Is your child fascinated by history, archaeology and architecture? Then, the next time you make travel plans, consider taking your child to a world heritage site in India. Check out our list.
By Ashwin Dewan
From the Taj Mahal to the Sundarbans in the Bay of Bengal; from heritage mountain railways to the divine Sun Temple; India is full of wonderful and awe-inspiring sites that will fascinate your child. While some of these destinations require a few days of travel, some can be visited over the weekend as well.
1. Taj Mahal
Built by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, in loving memory of his wife, Mumtaj Mahal, the Taj Mahal is an architectural marvel. The magnificent monument was completed in 1653 and is considered one of the greatest examples of Indo-Islamic architecture. Located on the banks of the river Yamuna in the city of Agra, this symmetrically planned monument is often considered a symbol of pure and eternal love. The Taj Mahal, not surprisingly, attracts thousands of visitors every year.
2. Mountain Railways
Do you want to explore nature’s beauty at a leisurely pace from the comfort of a train compartment? Then, you must travel on the three Mountain Railways of India, which have been accorded world heritage status. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway in the east, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway in the south and the Kalka-Shimla Railway in the north, are not just fully operational railway lines but also, engineering marvels. They showcase human ingenuity and innovation at it's finest — engineers overcame great challenges to build through seemingly impassable mountain terrain.
3. Sundarbans National Park
This unique destination is home to the elusive Royal Bengal tiger. Located in West Bengal and full of dense mangroves, this is, in fact, the world’s largest mangrove forest reserve. Make a trip there so you and your child can look for other animal species such as spotted deer, the Gangetic dolphin, wild boar, marine turtles, horseshoe crabs and even, the king cobra. What could be more exciting for you and your child?
4. Sun Temple
Located in Konark, Odisha, the Sun temple is a stunning example of ancient Indian architecture. Built in the 13th Century, the temple is dedicated to the Sun god, Surya. Designed primarily in the form of a monumental chariot mounted on 24 wheels and drawn by seven horses, each intricate carving is an astounding work of art. The carved wheels and spokes serve as sun dials, while the three images of the Sun god in three different directions of the temple, are supposed to catch the rays of the Sun at dawn, noon and dusk. If your child loves astronomy and history, this will prove to be a fascinating destination.
5. Khangchendzonga National Park
The park, located in the northeast state of Sikkim, is a relatively new entrant to the list of world heritage sites in India. The park contains plains, valleys, lakes, glaciers and spectacular snow-capped mountains covered in ancient forests. It is famed for its fauna and flora. A major attraction is the occasional sighting of the reclusive snow leopard. The park also offers stunning views of the world’s third highest peak, Mount Khangchendzonga. So, get ready to be dazzled by astounding natural beauty and awe-inspiring mountain views, as you go on a trek with your children.
Located near Hospet town in Karnataka, Hampi, with its magnificent ruins and austerely beautiful landscape, attracts travellers from all over the world. The protected monuments at Hampi comprise the remnants of the erstwhile kingdom of Vijayanagar. Showcasing the Dravidian style of art and architecture, some of the important historical sites here include the Vittala temple, the Sule Bazaar, the Virupaksha temple, the Nandi statue, etc.
7. Ajanta and Ellora Caves
There is a lot for your child to explore and learn at this ancient site with exquisite rock-cut caves, located in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra. While Ajanta has approximately 29 caves, Ellora has 34 caves. The standout feature of the caves is that they were all crafted entirely by hand. The Ajanta caves contain some of the finest examples of ancient Indian art and feature richly-decorated paintings and carvings depicting the life of the Buddha. The Ellora cave complex is equally renowned for rock-cut architecture and houses Buddhist, Jain and Hindu temples as well as monasteries.
8. Bodh Gaya
This a masterpiece of Buddhist religious art and also considered one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the world. Located in Gaya district in Bihar, this is where it is believed the Buddha gained enlightenment under a peepal tree and became Gautam Buddha. The ancient Mahabodhi temple complex here contains a vajrasana or diamond throne, and a holy Bodhi tree.
9. Great Living Chola temples
Built by the Kings of the Chola Empire, these temples are magnificent examples of the architectural beauty of Chola art, architecture and sculpture. Of these, the Brihadisvara temple in Thanjavur, the temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the Airavatesvara Temple near Kumbakonam are the most important. These temples are situated in Tamil Nadu.
10. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
One of the iconic landmarks of Mumbai, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus, is a world heritage site. Noted for its Victorian Gothic Revival style of architecture, the terminus was built by Frederick William Stevens and took 10 years to complete. Its eye-catching design comprises a stone dome, turrets, pointed arches, etc. The terminus, with its newer additions, is one of the busiest railway stations in India. There are also trains connecting to all parts of Mumbai city. You and your child can begin your journey of exploration from this historic terminus.
Apart from these sites, there are many other natural and archaeological marvels across India such as the Western Ghats, the churches and convents of Goa, the hill forts of Rajasthan, etc. These are sites of immense cultural and historic significance. They also serve as a rich source of knowledge for us and our children.
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