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Things to do in India - India Attractions
Red Fort City/Region: Delhi
The Red Fort, known locally as Lal Quila, is Delhi's signature attraction, rising high above the clamour of Old Delhi as a reminder of the wealth and power of the Mogul empire. The massive sandstone walls were built in the 17th century to keep out marauding invaders and still dominate the skyline today. Inside are an array of exquisite buildings, which once provided the living quarters for Shah Jehan, his courtiers, family and staff of three thousand. Visitors can marvel at the intricate decoration and only imagine the scenes here at the empire's

height when the walls were studded with precious stones and a 'stream of paradise' drove an ingenious air conditioning system. The fort was the scene of the Indian uprising of 1857 and the mighty Lahore Gate, on the west side of the fort, remains a potent symbol in the fight for Independence.

Jama Masjid City/Region: Delhi
Shah Jehan, the architect of the Red Fort and much of Old Delhi, built Jama Masjid between 1644 and 1656. This grand structure is situated on a hill a few hundred yards west of the Red Fort and towers over the mayhem of Old Delhi's sprawling streets. Jama Masjid is India's largest mosque and can hold 25,000 worshipers at one time. Wide red sandstone steps lead to entrances on the North, South and East sides of the mosque. Inside is the massive courtyard dominated by two red and white striped sandstone minarets that cap the main prayer hall on the west side (facing Mecca). There are smaller towers at each corner of the mosque; energetic visitors can climb the 122 narrow steps of the southern one to be rewarded with magnificent views of Old and New Delhi. Those wearing shorts or skirts can hire a lunghi to cover their legs.

Qutb MinarCity/Region: Delhi
The Qutb Minar is a mammoth tower that was built between 1193 and 1369 to symbolise Islamic rule over Delhi and commemorate the victory by Qutab-ud-din over the city's last Hindu kingdom. Standing 238ft (72m) tall, the tower is decorated with calligraphy representing verses from the Koran and tapers from a 50ft (15m) diameter at the base to just 8ft (2.5m) at the top. There are five distinct stories each encircled with a balcony, the first three are built of red sandstone, and the upper two are faced with white marble. At the foot of the minhar, stands Quwwat-ul-Islam, India's oldest mosque, which is built largely from the remains of 27 Hindu and Jain temples that were destroyed by the new Muslim rulers of India. The cloisters that flank the nearby courtyard are supported by pillars that were unmistakably pilfered from Hindu temples. Faces of the decorative figures have been removed to conform to Islamic law, which strictly forbids iconic worship. Incongruously, in the corner of the mosque, stands an Iron Pillar, bearing fourth-century Sanskrit inscriptions of the Gupta period attributing it to the memory of King Chandragupta II (373-413). It is said that anyone who can encircle it with their hands whilst standing with their back to it will have their wishes fulfilled.

Humayun's TombCity/Region: Delhi
Humayun's Tomb is one of the best-preserved and beautiful examples of Mogul architecture in Delhi and is often seen as a forerunner of the Taj Mahal in Agra. Building started on the tomb in 1564 after the death of Humayun, the second Moghul emperor; it was overseen by Haji Begum, his senior widow and the mother of Akbar. The tomb is an octagonal structure capped by a double dome that soars 125ft (38m) into the sky and is set in a formal Persian garden. In the grounds are some other monuments, including the Tomb of Isa Khan.

Rashtrapati BhavanCity/Region: Delhi
After his visit in 1911 the Emperor of India, King George V of England, decreed that the capital should be moved from Calcutta to Delhi. Edwin Lutyens was commissioned to plan the new government center, which he focused around Rajpath, the grand, tree-lined boulevard that runs between the Secretariat Buildings and India Arch, the war memorial built in 1921. Rashtrapati Bhavan was built by Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker, between 1921 and 1929, on the gentle slope of Raisina Hill, flanked by the Secretariat Buildings. This immense palace, larger than Versailles, was created for the Viceroy and is now the residence of the President of India. With the exception of the central copper dome there are few concessions to Indian architectural style and despite its classical columns the building is unmistakably British and, like most great Indian monuments, is a potent symbol of imperial power. Every Saturday morning between 9.35am and 10.15am, guards parade before the iron grille gates in Delhi's answer to London's Changing of the Guard. The gardens are open to the public every year in February and March.

