India is incredibly rich in terms of history and culture. And, there are magnificent monuments that reflect this wonderful heritage. Here are 10 architectural gems you must talk to your child about.
By Poongkodi Jose
The Taj Mahal! For Anuradha Rao, that beautiful ode to love, tops her list of favourite monuments for all time. The Taj Mahal was where she went on her first school excursion. And, it was again this magnificent building that she visited with her college friends. Every visit has left her more in awe of the sheer genius of the structure, it's timeless appeal and splendour. Now, Anuradha is a young mother and plans to take her three-year-old son to the Taj Mahal, when he is a little older.
Like Anuradha, many parents make it a point to introduce their children to the historical and cultural diversity that is at the heart of our country. That is because India has an amazing variety of awe-inspiring buildings, temples, tombs and fortifications that reflect the country's rich heritage. Not only have these structures braved the ravages of time, each monument also has an inspiring story to tell. What's more, the architectural brilliance and beauty of these man-made wonders is testimony to the prodigious talent and the relentless toil of the people who built them.
On World Architecture Day, here is a list of 10 Indian architectural marvels your child should know about:
The pride of India, the Taj Mahal, is located on the banks of the river Yamuna in Agra, Uttar Pradesh. It was built between 1632 and 1648 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in loving memory of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal. The mausoleum has been built in the Indo-Islamic style of architecture with white marble, arches and domes. Its four freestanding minarets reflect an astonishing architectural symmetry. It took nearly 20 years to build and 22,000 workers were involved in the construction. The artisans were not just from the Indian empire, but also from central Asia and Iran.
Places of interest nearby: You can also visit the nearby Agra Fort, built by the Emperor Akbar. It is made entirely of red sandstone. Did you know the fort plays a key role in the Sherlock Holmes's mystery 'The Sign of Four' by Arthur Conan Doyle! There are several other places of interest nearby.
How to get there: Agra is 204km from Delhi and 125km from Gwalior. It is well-connected to all major Indian cities by rail and air.
Located in Kolkata, West Bengal, the Victoria Memorial Hall was meant to be a memorial to Queen Victoria. Lord George Curzon, the then viceroy of British India, is the one who proposed the idea of a grand, stately structure in honour of the queen. It was built between 1906 and 1921. The architectural design is Indo-Saracenic revivalist, with a blend of Egyptian, Mughal, British, Deccani, Islamic and Venetian styles. The magnificent building houses rare artefacts, paintings and other antiquarian items, including Victoria's childhood rosewood pianaforte. Other objects of interest contained within include the dagger of Tipu Sultan.
Places of interest nearby: There are around 25 galleries inside. Children can walk about the royal gallery which is a tribute to Victoria and her consort Prince Albert. Or, wander around the portrait gallery, the central hall or the sculpture gallery. There is also an expansive park adjoining the memorial, which is a great place for children to run about. Tonga rides are also available.
How to get there: The nearest airport is the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, which is slightly more than an hour from the monument. You can take a taxi, a bus or the metro to reach the nearest point to the monument. The city is well-connected to all major metros and towns by rail and air.
India Gate, located at the centre of New Delhi, is a 42-metre-tall archway, built in the memory of the thousands of Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British army. The cornerstone was laid by Duke of Connaught in 1921 and building was completed by 1931. The arch was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and is similar in appearance to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The names of soldiers who fought in World War I and the Anglo-Afghan war of 1919 are inscribed on the arch.
Places of interest nearby: Parents can also take their children to the National Museum at Janpath and the National Science Centre in Pragati Maidan. The Daryaganj book bazaar or market is another attraction.
How to get there: The nearest airport is the Indira Gandhi International Airport, which is approximately 14km from the monument.
The Konark Sun Temple situated in the state of Odisha, is a massive temple dedicated to the Sun God. It was built in the 13th century by King Narasimha Deva. It is famous for its architectural grandeur, the intricacy of its sculptural work and the design of a chariot with seven horses and twelve wheels. It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1984 and is a classic example of the Odisha style of Hindu temple architecture.
Places of interest nearby: Stroll down to Konark beach so that children can frolic in the sand and play in the water. There is also a museum just outside the temple that houses models of ancient Odisha architecture.
How to get there: The nearest town is Puri, which is about 35km away. Taxis and buses are available from Puri.
