India is a treasure house of monuments. These monuments are very important as they are a part of our heritage and culture. They are also a great source of information about the period they were built in. People from all over the world come to see these beautiful monuments. Let us learn something more about some of our famous monuments.
The Taj Mahal
Arjumand Banu Begum, better known as Mumtaz Mahal, was married to Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. She was his friend, his counsellor, and inspired him to acts of charity and kindness towards the weak and the needy.
When she died, Shah Jahan decided to build his beloved wife the finest sculpture ever— a monument of eternal love. It took twenty-two years, and the effort of over twenty thousand workmen and master craftsmen, to build the Taj Mahal. Its architect was Ustad Isa. It was completed in 1648 and stands on the banks on the river Yamuna in Agra. The Taj rises on a high red sandstone base topped by a huge white marble terrace on which rests the famous dome flanked by four tapering minarets. Within the dome lies the jewel-inlaid cenotaph of the queen. The dome is made of white marble, but the tomb is set against the plain across the river and it is this background that works its magic of colours that, through their reflection, change the view of the Taj. The colours change at different hours of the day and during different seasons. Like a jewel, the Taj sparkles in moonlight when the semi-precious stones inlaid into the white marble on the main mausoleum catch the light of the moon. The Taj is pinkish in the morning, milky white in the evening and golden when the moon shines.
The mausoleum, Taj Mahal, is not an isolated building but it is a part of a complex consisting of a main gateway, an elaborate garden, a mosque and enclosing walls. It is one of the seven wonders of the world.
The Qutb Minar is the highest tower in India. It is made of red and buff-coloured standstone. It has a height of about seventy-three metres. It is not only an important tourist spot in Delhi but is also an excellent example of early Islamic architecture in India. The area around Qutb Minar has a number of important monuments and together they make the Qutb complex.
Qutb-ud-din Aibak laid the foundation of the Qutb Minar in A.D. 1199. He started constructing the Qutb Minar as a victory tower, a sign of Muslim rule over Delhi. It was also used to give calls for prayer. Qutb-ud-din Aibak raised the first storey. It was his son-in-law, Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish who completed this tower. All the storeys of the Qutb Minar are surrounded by a balcony. It is covered with intricate carvings and verses from the holy .Koran. Many inscriptions in Arabic, in different places of the minar/ reveal the history of the Qutb Minar. The Qutb Minar is not the only building in this complex. It has a number of monuments in the same compound.
In the courtyard of the Qutb complex stands the famous iron pillar/ which bears a Sanskrit inscription. The inscription records that the pillar was set up as a standard or dhvaja of God Vishnu on the hill known as ‘Vishnupada’ in the memory of a mighty king/ named 'Chandra', who is now regarded as identical with Chandragupta II of the Gupta dynasty.
The iron pillar near the Qutb Minar is estimated to be about 1500 years old. It has been standing in the heat, dust and rain but except for natural erosion it has not rusted. This pillar is a living testimony to the advancements made by Indians in the field of metallurgy.
The Sun Temple
The Sun Temple at Konark is one of the many temples in India dedicated to the Sun God/ but is by far the finest. The main temple is decorated with intricate carvings both on the inside and outside. The temple was built by King Narasimhadeo (A.D. 1238-64).
According to Hindu mythology/ most Gods and Goddesses have their own vehicles. The Sun God's vehicle is a chariot pulled by seven white horses. To give it the appearance of a wheeled chariot/ the platform over which the temple stands was decorated with twelve big, beautifully carved wheels. Each of these giant wheels is complete with intricately carved hub/ spokes, and pins like a real wheel. To complete the look of a chariot/ statues of seven galloping horses were installed before the main entrance. But now one is missing.
The Meenakshi Temple
The Meenakshi Temple at Madurai is a beautiful temple complex that is not only a marvel of architecture but also a symbol of Indian culture and civilisation. It is also one of the largest temple complexes in India.
The temple architecture in India is divided into the northern and southern styles. The main difference is the shape of the shikhara or rooftops and the kind of decoration. The shikhara of the temples in south India tend to be made up of flat levels that end into a pyramidical shape. Each level is decorated with small temple rooftops. The shikhara of the temples in north and central India resembles an upturned cone that is decorated with small conical shikharas.
The shikhara of the Meenakshi temple and its gopurams or gateways are decorated with images of gods, goddesses, and mythical figures. The temple also has many long corridors and the elaborate pillars. The Meenakshi temple complex is literally a city—one of the largest of its kind in India and undoubtedly one of the oldest.
This magnificent temple complex has twelve gopurams or gateways. The tallest is the southern one which is nine storeys high. Like the other gopurams, it is also crowded with the images of gods and goddesses painted in brilliant colours.
There is a thousand-pillared hall that measures 240 feet by 250 feet. The stone pillars here are not only decorative, but also vibrate, as one gently taps them.
The Gateway of India:
The Gateway of India is the most prominent and famous landmark of Mumbai. It is a huge archway located on the edge of the water at Apollo Bunder (pier). It is the starting point for most tourists who want to explore the city. This famous monument was built in 1911 in honour of the visit of King George V and Queen Mary.
The Gateway of India was built by the British. It was designed by an architect named George Wittet. The first stone was laid by the then Governor of Bombay on 31st March, 1913. The Gate was formally opened in 1924.
The Gateway is an impressive structure that is 26 metres high. It is made from a yellow-coloured stone called yellow basalt stone. It has four turrets and beautiful lattice work carved into the stone. There are steps leading down to the water from behind the arch. The changing light of the rising and setting sun gives hues of gold, rust and pink to the great arch of the Gateway. Historically, the Gateway holds great significance because when the British Raj ended in 1947, the last of the British ships that sailed for England, left from the Gateway of India.
The Sanchi Stupa
The stupas at Sanchi are one of the most magnificent structures of ancient India. The Sanchi Stupa is a Buddhist monument. It is located in Madhya Pradesh, about 46 kilometers from the capital city Bhopal.
The UNESCO has included them as one of the heritage sites of the world. King Ashoka (B.C. 273-236) raised many stupas all over India in Lord Buddha's honour.
The stupas are large hemispherical domes. They have a central chamber in which the relics of the Buddha were placed. The stupas at Sanchi show the development of the Buddhist architecture and sculpture from the 3rd century B.C. to the 12th century A.D., all at the same place.
The most impressive feature of the Sanchi stupas is their gateways. They contain the depiction of incidents from the life of the Buddha. They also depict his previous incarnations as Bodhisattvas as told in the Jataka tales. Sculptors belonging to .different times have tried to show the same story by using different figures. In most places, Buddha has been shown symbolically in the form of tree or through other inanimate figures. Ashoka had also erectecl a pillar near the Sanchi Stupa. This pillar has four lions facing in different directions. It has been kept in the museum maintained by the Department of Archaeology. The size and the weight of the pillar show how good and scientific architecture was at the time of Ashoka.
People from all over the world come to see the monuments of India. We should be proud of the rich culture of our country that is reflected in these monuments.
Taking care of Monuments
Monuments are the priceless heritage of our country and should be maintained and protected. Things that we can do to protect them are:
1. Prevent people from spoiling or disfiguring any part of a monument.
2. Reduce pollution level in the air to prevent corrosion of the monuments.
3. Prohibit stealing sculptures and idols from the monuments.
4. Protect the monuments from vandalism.
5. Report any activity that is harmful to the monument to the relevant authorities.