India has an impressive history. Home to one of the ancient civilisations of the world, a diverse mix of religions and cultures thrives in the country today. Its history of rulers and empires can be traced through a range of monuments dotting the country. Each of them narrates its story, which reflects the India of its times.
Western India boasts of 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, each unique and beautiful and a major tourist attraction.
1.Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai: Mumbai saw two major influences, the Victorian New-Gothic style and the Art Deco style of buildings over the 19th and 20th century. The Oval Maidan is surrounded by 19th century Victorian Neo Gothic buildings: The Mumbai High Court, The University of Mumbai, The City Civil and Sessions Court and The Rajabai Clock Tower. The Art Deco style is visible in many privately-owned buildings and places of entertainment. These two styles have transformed the skyline of Mumbai.
2. Historic city of Ahmedabad: The walled city of Ahmedabad founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in the 15th century on the eastern bank of the Sabarmati river has been the capital of Gujarat and a very important political and commercial center of the state since its establishment. Notable buildings include the Bhadra citadel, the walls and gates of the Fort city and mosques and tombs. It was declared India’s first heritage city by UNESCO.
3. Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra: First constructed in 1st and 2nd BC, the Ajanta Caves were the first Buddhist Cave monuments. More ostentatious caves were added in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. These caves include paintings and sculptures which have had significant artistic influence and are considered outstanding examples of Buddhist religious art.
4. Ellora Caves, Maharashtra: Spread over 2 kms, the Ellora Caves consist of 34 temples and monasteries dug side by side from basalt cliffs in the Charanandri Hills. They are one of the largest rock-cut, monastery-temple caves which depict Hindu, Buddhist and Jain artistry dating from 600-1000 CE.
5. Rani Ki Vav, Patan, Gujarat: Built on the banks of River Saraswati, it is a stepwell in the town of Patan, Gujarat. Constructed by the queen of the 11th century Chaulukya dynasty, it is the finest of its kind. Stepwells, which are a distinctive form of water resource and storage systems, have been in India since the 3rd BC. Over the years, they evolved into multistoried works of art and architecture. Designed as an inverted temple, this stepwell boasts of more than 500 principle sculptures, mostly mythological and religious.
6. Elephanta Caves: Situated on an island in the Sea of Oman, near Mumbai, the ‘City of Caves’ consists of rock art dedicated to Lord Shiva. These rock-cut caves were constructed around mid-5th to 6th century BC. These are considered masterpieces in rock-cut architecture.
7. Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Gujarat: Located in Panchmahal district in Gujarat, around the City of Champaner, this is a concentration of archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage. It includes citadels, palaces, religious buildings and other structures from the 8th to 14th centuries. The Kalika Mata Temple on top of Pavagadh Hill is an important sanctuary, attracting many pilgrims each year. Other monuments include the Jami Masjid and the Kevda Masjid, besides others.
8. Churches and Convents of Goa: The Churches and Convents of Goa illustrate the evangelization of Asia and are an important part of India’s World Heritage List. These monuments include Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, Se Catedral, Basilica of Bom Jesus, Church of St. Francis of Assisi, among others. These monuments helped spread the Manueline, Mennerist and Baroque art forms all over Asia.
9. Western Ghats: Considered older than the Himalaya mountains, the Western Ghats are an excellent source of biological diversity. The forests are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish species. Running parallel to India’s western coast, the Western Ghats run along the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat.
10. Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus: Formerly known as Victoria Terminus Station in Mumbai, this historic terminus is an excellent example of Victorian Gothic Revival and Indian traditional architecture in India. Designed by British architect F.W. Stevens, this building made Mumbai the ‘Gothic City’ and was built over 10 years with remarkable stone domes and turrets.