Brihadeeshwara temple located in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, was built by King Raja Raja Chola I in 1010 AD, and is a reflection of his dedication to Lord Shiva. It is one of the oldest temples in South India and a remarkable example of Dravidian architecture. The whole temple is constructed out of granite stones and is an architectural marvel. Incidentally, what is even more amazing is that there is no granite quarry within a 100km radius of the temple, so transporting these stones must have been a near-impossible task.
Places of interest nearby: The Sivaganga gardens nearby is the most popular park in the area. The Serfoji Saraswati Mahal library, located not too far away, is considered one of the oldest libraries of Asia and has a treasure trove of manuscripts written on palm leaves.
How to get there: There is no airport in Thanjavur, but you can reach Tiruchirapalli by air and then catch a bus, taxi or train to Thanjavur. Chennai is 346.4km away.
Located in the heart of Mysuru in Karnataka, Mysore Palace was built by King Yaduraya Wodeyar in the 14th century and was later renovated several times. The structure that we see today is in the Indo-Saracenic style blending architectural elements from the Indian, Indo-Islamic, Neo-Classical and the Gothic revival styles. The palace is a three-storied stone structure with marble domes and has a 145-foot five-storey tower.
Places of interest nearby: You can take your children to Mysore Zoo where they can see diverse species of animals. In the evening, do visit the Brindavan gardens to see the eye-catching and extremely popular musical fountain show.
How to get there: Mysore has recently acquired a new airport. Otherwise, the nearest airport is the Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru, which is approximately 185km away. There is a well-connected railway network or you can take a taxi or bus to Mysuru from Bengaluru and other cities.
Charminar in Hyderabad, Telangana was built in 1591 by Sultan Muhammed Quli Qutb Shah, the 5th Sultan of the Qutub Shahi dynasty. The architecture is Indo-Islamic with Persian influences. Charminar is square in shape with four minarets at each corner. The minarets are 56m tall with two balconies, small domes and intricate carvings on the outside walls.
Places of interest nearby: You can take your children to the nearby Golconda fort, which is one of the remarkable fortress complexes in India. There are several shopping destinations around Charminar. Similarly, you can sample a range of mouth-watering delicacies in this area.
How to get there: The nearest airport is the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, which is at a distance of approximately 19.6km. The Hyderabad bus station is five kilometres away.
The Red Fort, located in Old Delhi, was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the mid-17th century. It served as the royal residence of the Mughal emperors for many years. The fort is massive and stands 75 feet high and contains a complex of palaces, entertainment halls, balconies, baths and canals and a mosque. The architectural style is Mughal and Indo-Islamic. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every year, this is where the Prime Minister hoists the National Flag on Independence Day.
Places of interest nearby: Many other famous monuments like the Qutub Minar, Humayun’s tomb, and the Jama Masjid are nearby. Take your child back in time, while visiting these beautiful places.
How to get there: The nearest airport is the Indira Gandhi International Airport, which is approximately 21km away. You can also hire a taxi or take a bus to the monument.
The Cellular Jail is also known as Kaala Pani. It is located in Port Blair in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It was constructed by the British from 1896 to 1906 as a place of solitary confinement for exiled Indian political prisoners. It got its name because it had separate cells for each prisoner. It originally had seven lengthy three-storied buildings connected to a tower in the middle. Today, only three of the wings stand intact.
Places of interest nearby: Parents can take their children to the nearby Andaman water sports complex to enjoy water sports or just stroll along the sands of Elephant beach nearby.
How to get there: The nearest airport is the Veer Savarkar International Airport, also known as Port Blair Airport, which is a mere 3.6km away.
The Lotus temple in Delhi, also called Bahai Temple, was built in 1986. It is a Bahai House of Worship and attracts people from all religions. As the name suggests, the building is in the shape of a lotus with 27 free-standing marble petals arranged in clusters of three, to form nine sides. The sanctum is 40 feet tall and has nine pools dotted with lush green gardens.
Places of interest nearby: Children can play in the nearby Kalkaji District park or visit the Iskcon temple. Another must-see is the Ashokan Rock Edict — a rock surface that contains the original edicts of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka.
How to get there: The nearest airport is the Indira Gandhi International Airport, which is 16.5km away.
Architectural marvels are usually considered symbols of the past, but these structures are equally relevant in the present. After all, these are monuments showcasing our history and heritage. So go on, experience India's splendours, together!
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