The Western Ghats, which are also referred to as the Sahyadri, is a mountain range running along the western side of India. It was made a world heritage site in the year of 2012 and is also a member of esteemed list of most important hotspots of biological diversity, where in there are only eight members in the whole world. On several occasions it is referred to as the Great Escarpment of India. The Sahyadri are present on the western side of Deccan Plateau and runs down in the southern direction. It also acts as a separation between the plateau and Konkan, which is a part of the western coastline of India and it includes the coastal districts of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa.
The border of Gujarat and Maharashtra is where the Western Ghats initiate. After running through a distance of 160 km, crossing Goa, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, it ends at Kanyakumari which is the southernmost tip of India. The elevation on an average is about 1200 m. The hills of Western Ghats cover around 160,000 sq. km. and helps in the formation of a drainage system that helps in draining around 40 % of the whole of India. In addition to these the Western Ghats is geographically prominent also because it blocks Deccan Plateau’s rainfall.
This area is blessed with wide variety of flora and fauna. This includes about 5000 species of flowering plants. 139 species of mammal species, 508 species of birds and 17 species of amphibians and in addition to this many experts are of the opinion that even now many different species residing over here are undiscovered. About 325 species that have been declared as endangered dwell here in Western Ghats. Contrary to the popular opinion the Western Ghats are not real mountains but only Deccan Plateau’s faulted edge. It is believed that it was formed during the break up of Gondwana, the super continent, around 150 million years back. However there is another theory regarding the formation of the Western Ghats according to which western coast of India was formed after it broke from Madagascar.
However the bottom line remains that the Western Ghats is one of the most unique geographical features of India and is also very crucial for the climatic patterns of India and for the flora and fauna.
India is considered to be an ideal tourist destination for the world. The first name which comes up when visiting India is the city of Agra. When you think of Agra, immediately the Taj Mahal comes to your mind. However, the Taj Mahal alone does not define the beauty and majestic past of the city of Agra. When you make your travel plans to Agra, you will be amazed to know that the city reveals its glorious past. This is because the city has many beautiful places to offer to the visitors other than the magic and excellence of the Taj. One such famous spot in Agra is the Agra Fort.
While visiting the Agra Fort, you will be able to take genuine and good pictures of the Mughal customs, their many different types of life style and culture of the people of the 15th and 17th centuries by visiting the Agra Fort. Other than the Taj Mahal this is another tempting attraction to in see in Agra city. It is a master piece when it comes to its design and architecture of the medieval period in India. It was in 1565 A.D. that Akbar built it. Once there, you will be able to see many buildings inside the Agra Fort.
Red stone is what was used to build the Jahangir Place. The stone was brought from the nearby places of Rajasthan and also from central India. The entrance to a huge courtyard is through a huge gate. It has a big room where the queens once lived. You can watch and marvel at the beautiful stone carvings on the walls of the rooms which are all of Persian art designs and architecture. All of these are worth witnessing while you are on your Taj Mahal tours.
It acquired the status of a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1983.
All over the world the Taj Mahal is popular for its beautiful and stunning white marble dome. It is located in Agra, India. More than a million tourists from all over the world come to see the Taj Mahal. It was in 1632 that the construction of the Taj began under Shah Jahan. Shah Jahan was the one who built the mausoleum after he became broken hearted on the death of Mumtaz Mahal his third wife, who died in 1631.
The Taj Mahal represents the Mughal style of architecture which combines Indian, Islamic, Turkish and Persian styles in a masterful way. The principal designer was an architect known as Ustad Ahmad Lahuri. The interior and exterior of the Taj Mahal is intrinsically carved where as the outside is covered with all sorts of decorative elements. On the inside of the Taj Mahal you will be able to marvel at the many precious stones and panels of bas-relief and even more beautiful calligraphy. It is the pure white marble of the Taj which gives it a special effect in different times.
A common story which is doing the rounds is that the head architect and even many of the craftsmen were murdered. Shah Jahan did this so that it was impossible for them to design and build another structure which could rival the beauty and the grandeur of the Taj Mahal. However, there are no sources to prove this fact. It was in 1648 that the mausoleum dome of the Taj Mahal was completed whereas the rest of the rest of the complex was completed in 1653. It was in 1983 that the Taj Mahal was declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.
It still remains as one of the most beautiful masterpiece of art and architecture in the world.
The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur, which is an astronomical observatory, was built in the 18th century. It has about 20 fixed instruments which help in observation and research. Of all the historic observatories this has been kept in the best situation and with the help of some maintenance it has stood the test of times. This monument tells about the astronomical brilliance and skill of the prince who lived during the last phase of the Mughal period.
The importance of this observatory and the instruments and masonry present over here is emphasized from the fact that it enables and facilitates astronomical observation with naked eye. The concept and the whole system of the Jantar Mantar is influenced from the Ptolemaic positional astronomy system. With the help of this kind of observation the completion of the Zij’s astronomical tables was facilitated.
