India has had a long history of rulers who, as is evident, had been obsessed with their palaces, forts, monuments, minarets and etc. Well, lucky for the architects out there, this means an infinitely large field to explore, observe, and learn from the masters themselves. The craftsmen themselves who devised such designs, which were well ahead of their time may not be around, but their legacy remains in the architectural wonders they have left behind. By Shubhanjana Das
1. The Ruins of Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi, Karnataka
There are very few architects in the world who aren’t aware of Hampi in Karnataka. This humble village holds the key to understanding one of the greatest Indian empires of all time — the Vijaynagara Empire. No wonder Hampi is Karnataka’s most important asset and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rocky but lush with trees, humble but also proud, Hampi carries Tungabhadra in its heart and the pride of the last empire in India in its memory. The Vitthala temple is singularly special because of its 56 music pillars each of which emanate a different kind of sound. That, and much more awaits your architectural curiosity here at Hampi. There are double the number of surprises as there are temples here in Hampi.
2. Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Khajuraho has more to it than what it is famous for — its sensual carvings. For example, did you know that the Chandela dynasty, the masterminds behind this UNESCO World Heritage Site, were believers in the Tantric school of thought, which gives foundation to the rather progressive belief that men and women are equal and none can do without the other. Besides, the Kahjuraho temple complex is an amalgam of Hinduism and Jainism and also one of the most brilliant examples of Indian craftsmanship when it comes to architecture. The initial 85 temples now stand at 22, the rest having given in to war, natural disaster, ruins and etc.
3. Dilwara Jain Temple, Rajasthan
Besides being an important pilgrimage site for the Jains, this temple is also an architectural milestone. Architects from all over the world drool over the sheer brilliance of how the palaces, monuments, forts, etc. were built back in the day. As for Dilwara, it is hard to take one’s eyes off the marble stone carvings all over its walls and pillars. The temple is more than just a significant religious site, it is a landmark when it comes to India’s hold on architecture.
4. Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Maharashtra
Path to heaven or refuge to Buddhist monks? The centuries old Ajanta and Ellora caves has been fodder to multiple attempts at uncovering the mystery interlaced with it, just like the forest that grew all around and over these caves that were discovered back in 1819 by a British officer. The carvings on the caves are a window for the visitors to peek into the life and time of the erstwhile eras. The architectural genius is evident in more ways than one. If you can notice the pattern in which sun shines over the 29 rock-cit caves during the summer and winter solistices, consistently over the years, you’ll know why this place deserves a place on this list.
5. Taj Mahal, Agra
Some things truly do speak for themselves and the Taj Mahal is one such architectural specimen, which could and can never be duplicated. It was ahead of its time when it comes to its architectural genius and stands as an epitome of history, love, hard work, and years of dedication to bring into life what Shah Jahan had imagined would suit the love of his life Mumtaz the best. A specimen of Hindu and Indo-Islamic architecture, the Taj Mahal is on every possible list of awe-striking, unreal architecture all throughout the world.
6. Nalanda University, Bihar
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a very significant architectural as well as educational site in India. From 5th Century CE to 1200 CE, Nalanda University, located 95 kms outside of Patna, was the highest and best available Buddhsit centre of learning back in the day. It’s systematic and avant-garde architectural blueprint amuses architects till this date. It is said that the university was so vast that it took the fire set by ransackers three months to swallow a good part of the university, driving away the monks.