10 Ancient Cities You Must Visit in India
India enjoys a rich history and heritage, and is one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Throughout its history, several dynasties have ruled the country. In India, one can visit a variety of historical sites that tell the story of a bygone era. Historically, these were centers of culture, knowledge, tradition, and commerce. It is possible to get insight into the glorious past of these ancient cities in India, and admire the architectural brilliance that existed during that era. These are the most popular cities to visit in ancient India, and here are the reasons why.
The holy city of Varanasi is popularly called Kashi. It is located on the west bank of the Ganges River. The city’s history dates back more than 3000 years, making it one of the oldest in India. Varanasi has remained a significant religious destination for pilgrims in India, as well as for travelers from around the world. It offers visitors a glimpse into Indian culture and history. In today’s Varanasi, you can find winding streets, ghats filled with people, and the smell of incense everywhere. Varanasi’s character is also shaped by the aartis performed at night and the dancing of earthen lights over the Ganga.
Travel to Varanasi for these top reasons
- Aarti of Ganga.
- An unforgettable experience can be had in a boat on the river.
- You can visit ancient temples dating back hundreds of years.
- The city is known for its Banarasi sarees, delicate woodwork, handwoven carpets, and woodcarving.
- During a trip to Banarasi, you should try Banarasi paan, a popular snack.
- Visit Sarnath, located about 10 km from Varanasi. Gautama Buddha preached here for the first time after attaining enlightenment.
Vrindavan, which is situated on the banks of the Yamuna River, is one of the most significant pilgrimage sites for devotees of Lord Krishna. The city is said to have been the place where Lord Krishna spent his adolescence. A culturally and religiously affluent city, the city has a lot of Lord Krishna and Radha temples, the most popular ones being ISKCON Temple and Banke Bihari Temple. The temples are set in the midst of thick woods and lush greenery in Vrindavan. Holi is also celebrated in the city in a unique and vibrant way.
Travel to Vrindavan for these top reasons
- A visit to the ISKCON temple.
- To visit the sacred Bankey Bihari Temple built by Swami Haridas in 1862, the guru of the famous musician Tansen.
- To visit Keshi Ghat, where Lord Krishna took a bath after slaying the demon Keshi.
- To witness the Janmashtami celebrations at Hare Rama Hare Krishna Temple.
- To experience the colorful festival of Holi.
In Pushkar, where Lord Brahma is seated, there are rare temples. In the Ajmer area of Rajasthan, this beautiful city is revered by Hindus. Pushkar, situated along the Sarovar Lake, is famous for the Brahma Temple, the only temple of its kind in the country. Pushkar Mela attracts travelers from all over the world each year. This week-long fair is filled with vibrant events, displays, and rivalries. On the banks of Sarovar Lake, the Man Mahal is another major tourist attraction not to be missed in the town.
Travel to Pushkar for these top reasons
- Attend the Pushkar Camel Fair, a camel and livestock fair held between October and November.
- Visit the only Brahma Temple in the world.
- Dip in the holy Pushkar Lake.
- Visit the biggest and oldest temple in the city, the Varaha temple.
Ayodhya is the setting of the old Hindu epic Ramayana, one of the oldest cities in India. The city of Rama, which borders the Sarayu River and was once the capital of the ancient kingdom of Kosala, is renowned for being the birthplace of Lord Rama. It was said that the Hindu god Manu founded the city. Known for its many sacrosanct temples, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country.
Travel to Ayodhya for these top reasons
- Visiting the Hanuman Garhi temple, which is distinguished by its steep steps in front of the temple complex.
- Experience Treta ka Thakur temple. Aswamedha Yagya is said to have been performed here by Lord Rama.
- Explore Kanak Bhavan, the house Kaikeyi (Stepmother of Lord Rama) gifted to Sita upon her marriage to Rama.
- Visit Guptar Ghat, the place where Lord Rama is believed to have drowned himself in a ‘Jal Samadhi’.
Ujjain, the ‘Temple City,’ is a popular pilgrimage destination for Hindus. Ujjain is situated on the banks of River Shipra and is also the scene of the world-famous Kumbh Mela. Numerous temples in the city make it a significant religious site in India. Ujjain is not only for Hindu pilgrims; there are a number of tourist attractions in the city that are worth visiting. Tourists can also delve into the city’s rich history via several historical sites.
