21 Stunning Architectural Marvels in India

If one were to decide upon choosing one of the most amazing countries, full of most astonishing events, dramas, stories, histories, happenings since most ancient of times, there is little doubt that India would be the numero-uno choice for most of the people. India through its long, prosperous and astonishing history has witnessed rise and fall of great kingdoms, played cradle to great personages that changed the course of its destiny many times and seen knitting of great legends that has time and again, altered the character of its face. All these incredible phenomenon has bequeathed it a wonderful and marvelous legacy that is conspicuous through its wonderful monuments, buildings and sites, the beauty of which makes one fully comprehend the fabulous spells of time through which the country has passed. Out of exceptionally rich compilation of most impressive structures, we bring you our compilation of 21 such stunning architectural marvels in India which has always been a source of fascination due to is exquisite and exceptional architecture. Take a look.

Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal Source

One of the most majestic architectural marvels, an expression of an undying memory, a symbol of love and commitment of the King of the World (as Shah Jehan, literally means in Persian) for his queen Mumtaz, Taj Mahal stands today as the wonder of the world, an icon of exquisite grandeur, a kind of symptomatic destination for couples to reaffirm their love for each other. Though magnificent in its glory and eminence, Taj Mahal in Agra is actually a tomb that Shah Jehan built at the death of his beloved wife, when she died, giving birth to their fourteenth child at the age of 38. In all, about 22,000 artists, including masons, calligraphers, were commissioned by the emperor, under a board of architects led by Ustad Ahmed Lahauri. The construction for the building was started in 1632 and was completed in 1653 with a total cost of 32 million rupees. The Taj is actually a part of a larger complex that incorporates the surrounding paradisiacal gardens and a red sandstone buildings in its embrace which many scholars believe really reflects the scheme of paradise as described in Islamic theological texts. In all, the Taj Mahal is a stunning proof of embodiment of love, characterized in stone and jewels.

Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Fatehpur Sikri, the amazing imperial city complex, is a magnificent reflection of the values, the beliefs and personality of Emperor Akbar, who commissioned and built it in 1573 as his capital city. The complex blends in various elements of different architectural styles, from Persian to Islamic and Indian, including Hindu and Jain styles. The city was founded around the hospice of Sheikh Salim Chisti, whom the Emperor revered as his benefactor, with whose prayers he was blessed with a heir. Bounded by thick walls on three sides, the fourth side of the city is flanked by a lake that acted as a major or probably the only water source. The complex is formed from numerous individual pavilions, representing different structures for official, religious and residential purposes. The most notable parts of the complex include The Buland Darwaza, The Jama Masjid, Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khaas, the hospice of Salim Chisti etc. Unfortunately, the city was abandoned shortly after its completion, while the emperor shifted his base, first to Lahore and then to Agra as a measure to oversee his different campaigns.

Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Aurangabad, Maharashtra

Considered to be one of the best of examples of ancient Indian paintings, depicting Buddhist religious art and Jataka Tales, The Ajanta Caves are a series of 30 rock cut cave monuments which dates back from 2nd Century BCE to about 480 or 650 CE. The caves were used for various different purposes including education, living and worship. The walls are adorned with numerous exotic sculptures, murals, frescos, colonnades, porches and fine carvings while some walls exhibit fine paintings, generally of allegorical nature. Ellora Caves, on the other hand, are a set of 34 rock-cut Buddhist, Jain and Hindu temples as well as monasteries that is representative of supremely skilled level of architecture that was achieved around 350 to 700 AD. The caves are cut out of single rock monolith into the side of a basaltic hill. The Kailasha Temple, one of the many structures at Ellora is a man-made wonder for its amazing chisel and engravings that invokes both fascination and admiration. Both Ajanta and Ellora caves are located in Maharashtra and are a major national and international tourist destination.

Statue of Gomateshwara (Bahubali), Karnataka

Located at Shravanbelagola, one of most important and sacred sites for Jains, this majestic statue, towering 57 foot tall, is one of the architectural marvels in India. Gomateshwara or Bahubali was the son of Rishabha, who is considered as the first Tirthankara and the founder of Jainism. He renounced his kingdom and became a Jain monk, subsequently attaining moksha or liberation and thus becoming a revered figure in the religion. The splendid statue was built 983 A.D by Chamundraya, who was a minister and commander of Ganga dynasty. Located at the high altitude of 3350 above sea level, this colossal figure was built out of a single rock monolith and thus is a source of wonder and amazement for the people thronging to the holy site. Besides there are other places of cultural and religious significance around the icon, making the location of Shravanbelagola a significant destination for devotees and tourists.

Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai

Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai

A clear exhibition of the stupendous richness of South Indian architecture, this wonderful edifice is a vital element of the important heritage of the region. One of the largest temples in India, the Meenakshi Amman Temple has 12 massive gates, with biggest gates situated on the outer walls. These are known as Gopuram and are a great spectacle. There is a tank inside the premises, besides a hall, known as the hall of thousand pillars, the amazing sculpting on which is beyond compare. Other halls too are adorned with beautiful figures, designs and carvings and are unique from each other. The original temple was reconstructed in the 17th century by the first Nayak king of Madurai, Vishwanath Nayak after it was damaged during Islamic invasion of the region. The temple along with its complex now spreads in an expansive 45 acres space and is a major spot for Hindu devotees and cultural admirers.

Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha

Image Source

Sun Temple, Konark Image Source

Originally conceived to be a massive chariot structure drawn by seven pairs of huge, galloping horses, The Konark Sun Temple, one of the World Heritage Sites in India, represents the peak of the Odisha temple architecture that came about in 13th century A.D. The enormous wheels that are carved to support the colossal structure are majestic and along with minute details of various human and animal figures on the walls, makes it awe-inspiring for visitors. The original design of the temple is in the Shikhara style and does not marks any radical departure from this standard framework. Although many of the original sections like the main sanctum and Dancing and Dining hall have not been able to survive much, still other portions like the main audience hall inspires marvel and fascination. The total dimensions of the complex, which is 857 ft. by 540 ft. is another source of admiration.

Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

Jantar Mantar, Jaipur

Showcasing the brilliant tradition of curiosity, science and observation, the Jantar Mantar is one of the largest observatories in the world. Built during early 18th century, under the reign of Maharaja Jai Singh II of Jaipur, who himself was an avid astrologer and a scholar, the structure also houses the world’s largest sundial and has caught the imaginations of architects, historians and astronomers alike. The geometry and built of the site is such that it contain devices for measurement of time, tracking constellations and watching the orbits of Sun. The blocks inside the complex such as Samrat Yantra, Hindu Chhatri and Jaiprakash Yantra also serve the same or similar purpose. The monuments stands as an amazing memory of the royal heritage of the region and is one of the must-see sites for the tourists that happen to visit the “Pink City”. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tawang Monastery, Arunachal Pradesh

Perched at the stunning height of 10,000 feet above the sea level and located on the top of a hill, the Tawang Monastery is the second largest monastery in the world, after the iconic Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. This important site of Buddhist spirituality was founded by Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso around 1680-81, as per the desire of the 5th Dalai Lama. The structure and edifice of the monastery is unique and amazing. The entrance hall has a colorful gate, followed by beautiful murals of different saints and holy men painted on it. Apart from the other massive gates that flank the entrance, the main building is like a large mansion and rises up to three floors and contain the various residential houses of monks, Lamas and students. The main temple of the structure, known as the Dukhang is actually the centerpiece and houses a large figure of Buddha sitting in the Lotus position.

Victoria Memorial, Kolkata

This marvelous architectural delight was planned and built in the remembrance of Queen Victoria, who passed away in the year 1901. The building assimilates various construction styles primarily including Indo-Saracenic and Mughal styles, but also incorporating Venetian, Egyptian, Islamic and Deccani styles of architecture. The remarkable structure, was created under the guidance of eminent architect William Emerson. Surrounded by verdant gardens and the expansive structure of the main building is now used as a museum that exhibits different memorabilia associated with the British Rule such as coins, paintings, weapons, artifacts etc. that showcases the flourishingly consolidating British Raj at the beginning of 20th century. The building is an important tourist landmark of this old British capital of India.

Golconda Fort, Hyderabad

Golconda, which literally means “The Shepherd’s Hill” is a huge, hill fortress that used to serve as the capital city of the rich and affluent Golconda Kingdom. Initially under the rule of the Hindu Kakatiya dynasty, it was later annexed into the Islamic Bahamani kingdom during the medieval times and passing through history, remained under various dynasties like Qutub Shahis and Nizam Shahis, well unto 1948. The fort comprises a number of halls, parade grounds, exquisite royal apartments and several mosques. The main gate, known as the Fateh Darwaza, is huge 13 ft. by 25 ft. is fixed with steel spikes to prevent the entry of elephants into the fort. However, the Eastern gate is the largest and the only gate open for visitors. The fort is uniquely designed in such a way so that there is enough ventilation that brought respite to the royals from excruciating Deccani summers besides there is are amazing acoustic effects inside the fort, used to alert the soldiers during the time of siege or attack. The fort is also said to have an underground tunnel that was also used as an important medium of defense and escape.

