Fondly known as the Heart of India, India’s central region has a great historical past and rich culture and is home to some magnificent landscapes. Majestic forts, temples, ruins, exotic parks, and monuments are the souvenirs of the numerous empires that ruled the place from the very beginning of human civilisation. Central India has been beautified by various rulers, thus adding to the cultural medley of the place. Many of these majestic monuments have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
1.Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi– Located in Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, these magnificent relics including Stupas, the monolithic Ashokan Pillar, temples, and monasteries are some of the oldest preserved monuments of India, illustrating Mauryan architecture, traditions, and beliefs.
History has it, that when the great Mauryan King Ashoka embraced Buddhism, he constructed many monuments with scriptures to spread his beliefs. One of the most famous of all Stupas erected by him, the Sanchi Stupa, is a testament of architectural magnificence and religious belief.
The Great Stupa’s dome is more than 16 metres high and 36 metres in diameter. It has four gateways, known as ‘toranas’, which are known for beautiful intricate carvings built in the 1st century BC. Each gateway has two square pillars with a set of four lions, elephants or pot-bellied dwarves supporting a large grid with three architraves.
Between these mouldings, are figurines of horsemen and elephants, exhibiting baroque carvings, depicting scenes from the Siege of Kushinagar, the story of Chhaddanta Jataka (a previous incarnation of Buddha), Buddha’s first Enlightenment and the story of Gautam Buddha leaving Kapilvastu to begin his journey.
Sanchi also houses a magnificent temple from the Gupta period. The temple symbolizes the glory and beginning of the Indian temple architecture.
2.Khajuraho Group of Monuments: The temples of Khajuraho, located in Madhya Pradesh, were built during the Chandella dynasty, which was at its zenith during the period 950 and 1050 CE. Out of the 85 temples built during the period, only 22 have survived to date.
3.The largest and most magnificent among all, Kandariya Mahadev temple was built by King Ganda (1017-29 CE). The Jagadambi and Chitragupta are also noteworthy among the royal temples of Khajuraho. The sculptural embellishments including parivara, parsva, avarna devatas, dikpalas, the apsaras, and sura-sundaris, have attracted avid interest across the globe.
4.Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka: With cave paintings dating back to approximately 30,000 years, the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka were home to pre-historic humans. Rich in flora and fauna, Bhimbetka has over 700 rock shelters. Located in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains on the southern edge of the central Indian plateau, are five clusters of natural rock shelters, displaying paintings that appear to date from the Mesolithic to the medieval historical period.
Most of the paintings are in red and white with dashes of yellow and green, illustrating events of the ordinary life of the pre-historic era. These paintings depict people dancing, playing music, collecting honey, hunting, and horse and elephant riding. Animals like tigers, lions, wild boar, elephants, dogs, and crocodiles have also been portrayed in the paintings.
As mythology suggests, Bhim, one of the five Pandavas, is said to have rested here during their 13-year exile, hence giving the rock shelters its name, Bhimbetka. Adding to the mystique of this place is a painting of a huge red bison attacking a man, visible only when the sunlight is just appropriate. The rock shelters are a fascinating place to learn about the evolution of mankind, which goes on to suggest the cultural confluence in those times.