question about the rich diversity that can be witnessed in this park. Alpine meadows, lush gorges, and sprawling flower beds dominate the landscape of the park, which is home to many endangered animals including the Himalayan Blue Sheep, the Asiatic Black Bear and the ever-evading Snow Leopard.

13. Mahabodhi Temple Complex

 

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One of the world’s most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites, the Mahabodhi dating back to third century BC is home to a monastery, ancient stupas, and the holy Bodhi Tree, which is believed to the be site where Buddha attained enlightenment.

14. Mountain Railways

 

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Built during the pre-independence era, the mountain railways in India namely Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, and Kalka Shimla Railway are an attraction in themselves. These single-track lines run through winding peaks, historic sites and magical foothills.

15. Kaziranga National Park

 

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Assam’s world-famous reserve is home to one-horned rhinos, large groups of tigers, elephants, bears, panthers, pythons and over 300 varieties of birds.

16. Great Living Chola Temples

 

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This group of Hindu temples built during the Chola Dynasty saw hundreds of performers and musicians perform here regularly during the temples’ yesteryears. The temples still play a very active role in today’s society.

17. Ajanta and Ellora Caves

 

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Situated at a distance of just around two kilometres from each other, these caves are perhaps one of the greatest mysteries in India. One of the largest rock-cut monastery temple cave complexes in the world, it reveals an ancient Indian society that harmoniously practised Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism.

18. Elephanta Caves

Dating back to the fifth century, the Elephanta Caves are situated on an island and feature ancient stupas, sanctuaries, pillared halls and a 23-foot-high sculpture of Lord Shiva. The island can be accessed through ferries that leave from Mumbai, daily.

19. Mysore Palace

 

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Situated at the heart of Mysore City, the Mysore Maharaja Palace, also known as the Amba Vilas Palace was built by Maharaja Rajarshi His Highness Krishnarajendra Wadiyar IV and is currently one of the best-known architectural marvels in the country after the Taj Mahal.

20. Sundarbans National Park

 

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Home to the largest population of Royal Bengal Tigers, the Sundarbans National Park on the Ganges Delta is one of the largest mangrove forests in the world and is a national park, tiger reserve and biosphere reserve all rolled into one.

21. Jewish Synagogue

 

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Said to be one of the oldest synagogues in the commonwealth, The Paradesi Synagogue at Mattancherry, Kochi is situated in a quaint lane and is home to many rare antiques that attract visitors from around the world.

22. Amer Fort

 

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Built somewhere around 1592 and undoubtedly, the Amer Fort in all its pink and yellow sandstone glory in Jaipur stands tall and overlooks the Maota Lake.

23. Padmanabhaswamy Temple

 

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The Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram was built during the sixth century AD. Six secret vaults were discovered in the temple that is said to hold bags full of ancient gold coins and precious gems.

24. Qutub Minar

 

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Delhi is scattered with ancient monuments, one among them being the Qutub Minar. Built at a height of 72.5 metres, the ‘victory tower’ is the tallest minaret in the world to be made entirely of bricks. The minaret contains a spiral staircase that has 379 steps that will take you to the top of the structure.

25. Red Fort

 

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Standing as a powerful reminder of the Mughal era, the Red Fort is Delhi’s most famous monument. It served as the main residence for Mughal emperors and you can still witness symbolisms of the ancient era through the sound and light show held at the fort.

26. Jaisalmer Fort

 

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Situated in the heart of the Thar desert in Rajasthan, the Golden city is home to the Jaisalmer Fort made completely out of yellow sandstone that illuminates a golden hue when sunlight hits the fort. One of the largest forts in the world, it has withstood many battles in the past and is one of the only living forts in India.

27. Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi

 

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Built around 2,200 years ago, the Sanchi Stupa was built at the time when Buddhism was at its peak. The site still has a few scattered remains that include a fallen Ashoka pillar, a life-size statue of Buddha and a monastery.

28. Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

 

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Built in the early 18th century, Jantar Mantar is one of India’s best-kept historic observatories. It was used for astronomical observations and features the world’s largest stone sundial. A similar site exists in Delhi as well.

29. Sun Temple, Konark

 

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The grandest sun temple in the country, the Konark Sun Temple in Odisha has a distinct chariot shape and receives one of the highest footfall of visitors for a non-Mughal monument.

30. Golden Temple

 

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The most revered site for Sikhs, the Golden Temple in Amritsar is noted for its Hindu and Muslim architectural influences. The temple which was initially made with marble was later plated with real gold and houses the Granth Sahib, which is the holy book of Sikhs.

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