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HERITAGE TOURS

India is a land of staggering contrast with a mingling of the traditions and modernity that is a unique experience to be in India. One will forever remember the stay in this wonderful Homeland –a land of mystery and enchantment. Only India can offer such an astonishing variety of contrast. India has been the Land of diverse cultures. The variations in physical, climatic conditions and the extent of exposure to other cultures have greatly influenced the traditions and culture of different regions. There is an underlying basic factor common to the whole India, with variations in the practices based on their local needs and influences. Further, the greatness of India has been in accepting the best from all the invaders and intermingling the new customs and styles with the existing – this is visible in all aspects – music, dance, sculpturesand architecture. One of the many definitions of heritage recalls 'the rights, burdens, or status resulting from being born in a certain time or place; 'birth right'. The heritage of a country such as India is truly enormous, encompassing the wealth of a structural and material heritage, diverse natural bounty, and a vibrant living culture of many communities and religions. The rights, burdens, and status of this birth right; of this diverse, rich, and ancient heritage, is equally prodigious. The future of this heritage is a matter of grave concern, for it is this that makes India what she is, bestows an 'image' that determines how she is conceived and understood by people of different cultures and lands. Throughout the ages it was her heritage that brought visitors to Indian shores. When scholars and pilgrims from abroad visited India, their' impact on her culture and development was confined to the exchange of ideas. It was merchants who sought to influence the economy and thus had a direct impact on the political structures and the life of the people as a whole. Invasions and foreign rule resulted in enormous dislocation in the traditional lives of the people and the development of new hybrid cultures. The twentieth century presented a new phenomenon: the tourist. The tourist is defined as one who tours away from home, and includes both the domestic and foreign tourist. The only constant category of traveller is the pilgrim whose objectives and values have remained almost unchanged through the ages. India is the huge mass of land full with world heritage sites, few of them which are very famous among the foreign tourists include;

Agra Fort

– Near the gardens of The TajMahal stands the important 16th century Mughal monument known as the Agra Fort or Red Fort. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses, within its 2.5 kms long enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. It comprises many fairy-tale palaces, such as the Jahangir Palace and the KhasMahal, built by Shah Jahan, audience halls, such as Diwan-i-Khas, and two very beautiful mosques.

Ajanta Caves

– The first Buddhist cave monuments at Ajanta date from the 2nd and 1st century B.C. During the Gupta period (5th and 6th centuries A.D), many more richly decorated caves were added to the original group. The paintings and sculptures of Ajanta, considered masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, have had a considerable artistic influence.

Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi

– On a hill overlooking the plain and about 40 Kms from Bhopal, the site of Sanchi comprises a group of Buddhist monuments (monolithic pillars, palaces, temples and monasteries) all in different states of conservation most of which date back to the 2nd and 1st century B.C. It is the oldest Buddhist sanctuary in existence and was a major Buddhist centre in India until the 12th century A.D.

Champaner-PavagadhArchaeoligical Park

–A concentration of largely unexcavated archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage properties cradled in an impressive landscapes which includes prehistoric (Chalcolithic)sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital, and remains of the 16th century capital of the state of Gujarat. The site also includes, among other vestige, fortifications, palaces, religious building, residential precincts, agriculture structures and water installations from the 8th to 14th centuries. The Kakikamata Temple on top of Pavagadh Hill is considered to be an important shrine, attracting large number of pilgrims throughout the year. The site is the only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city.

ChhatrapatiShivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus)

– TheShivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus Station, in Mumbai is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India, blended with themes deriving from Indian traditional architecture. The building, designed by the British architect F. W. Stevens, became the symbol of Bombay as the “Gothic City” and the major international mercantile port of India. The terminal was built over 10 years, starting in 1878, according to a High Victorian Gothic design based on late medieval Italian models. Its remarkable stone dome, turrets, pointed arches and eccentric ground plan are close to traditional Indian palace architecture. It is an outstanding example of the meeting of two cultures, as British architects worked with Indian craftsmen to include Indian architectural tradition and idioms thus forging a new style unique to Mumbai.