Travel to Ujjain for these top reasons
- One of the 12 Jyotirlingas, Mahakaleshwar Temple boasts the only dakshin mukhi (south facing) idol in tantric traditions.
- Visit the Kark Rajeshwar Temple located on the Tropic of Cancer.
- Take a bath in the holy Shipra River. The Bhagwat Purana and Skanda Purana state that a dip in this river will purify one from all sins.
- On the banks of the river Shipra, there is a banyan tree named Siddhavat. According to legend, King Vikramaditya meditated here in order to gain control over the ghost, Betaal.
The town of Puri is located in Odisha, in Eastern India. The town is aptly named ‘Temple Town’ because it is home to Jagannath Temple, one of the most famous Hindu pilgrimage sites. Here are the well-known ancient temples of Konark Sun Temple and Markandeshwar Shiva Temple. There are also picturesque and serene beaches in Puri. The city also boasts the largest kitchen in the world.
Travel to Puri for these top reasons
- Experience Jagannath Rath Yatra.
- Explore the sacred Jagannath Temple, which has a large kitchen.
- Visit the beautiful Puri Beach.
- A visit to the ancient and unique Sun Temple in Konark, located near Puri.
Gwalior is located in the Madhya Pradesh province, in the center of India. The city of Gwalior is known for its historic sites, palaces, and temples. Gwalior Fort is a prominent landmark in the city. Other attractions include Gujari Mahal, Sas Bahu temple, Teli ka Mandir, Tomb of Muhammad Ghaus and Tansen, Bir Singh Mahal, Padavali, and Bateshwar. In the city, you can travel to the wild trails of Madhav National Park, which is close to the city.
Travel to Gwalior for these top reasons
- Visit the Gwalior Fort, which Babur, the first Mughal ruler, called the “pearl in the necklace of Indian forts.”
- Also visit Surajkund, a large tank believed to contain magical water.
- A visit to Jai Vilas Palace and the Scindia legacy in Gwalior.
- Tansen Sangeet Samaroh (Tansen Music Festival), organized in Tansen Tomb, brings together musicians from all over the country.
Vadodara, the capital city of Gujarat, was formerly known as Baroda. It lies on the banks of the stream Vishwamitri. In the city’s heart is Sayaji Baug, the city’s most prominent attraction. At this recreation center, there is a zoo, a museum, and a planetarium. Vadodara Museum has an impressive collection of Mughal miniatures, illustrious antiques, and European oil paintings. Other noteworthy sights include Makarpura Palace, Nazarbaug Palace, Kirti Mandir, Nyay Mandir, Kirti Stambh, Aurobindo Ashram, Khanderao Market, Dakshinamurthy Temple, and Hazira Maqbara.
Travel to Vadodara for these top reasons
- A visit to Laxmi Vilas Palace, one of the state’s architectural wonders.
- To explore Sayaji Baug, a picturesque garden built in 1879.
- Sursagar Lake is a lake where the water never dries up.
- In the middle of the river Narmada lies Kabirvad, a scenic island.
- Dakshinamurthy Temple is a must-see.
It is one of several temples in this city, and the most popular of them is Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. Known for its architectural brilliance, it was built in the seventh century. Mahatma Gandhi’s 17th-century house, the Gandhi Mandapam, is a well-known travel destination. The Samanar Hills are located near the Meenakshi Temple and feature a cave built by Jain priests in the first century.
Travel to Madurai for these top reasons
- In visits to the sacred Meenakshi Temple, where Lord Shiva performed the dance of bliss in the Thousand Pillar Hall.
- Visit the Koodal Azhagar Temple, one of Lord Vishnu’s 108 celestial abodes.
- Visit the Gandhi Museum to learn about the independence struggle in detail.
Hampi is an ancient village in South India, known for its ancient ruins and stone temples. Hampi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Bellary region of Karnataka. Stone temples and remnants from the region reflect the region’s rich history and culture. Across the country and abroad, its wealth and glory attracted merchants from Portugal and Persia. Tourists, history buffs, and architecture enthusiasts are drawn to the ruins today.
Travel to Hampi for these top reasons
- A visit to ancient and beautiful temples.
- The history of Vijayanagar architecture, sculptures, and culture.
- Trekking in the Matunga and Anjuna Hills.
- Enjoying the scenic Sanapur Dam.
Experience the rich history, diversity, and heritage of this vast and beautiful country by visiting these ancient cities in India.
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