By Briana Seftel
India is as enigmatic as it is beauitful. Renowned for its cuisine and spiritual destinations, India is also an archictural playground with styles representive of the many empires that ruled this vast land. You'll be dazzled by these feats of architecture that aren't too far off from your wildest vacation ideas.
Tombs & Mausoleums
Taj Mahal • Agra
Bask in the lacy white grandeur of the Taj Mahal, arguably the most famous architectural wonder in the world. Mughal emperor Shah Jahan constructed this extravagant mausoleum in honor of his late wife Mumtaz Mahal (Taj Mahal means “Crown of the Palace”). To this day, the Taj stands as a monument to love and attracts nearly 8 million visitors per year.
Tomb of Itimad-ud-Daulah • Agra
Nicknamed the "Baby Taj" for its exquisite white marble exterior inlaid with semi-precious stones, the mausoleum was a departure from the traditional red sandstone of the Mughal Empire. Built between 1622 and 1628, it was commissioned by Emperor Jahangir’s queen Nurjahan in memory of her father Mirza Ghias Beg, a Persian nobleman.
Humayun's Tomb • New Delhi
Built in 1570, Humayun’s Tomb was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent and a start to the signature red sandstone architecture of the Mughal Empire. Over 150 Mughal family members are buried in this tomb that inspired several major architectural innovations including the Taj Mahal.
Forts & Ancient Cities
Amber Fort • Jaipur
Amber Fort (also known as Amer Fort) is a magnificent fort built of sandstone and white marble located high on a hill outside of Jaipur. The former seat of the Rajput rulers is an elaborate palace complex divided into four sections each with its own courtyard.
Agra Fort • Agra
Constructed by Emperor Akbar in 1565, Agra Fort served as the primary home of the Mughal dynasty until 1638 when the capital was moved to Delhi. The palaces, mosques, and audience halls contained within its massive red sandstone walls are prime examples of India’s unique blend of Islamic and Hindu traditions.
Fatehpur Sikri • Agra
A magnificent fortified city outside Agra, Fatehpur Sikri remains one of the finest relics of the Mughal Empire. Built in the 16th- century during the reign of Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur was intended to be the joint capital with Agra but was quickly deserted because the water system could not support its residents. The ancient city has remained virtually untouched for over 400 years and represents the architectural extravagance of the Mughals.
Red Fort • Old Delhi
Old Delhi’s Red Fort is walled city built by Emperor Shah Jehan in 1648 as his capital. The magnificent fort built of red sandstone dates from the very peak of the Mughal power and served as the royal residence until 1857.
Arjuna's Penance • Mahabalipuram
Also known as the Descent of the Ganges, this open-air rock relief is the world's largest bas-relief, measuring at 764 feet by 288 feet. The legend depicted on these two monolithic rocks tells the story of the river Ganges to earth from the heavens. It is a beautiful composition of hundreds of celestial beings, human and animals all hurrying to a natural rock cleft that divides the giant stone.
Ranakpur Jain Temple • Ranakpur
Situated in the heart of the remote and enchanting valley of the Arvallis, the Ranakpur Jain Temple was built in the 15th-century by a wealthy Jain businessman. Acclaimed for its intricate architecture, the temple has an astounding 1,444 carved marble pillars, 29 halls, and 80 domes.
Great Living Chola Temples • Tamil Nadu
Three temples built in the 11th and 12th centuries make up the Great Living Chola Temples in South India. The temples testify to the brilliant achievements of the Chola Empire in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting.
Khajuraho Group of Monuments • Madhya Pradesh
About 20 temples make up Khajuraho, built during the Chandella dynasty between 950 and 1050. Representing Hinduism and Jainism, the temples are notable for their erotic sculptures that make up approximately 10% of the intricate carvings.
City Palace • Jaipur
In the heart of Jaipur lies City Palace, a palace complex consisting of the Chandra Mahal, Mubarak Maha, Shri Govind Dev Temple and City Palace Museum. The palace was constructed in the 1700s and reflects the fusion of Mughal and traditional Rajasthani architecture.
Hawa Mahal • Jaipur
Hawa Mahal is Jaipur's most distinctive landmark and is also known as the "Palace of Winds." The ornamental five-story palace is built of pink sandstone and encrusted with fine trellis work and elaborate balconies. It was built in 1799 by Pratap Singh as a palace for the royal women to watch the processions and daily life of the city.
Cooch Behar Palace • West Bengal
Modeled after the Buckingham Palace in London, Cooch Behar Palace is an Italian Renaissance-inspired palace built in the 1880s by Maharaja Nripendra Narayan. A section of the palace was converted into a museum and displays relics of the time.
Mysore Palace • Mysore
Second to the Taj Mahal in number of visitors per year, Mysore Palace a 20th-century palace built by the Wadiyar dynasty and was their official residence for almost 600 years (the 14th-century palace was built of wood and burned down in 1897). Known as the “City of Palaces,” Mysore is built in Indo-Saracenic style and blends Hindu, Muslim, Rajput and Gothic styles of architecture.