The creation of this monumental observatory is owed to the prince Jai Singh II. The prince made an attempt on several occasions to ensure the meeting of different scientific cultures at this place. These meetings led to the birth of many ingenious social practices that had strong relation to cosmology. The innovative idea of Jantar Mantar, its instruments and scientific meetings underscored the importance of royal authority. Many historians believed that it ushered in a phase of study of cosmology which was very important for that time. In addition to this the Jantar Mantar affected many other spheres and aspects of society like social, political and religious.
The Jantar Mantar is under the protection of the Rajasthan Monuments Archaeological Site and Antiquities Act of 1961, under 3rd and 4th section. In the year of 1968 it was adorned with the esteemed label of “Monument of National Importance”. This act emphasised the importance of this building in the scientific and archaeological growth of the country. In the year of 2010 it was made a World Heritage Site.
In order to reach the Ajanta caves we drove through serpentine roads. On the way there was nothing much to see but thick forests all around us. Our Ajanta caves were nowhere in sight. A stream rambles along. Here and there we were able to see some bridges. The only signs of activity are the roads and the bridges. The Ajanta Caves can be found a distance of 104 kilometers. From Aurangabad it’s a cool three hours drive. The reason for this is the congested Aurangabad-Jalgaon highway which is two lane. It is also possible for you to reach the caves via Jalgaon.
The Ajanta caves were carved from top to bottom into the rock with the help of chisels and hammers in a valley shaped as a beautiful horseshoe near a river. It’s really very amazing to know that despite water damage and animals these paintings have managed to stay as they are for more than 2,000 years in some cases. The caves were draped with vegetation after the 600s. They were simply lost to human civilization for over 1000 years. It was only after 1000 years that they were discovered by the Britishers while hunting a tiger.
The caves of Ajanta have been classified into Chaityagrihas also known as prayer halls or Vihars. Vihars are also known as places of stay. From the entire prayer halls, cave numbers 9 & 10 are the oldest. These two caves were built around the 2nd century BC. These caves owe their adherence to the Hinayana phase of Buddhism. On the other hand the other caves were built during the Mahayana phase although.
The Ajanta caves were considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 1983. Every attraction has an impression of Buddhism in it.
The Sunderban National Park is situated on the mouth of two very prominent rivers, Ganga and Brahmaputra. The Sunderbans are blessed with the largest mangrove forests in the world and it is also considered to be most productive biologically, of all existing ecosystems created naturally. The world’s largest mangrove forest is also the home to the world’s largest population of tigers in the world. The tigers living here have adapted to an amphibious life and thus are able swim over long distances and feed on fish, crab and water lizards. Many people refer to the tigers of Sunderban National Park, as ‘man-eaters’ because of their frequent encounters with the native people.
This national park, which is located in south-eastern part of Calcutta, meets a complex network of interconnecting waterways. There is very little freshwater in these waterways as most of it is disconnected from the Ganges. This has happened primarily because of the gradual sinking of Bengal Basin and the constant tilting of the crust in the eastern direction since the 17th century. The Sunderbans cover about 10000 sq. kms of mangrove forest and water and is also the world’s largest delta that is formed from the deposits of the great rivers, Meghan, Ganges and the Brahmaputra. The tiger reserves’ waterways are maintained by the periodic tidal flow on Sagar Island. The average rise of these tides is about 2.15 m and the average fall is 5.68 m.
The national park owes its name to a unique species of trees found in abundance over here called, ‘heritiera fomes’, which are known as ‘Sundari’. The Sunderbans happen to be the sole habitat of many faunal species. However some of these varieties have been lost because of the recent reclamation of the transitional belt that was used as habitat for agricultural purposes. Another reason for drop in the quantities of these varieties is the rise in salinity because of the of the irrigation schemes in the Ganges. Apart from tigers other animals popularly found over here include turtles, the Ganges dolphin and the finless porpoise. It is also a habitat for many different kinds of reptiles
Sun Temple, which was built in 13th century in Konark, is a very famous monument that is very significant because of its structure that represents the chariot of sun god. The chariot is pulled by a group of six horses and has 24 wheels beautifully designed with symbols. It is situated on the banks of Bay of Bengal where each day it could be seen bathing in the sun rays. This is arguably the most famous of Brahman sanctuaries of India.
The sun temple is a very popular attraction not only among the religious pilgrims but also among the students and lovers of art and architecture. This temple is the best example of Kalingan temple architecture and beautifully showcases all its forms and features. There are a total of 24 wheels with beautiful carvings and a diameter of 3m. The wheels are located in the north and south sides along with motifs that are indicative of the periodic cycle of seasons and months. On the pedestal, between each of the wheels one could see reliefs of lions, dancer, musicians and erotic groups.
The Sun Temple has one feature that is common in many of the temples wherein there are many spatial units that are well organized. The size, beauty and concept that have been employed in the temple are representative of the stability and the power of the Ganga Empire. The narrations that have been displayed through the sculptures offer an insight into the religious and social ambience of the period when it was built.
