1. Temples of Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
If stones could talk, the sculptures of Mahabalipuram would reveal the fancies of our ancestral past. Welled up in heritage, history and culture, Mahabalipuram is an erstwhile port city off the Coromandel coast. Mahabalipuram has archived the glories of the Pallava dynasty in such a manifesting way that every sculpture draws a parallel to its story with an irresistible longing of distinct possibilities. It is here in Mahabalipuram you will learn that some histories are better off written in stones than textbooks.
2. Konark Sun temple, Orissa
Here the language of stone surpasses the language of human.
- Rabindranath Tagore
Modelled to look like a chariot, Konark is a spectacular carved out of sandstone. A sculpted structure plonked on 24 wheels, gives an illusion of being pulled by 7 horses and 2 lions that guard it. The engineering those days was so baffling that the wheels act as sundials that can accurately calculate time.
3. Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Engulfed by a burgeoning forest, Khajuraho was camouflaged under a thick grove of green until a young British officer rediscovered it in 1838. With an inscription tracing it back to the Chandela dynasty, the Group Temples of Khajuraho became a subject of speculation owing to its undaunted, carnal and erotic depictions. The walls of the temples are embellished with cult representations of Apsaras and demigods. Several theories associate with this untypical statues - some say the scenes were chiselled to educate the people, while some studies suggest that they depict the love and marriage of Shiva-Parvati. Although these temples are only known famed for its erotic sculptures, they barely constitute 10% of the depictions. The central theme of the temple revolves around the Tantric concept that the male counterpart holds the form and potential, while the female holds energy. The temples are an amalgamation of Jainism and Hinduism.
4. Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh
The story of Taj Mahal is eternally imbibed on the pages of history ever since its construction began. Shah Jahan, the romantic that he was, added soul to the beautiful monument by aligning every curve and arch of the mausoleum to a significant piece of love story. Every part of the mausoleum narrates a tale of romance and tragedy. Its tomb, minarets, calligraphed murals and excerpts from Quran transpire Shah Jahan’s undying love for Begum Mumtaz. Taj Mahal’s eternal grace and symmetry resonate the tragic romance that lived between the couple.
5. Hampi, Karnataka
When you are in Hampi, you will experience a flashback of the past, a peek into the erstwhile Vijayanagara kingdom and witness a whole lot of Hindu mythology through laboriously carved sculptures. While India is renowned for having intricate and elaborate stone carvings, Hampi is especially known for the acoustic and musical stone pillars at Vithala Temple. What sort of crazy engineering must have gone behind making stones that sound like instruments!
6. Great Living Chola Temples, Tamil Nadu
Built by the Chola dynasty between 11th and 12th centuries, the walls of Great Living Chola Temples perform a beautiful and dramatic tale from the chronicles of Chola rule. Not only were these temples an epicentre of worship, but also were they an important centre for business. There are stories about priests, devadasis and musicians that float the air. The temples play a stage to so many legends that make us peer into the daily musings of the royal and bourgeois. Interestingly, the granite carvings have taken inspiration from the Pallava’s architectural style.
7. Golconda Fort, Telangana
Amidst the cacophony and gruffness of Hyderabad, stands tall a fort from the reign of Qutb Shah. An imposing structure with 87 semicircular bastions, 8 elephant-proof gates, few cannons, 4 drawbridges, has a royal residential complex with halls,temples, mosques, magazines and stables. An example of its outstanding engineering is the acoustic effect of a clap done near dome that is reverberated almost a kilometre away in the fort’s pavilion. This was used as a beacon in case of an attack or emergency.
8. Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
A perfect confluence of creativity and innovation, Jantar Mantar displays ambition of a visionary unfold into a mindblowing piece of reality. Jantar Mantar is a collection of real, life-sized calculating instruments which are scholarly designed to predict the time, eclipses, the location of major stars and much more. It is a brilliance in astronomical and scientific architecture that uses geometrical patterns for a celestial wonder. It was built by Maharaja Jai Singh II to create birth charts and predictions of major events like deaths, wars, weddings et al. However, today the monument is way beyond predictions. It is a symbol of national pride.
9. Daulatabad, Maharashtra
Built under the Rashtrakuta kings, Daulatabad flourished under the reign of Mohammed Bin Tughlaq. What sets this fort apart from most other forts is the secret traps which were used to hoodwink the enemies. Bridges that were drawn away when enemies entered, a moat with hidden crocodiles and the best of all, the dark passageway, which is riddled with curvy stairs - at the end of which hot oil was poured on the enemies! Now that is some devious planning!
10. Rani ki Vav, Gujarat
There are so many things to love about this one. First - it was built by a lady, unlike most other monuments in India. Second - the architecture is that of an inverted temple. Third - it is a 27-metre-deep stepwell which is 64-metre-long and 20-metre-wide, built to worship shallow water of the Saraswati river. This is a subterranean wonder that is adorned with sculptures of gods and their mounts, demigods and nymphs. It has 10 intricate carvings of Lord Vishnu with a Sheshnayi Vishnu at the centre, that gives an illusion of the temple being built of brick.
Buy an air ticket to these beautiful destinations and experience a journey like never before.
Author: Winnie Karnik