India Gate, New Delhi

India Gate, New Delhi

One of the major icons bedecking the national capital, the India Gate was built principally as a war memorial in the remembrance of Indian soldiers who fought and died alongside The British in the First World War and the third Anglo-Afghan War. The architect of this renowned structure is the legendary Sir Edwards Lutyens, who is responsible for the majority of major British Structures in Delhi. India Gate is essentially a light-colored brick structure with a central arch, rising about 42m from the ground with a total width of about 10 m. In all, there are about 13,516 names inscribed on the walls of this famous structure. Since 1971, a flame structure, known as The Amar Jawan Jyoti, is installed inside the middle of the Gate, to commemorate the war heroes died during the India-Pakistan War. It now acts as a war memorial for all the soldiers of the Indian Army who lay down their lives for the country and is an important spot for tourists and locals.

Mysore Palace, Mysore

Mysore Palace, Mysore

An important, central icon of the city of Palaces, Mysore, The Mysore palace is a prominent tourist spot and the seat of power of the erstwhile royal family of Wodeyars, who ruled this city from 1350 to 1950. The palace was originally constructed in wood, which was burnt down in the year 1897. Thereafter, the structure was rebuilt in its present form that incorporates the elements of British, Hindu, Muslim and Rajput styles of architecture. The building, now a museum, is embellished with a rich collection of paintings, costumes, jewelry and other important items, showcasing the opulent lifestyle of the royal household. Interior of the palace is adorned with numerous luxurious rooms, white marble floor, exotic carvings and works of art. Mysore Palace registers a staggering 6 million visitors annually and is considered to be the second most popular tourist destination in India, after Taj Mahal.

Lotus Temple, Delhi

Lotus Temple, Delhi

An exquisitely beautiful structure and one of the major tourism focal points of the national capital, The Lotus Temple is essentially a House of Worship of the Baha’is faith which instructs a spiritual gathering of the all people, irrespective of their religious denominations. Lotus Temple was designed by an Iranian architect Fariborz Sahba and its construction was completed in the year 1986. The edifice is shaped in the form of a lotus with 27 free standing marble “petal” shaped structures to form its nine sides. The central hall is about 40 meters tall and has the capacity to hold about 2,500 people. Spread in the vast territory of 26 acres, the temple complex has a number of ponds and gardens and the surrounding ambience is refreshingly cool and calm.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site in India, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus or the erstwhile Victoria Terminus is one of the most exotic and fascinating monuments inside the city of Mumbai. Planned and executed by F.W Stevens, the construction of this amazing gothic structure was finished in 1888 and in all took 10 years to complete. The Terminus elegantly incorporates the elements of Victorian Gothic Styles and the architecture of late 19th century. The building has beautiful carvings and includes turrets, pointed arches, high central dome, rows and windows. The ground plan of the structure is in the symmetrical C –shape, which is well-proportioned in both east and west axis. CST (as it is famously called) is was the venue of first passenger train service in India. Almost about 3 million people pass through its gates everyday as it is marks one of the important points of Mumbai’s daily commute. However, despite the daily wear due to rush, it still remains one of the finest instances of colonial architecture in India.

University of Nalanda, Rajgir, Bihar

University of Nalanda, Rajgir, Bihar

Nalanda, a large Buddhist monastery (Mahavihara) and complex, was one of the most important centers of learning in ancient India from 5th CE to 12 CE. The compound, which greatly flourished under the patronage of the Gupta and Pala kings was eminent enough even to attract students from faraway lands such as China, Korea, Tibet and Central Asia. The university is even believed to have contacts with Indonesia. In its high time the university had the capacity to accommodate about 10,000 students and about 1000 teachers. The site was greatly valued for its manuscripts and rich collection of scholarly material. It is believed that Buddha had visited and had stayed at Nalanda, several times, in an earlier age and the site was also visited by Asoka. Nalanda prospered in all its glory till 12th century, after which it declined and was ultimately abandoned.

Ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi, Karnataka

Ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi, Karnataka

Hampi was an important city and the capital of the wealthy and prosperous Vijayanagara Empire in the 14th century. Spread in the expanse of 26 sq. km., the city is surrounded by Tungabhadra River on one side and Granite rocky terrain on rest of the other three sides. Hampi was the center of great construction, of numerous temples, monuments and palaces. The architecture of Hampi is typical and borrows from various schools of design. While most of the temples are constructed in the Tamil country style, the palaces are designed in beautiful and elegant blend of Indian and Islamic styles of architecture, known as the Indo-Saracenic style. According to scholars, the various monuments of Hampi can be classed into three categories: Civil, Military and Religious with each following their own codes of construction. The sites are marvelous representative of a flourishing era and are very popular tourist’s destination.