The sun temple is related to personification of the god. There are many myths and legends connected with the construction of the Sun Temple like the total time required to build this temple was 12 years and about 1200 artisans were brought in use. There is another very popular story of the utter devotion of the master builder, Bisu Moharana, in the construction of this temple. This temple was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in the year of 1984.
Shahjahanabad, which was the capital of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, was blessed with the humongous Red Fort complex. The sole purpose of this beautiful architectural marvel was to make it the palace fort of Shahjahanabad. This fort gets its name from the red sandstone used in making the walls of the Red Fort complex. In close proximity to the Red Fort within the complex stands another fort called Salimgarh, which was built by Islam Shah Suri in the year of 1546. There are rows of pavilions that make up the private apartments. These pavilions are connected with the help of a continuous water channel which is known as Nahr-i-Behisht or the Stream of Paradise.
Many experts are of the opinion that the Red Fort is the emblem of the architecture of Mughal period that saw new heights especially under the reign of Shah Jahan. The planning and construction of the red fort is primarily based on the Islamic paradigm. However different pavilions are representative of different elements of architecture that are normally employed in the construction of Mughal building and representative of an amalgamation of Tumurid, Hindu and Persian traditions. The designing and planning of The Red Fort has had a crucial effect in the constructions that were later on carried out in Delhi, Agra, Rajasthan etc.
Babur had started the planning and designing process of Red Fort in the year of 1526 AD but its current beauty and splendour is owed to Shah Jahan. Red fort could be considered as a symbol of pride for India because every year the Prime Minister and the President of India on Independence Day and Republic day hoist the national flag of India on Red Fort in Delhi. It was declared a World Heritage Site in the year of 2007 and is a very popular tourist attraction among the tourists.
Qutub Minar, with a height of about 72.5m and a diameter of 14.32m at the base and 2.75m at the top, stands as the highest tower in India. The distinguishing colour of red sandstone and its astonishing height makes it visible from a distance. The initial foundation of Qutub Minar was laid down by Qutub u’d Din Aibak in the year of 1199. However Qutub u’d-Din Aibak could only complete the first floor in his lifetime and the remaining three floors were built by his son-in law, who was also his successor, Shamsu’d-Din Iltutmish (AD 1211-36). Qutub Minar was built with the sole purpose of helping the mu’azzin in giving the prayer calls for Namaz. On all the floors projecting balconies are encircling the Minar which adds to its beauty.
One could get to know of the significant history of the Minar from the inscription on the walls of the minar. These inscriptions are primarily in two characters that is Arabic and Nagari. The inscriptions reveal that the frayed surface of the Minar was renovated by Firoz Shah Tughlaq along with Sikandar Lodi. In addition to them some credit of the restorations of the Minar also goes to Major R. Smith in the year of 1829. There are many prominent monuments in close proximity to the tallest Minar of the country like Quwwat-ul-islam Mosque, The Iron Pillar, the Tomb of Iltutmish, Ala’i-Darwaza and the Ala’i Minar. There are many other remains in the complex of Qutub Minar like graves, mosque, tombs and madrasa and these add to the prominence of the Minar.
Each of these structures in the Qutab Minar complex is marked by their distinguishing architectural features and their individual stories that are found in the inscriptions. Qutub Minar each year attracts huge flocks of tourists. It was rightly declared as a World Heritage Site in the year of 1993.
The Nanda Devi National Park, declared a World Heritage Site by the UNSECO in the year of 1988, is located in the midst of western Himalayas. The most prominent feature of this park is the Nanda Devi peak which has a height of about 7,800m and is the second highest in India. There are no human beings living in the park and thus it has remained intact. The main reason for this is the fact that it is highly inaccessible. This place is the habitat of many different kinds of endangered species like snow leopard the Asiatic black bear, the blue sheep, musk deer, bharal and the brown bear. The beautiful landscape in front of the contrasting rugged mountains creates a somewhat paradoxical beauty. The mountain ranges of Zanskar and the Himalayas are awe-inspiring especially for the mountaineers. In addition to this the mountains ranges are considered to be highly significant in Hindu mythology.
The park is basically situated in the Chamoli district in the region of Garhwal Himalaya. This area is naturally blessed with the catchment area of Rishi Ganga., Dhauli Ganga’s eastern tributary that ultimately flows in Alaknanda River. This area has been divided into many parts because of the many ridges running from north to south. The park is also surrounded by mountains with more than 10 peaks, the most prominent ones being Dunagiri, Nanda Devi East and Changbang.
Both parks, that are the Nanda Devi and Valley of National Parks, are blessed with good variety of plants, birds and animals. The entire area of the park that is situated in the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Area (EBA) plays a very crucial role in the enhancement of the population of the mountain Ungulates and Galliformes. Not only are these endangered but they happen to be the prey of another endangered species called the snow leopard. This natural marvel that is spread on an area of 71,200 is thus not only blessed with flora and fauna but also with natural heavenly beauty and the best part is that it is still out of the reach of the general people.