Churches and Convents of Goa

– The churches and convents of Goa, the former capital of the Portuguese Indies – particularly the Churche of Bo, Jesus, which contains the tomb of St. Francis-Xavier – illustrates the evangelization of Asia. These monuments were influential in spreading forms of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art in all the countries of Asia where missions were established.

Elephanta Caves

– The ‘City of Caves’ on an island in the Sea of Oman close to Mumbai, contains a collection of rock art linked to the cult of Shiva. Here, Indian art has found one of its most perfect expression particularly the huge high reliefs in the main cave.

Ellora Caves

– These 34 monasteries and temples, extending over more than 2 km, were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff not far from Aurangabad, in Maharashtra. Ellora, with its uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from A.D. 600 to 1000, brings the civilization of ancient India to life. Not only is the Ellora complex a unique artistic creation and a technological exploit but, with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.

FatehpurSikri

– Built duringthe second half of the 16thcentury by the Emperor Akbar, FatehpurSikri (The City of Victory) was the capital of the Mughal Empire for only 10 years. The complex of monuments and temples, all in a uniform architecture style, includes one of the largest mosque in India, the Jama Masjid.

Great Living Chola Temples

– The Great Living Chola Temples were built by kings of the Chola Empire, which stretched over all of South India and the neighbouring islands. The site includes three great 11th and 12th century Temples: The Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, The Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Barasuram. The Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram, built by Rajendra l, was completed in 1035. Its 53-m Vimana (sanctum tower) has recessed corners and a graceful upward curving movement, contrasting with the straight and severe tower of Thanjavur. The Airavatesvara Temple complex, built by Rajarajall, at Darasuram features a 24-vimana and a stone image of Shiva. The temples testify to the brilliant achievements of the Chola in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting.

Group of Monuments at Hampi

–The austere, grandiose site of Hampi was the last capital of the largest Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar. Its fabulously rich princes built Dravidian temples and palaces which won the admiration of travellers between the 14th and 16th centuries. Conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy in 1565, the city was pillaged over a period of six months before being abandoned.

Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram

– The group of sanctuaries, founded by thePallava kings, was carved out of rock along the Coromandel Coast in the 7th and 8th centuries. It is known especially for its rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), giant open-air reliefs such as the famous ‘Descent of the Ganges’ and the temple of Rivage, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva.

Group of Monuments at Pattadakal

–Pattadakal, in Karnataka, represents the high point of an eclectic art which, in the 7th and 8th centuries under the Chalukya Dynasty, achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from Northern and Southern India. An impressive series of nine Hindu temples, as well as Jain sanctuary, can be seen there. One masterpiece from the group stands out – the Temple of Virupaksha built by Queen Lokamahadevi to commemorate her husband’s victory over the king from the South.

Hill Forts of Rajasthan

– The serial site, situated in the state of Rajasthan, includes six majestic forts in Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh, SwaiMadhopur, Jhalawar, Jaipur and Jaisalmar. The eclectic architecture of the forts, some up to 20 Kms in circumference, bears testimony to the Rajput princely states that flourished in the region from the 8th to 18th centuries. Enclosed within defensive walls are major urban centres, palaces, trading centres and other buildings including temples that often predate the fortification within which developed an elaborate courtly culture that supported learning, music and the arts. Some of the urban centres enclosed in the fortification have survived, as have many of the site’s temples and other sacred buildings. The forts use the natural defence offered by the landscape; hills deserts, rivers and dense forests. They also feature extensive water harvesting structures, largely still in use today.

Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi

-Humayun’s Tomb, built in 1570, is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It inspired several major architectural innovations, culminating in the construction of the TajMahal.

Khajuraho Group of Monuments

– The temples at Khajurahowere built during the Chandella dynasty, which reached its apogee between 950 and 1050. Only about 20 temples remain, they fall into three distinct groups and belong to two different religions – Hinduism and Jainism. They strike a perfect balance between architectural and sculpture. The Temple of Kandariya is decorated with a profusion of sculptures that are among the greatest masterpieces of Indian art.

Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya

– The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is one of the four holy sites related to the life of Lord Buddha, and particularly to the attainment of Enlightenment. The first temple was built by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century B.C, and the present temple dates from the 5th or 6th centuries. It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick, still standing in India, from the late Gupta period.

Mountain Railway of India

– The site includes three railways. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railways was the first, and is still the most outstanding, examples of a hill passenger railway. Opened in 1881, its design applies bold and ingenious engineering solutions to the problem of establishing an effective rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty. The construction of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a 46-km long metre-gauge single-track railway in Tamil Nadu State was first proposed in 1854, but due to the difficulty of the mountainous location the work only started in 1891 and was completed in 1908. This railway, scaling an elevation of 326 mts to 2203 mts, represented the latest technology of the time. The Kalka Shimla Railway, a 96-Kms long, single track working rail link built in the mid-19thcentury to provide a service to the highland town of Shimla is emblematic of the technical and material efforts to mountain populations through the railway. All three railways are still fully operational.

QutbMinar and its Monuments, Delhi

– Built in the early 13th century a few kms south of Delhi, the red sandstone tower of QutbMinar is 72.5 mts high, tapering from 2.75 mts diameter at its peak to 14.32 mts at its base, and altering angular and rounded flutings. The surrounding archaeological area contains funerary buildings, notably the magnificent Alai-Darwaza Gate, the masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art ( built in 1311), and two mosques, including Quwwatu’l-Islam, the oldest in northern India, built of materials reused from some 20 Brahman temples.

Rani-Ki-Vav (The Queen’s Stepwell) at Patan, Gujarat

–Rani Ki Vav, on the banks of Saraswati River, was initially built as a memorial to a king in the 11th century AD. Stepwells are a distinctive form of subterranean water resources and storage system on the Indian subcontinent, and have been constructed since the 3rd millennium BC. They evolved over time from what was basically a pit in sandy soil towards elaborate multi-storey works of art and architecture. Rani Ki Vav was built at the height of craftsmen’s ability in stepwell construction and a Maru-Gujara architectural style, reflecting mastery of this complex technique and great beauty of detail and proportions.Designed as an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water, it is divided into seven levels of stairs with sculptural panels of high artistic quality, more than 500 principle sculptures and over a thousand minor ones combine religious, mythological and secular imagery, often referencing literary works. The fourth level is the deepest and leads into a rectangular tank 9.5 mts by 9.4 mts, at a depth of 23 m. The well is located at the westernmost end of the property and consists of a shaft 10 mts in diameter and 30 mts deep.

Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka

– The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains on the southern edge of the central Indian Plateau. Within massive sandstone outcrop, above comparatively dense forest, are five clusters of natural rock shelters, displaying paintings that appear to date from the Mesolithic Period right through to the historical period. The cultural traditions of the inhabitants of the twenty one villages adjacent to the site bear a strong resemblance to those represented in the rock paintings.

Sun Temple, Konarak

– On the shores of the Bay of Bengal, bathed in the rays of the rising sun, the temple at Konarak is a monumental representation of the Sun God Surya’s Chariot, its 24 wheels are decorated with symbolic designs and it is led by a team of six horses. Built in the 13th century, it is one of India’s most famous Brahman sanctuaries.

TajMahal

– An immense mausoleum of white marble, built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, the TajMahal is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.

The JantarMantar, Jaipur

– The JantarMantar, in Jaipur, is an astronomical observation site in the early 18th century. It includes a set of some 20 main fixed instruments. They are monumental examples in masonry of known instruments but which in many cases have specific characteristics of their own. Designed for the observation of astronomical positions with naked eye, they embody several architectural and instrumental innovations. This is the most significant, most comprehensive, and the best preserved of India’s historic observatories. It is an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period.

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