Humayun’s Tomb, New Delhi

Humayun’s Tomb, New Delhi

One of the great gems from the numerous exquisite monuments of the Mughal era and one of the World Heritage Sites in Delhi, the Humayun’s Tomb is an elegant structure that houses the tomb of the second Mughal Emperor Humayun. The tomb was commissioned and built by Humayun’s wife and was constructed by blending various elements of different schools of architecture, primarily the Persian model of architecture.

The architect of the building is Mirak Mirza Ghiyas. The main building stands on a raised platform of 22’ height. Besides various aspects of different modes of Indo-Saracenic architecture are conspicuous.

Humayun’s tomb is widely believed to be the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. In addition to this, there are lush gardens surrounding the site, laid out in the traditional Persian Char-Bagh manner, that adds to its grace.

Akshardham Temple, New Delhi

The breathtaking splendor, Akshardham Temple in New Delhi is stunning proof of the cumulative inheritance of Indian art and architecture and skill.

The complex near the banks of River Yamuna. It is amazingly constructed almost entirely of stone with no use of steel or iron been made in its construction. In total, there are about 234 finely carved pillars, 9 domes, 20 quadrangular spires and nearly 20,000 idols and statues that depict the journey of thousands of years of Indian Philosophy and spiritual tradition.

About 11,000 practiced craftsmen, carved out the entire edifice that rises up to a height of 10 storeys. Besides, the amazing architecture, the temple plays a film show, a spiritual excursion and a musical and dance show to showcase India’s spiritual wealth and philosophy of Bhagwaan Swaminarayan.

Rani Ka Vav, Patan Gujarat

Rani Ka Vav, Patan Gujarat

Rani ka Vav is a beautiful, intricate, ancient step wall that was authorized and built by Queen Udaymati to worship the consecrated waters of the Saraswati River.

Located in Patan, in the Indian state of Gujarat, the structure is an 11th century edifice and is about 64 meters in length, 20 meters wide and 27 meters deep. Evoking wonder and admiration, the whole complex is about 7 subterranean storeys. Each of them feature minutely carved with almost 500 or more sculptures. Observe exhibits of gods, humans, nymphs and kings in distinct forms of animation and action. The main theme is the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Due to its amazing design and astonishing make up, Rani ka Vav is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The structure is a commemoration of the Queen to her husband. It represents a remarkable instance of water management system and is one of favorite tourist destinations for people descending into Gujarat.

The Temple Complex at Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh

The Temple Complex at Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh

One among the finest example of temple architecture, the Khajuraho group of monuments are icons of religious, artistic and aesthetic genius, all molded and featured at once.

The temples were built during the 10th and 11th century by the Hindu Chandela dynasty and are beautifully embellished with refined sculptures and neat proportions, both to the exterior and interior of the buildings.

Out of the 85 original monuments, only 20 have survived the weathering of time. The sculpture on the walls exhibits a huge number of deities and their corresponding attendants that depict their actions or exploits. Some of them are even shown in various sensual and erotic positions that demonstrate the broadness of mind in ancient India regarding sensual and sexual love. The complex is very popular among international tourists. They come here to witness the richness of ancient Indian architecture, first hand.

Gol Gumbaz, Karnataka

Gol Gumbaz, Karnataka

This architectural masterpiece is located in the Bijapur district of Karnataka. The huge dome, is the second largest in the world, next only to St. Basilica in Rome.

The four minarets adorning the building acts as staircases. Its unique and amazing acoustical system are a fascination and delight. In fact, even lowest of the voices echo multiple times in the incredible edifice.

Gol Gumbaz was designed by the architect Yaqut of Dabul and the whole monument was completed in the year 1656 and which turned out to be the largest single chamber in that was ever built. It served as the tomb of Mohammed Adil Shah, who was the ruler of the Deccan states in South India.

Mayank Chawla

Born in New Delhi, India, Mayank grew up admiring, perceiving and then embracing the vastly complex, colorful and paradoxical nature of the Indian Society, which further led him to accommodate and appreciate the tremendous diversity of world. This admiration brought him to travel writing to share his thoughts and personal experiences with readers and travel enthusiasts at large to make them enjoy the wonderful beauty of the world as he sees it. Mayank also reviews books and can be reached through his website at http://www.themayankchawla.com/.

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