Chandni ChowkCity/Region: Delhi
No trip to Delhi would be complete without a visit to one of the bazaars that surround Chandni Chowk (Moonlight Square), in Old Delhi, where shops and stalls display a wonderful array of goods and offer a pungent and colorful insight into Delhi life. Chandni Chowk has a large number of galis (lanes) and each one is different, with their own atmosphere and smells. Naya Bazaar, on Khari Baoli, is the spice market that displays a wonderful selection of foodstuff in neat, colorful piles. The nearby Gadodial Market is the wholesale spice market. Hundreds of spices and condiments can be found including aniseed, ginger, pomegranate, saffron, lotus seeds, pickles and chutneys, to name just a few. Chor Bazaar sits behind the ramparts of the Red Fort and comes to life on Sundays to trade a collection of 'second hand' goods. Chawri Bazaar was once notorious for the ladies who beckoned men from the arched windows and balconies above street. Today, these houses have made way for shops specializing in brass and copper Buddhas, Vishnus and Krishnas. Some of the busiest galis house the poultry and fish markets, east of Kalan Mahal, but most tourists wisely avoid them.

Taj MahalCity/Region: Agra
The Taj Mahal is one of the world's most recognizable and evocative sights and a visit here does not disappoint. Set overlooking the River Yamuna, visible from Agra Fort in the West, the Taj was built by Shah Jahan to enshrine the body of his favorite wife who died giving birth to her 14th child, in 1631. This story of this great monument to love is given an added poignancy by the fate of Shah Jahan himself. When his devout and austere son Aurangzeb seized power, Shah Jahan was interned in Agra Fort where he lived out his final years gazing wistfully at the Taj Mahal in the distance. When he died there in January 1666, with his daughter Jahanara Begum at his side, his body was carried across the river to lie alongside his beloved wife in his peerless tomb. Completed in 1653, the Taj Mahal is set in a large walled garden, between two mini-Tajs (one of which is a mosque), in front of a long reflective pond. Close up the craftsmanship is as spectacular as at a distance; the inside of the vast double-dome is inlaid with verses from the Koran and semi-precious stones. Visitors should aim to visit it at dawn and dusk when the reflection of the sun changes the color of the dome from white to shades of pink. Note that there can often be smog and fog in the mornings.

Agra FortCity/Region: Agra
Not far from the gardens of the Taj Mahal stands the important 16th century Mughal monument known as the Red Fort of Agra. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses, within its 1.5 mile-long (2.5km) enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. It comprises many fairytale palaces such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan; audience halls such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and Sheesh Mahal (The Glass Palace), which, inlaid with thousands of mirrors was once the harem dressing room. There are also two beautiful mosques including Shah Jahan's Pearl Mosque (sadly currently out-of-bounds). The Octagonal Tower is an exquisitely carved tower where Shah Jahan spent the last seven years of his life. The tower was considered to provide one of the best views of the Taj but today the pollution has reduced the visibility. The tower, and much of the Agra Fort, is in bad shape but blank spaces and the empty inlay works give an idea of how this building must have looked in its prime.

Amber PalaceCity/Region: Jaipur
Situated on the crest of a hill seven miles north of Jaipur is Amber, capital of the Kuchwaha Rajputs from 1037 to 1728. The city-palace is protected by towering outer walls, a further wall runs for miles along the hills surrounding the palace. For many, the most memorable part of a trip to Jaipur is the journey up the palace ramparts, through a succession of vast gates, on the back of a painted elephant - Maharaja style. Inside are the ruins of a once great palace, a wonderful example of Rajput architecture, with Mogul influences. Visitors will be able to see the remains of the Maharajas quarters surrounded by the rooms of his many wives and concubines, each linked to his bedroom by secret steps and passageways to avoid jealousy. Although much of the complex is closed to the pubic, there is still a large area to explore. Visitors are advised to spend at least a few hours here and ideally hire a guide who will explain the architecture and history of the palace.

City PalaceCity/Region: Jaipur
The magnificent City Palace is in the center of the Pink City of Jaipur, enclosed by high walls and set amidst fine gardens and courtyards. Since Jai Singh built it in 1728 it has been the principal residence for the Maharajas of Jaipur and the successive rulers have each added to it. The Palace was built during the glory days and the exhibits and interior have lost none of their splendor; the doors and gateways preserve their flamboyant decoration and royal retainers, clothed in turbans and full livery, still guard the principal halls and entrances. Chandra Mahal is the private palace of the current ruler and is approached through a number of courtyards. Mubarak Mahal, in the first courtyard, was once a guesthouse and is now a textile museum. There are number of other museums displaying old costumes and uniforms, carpets, mementos, elephant 'saddles' and an armory containing a fascinating array of fearsome and inventive weapons dating back to the Mogul era. A beautifully carved marble gate with brass doors leads to the second courtyard where Diwan-I-Khas, the hall of private audiences, is found. On display here are two gigantic silver urns used by Madho Singh II to carry water from the holy Ganges when he traveled to London in 1902 on board an ocean liner - he was reluctant to trust the water in the west! These are the largest silver vessels in the world - 243 kilograms of silver was required to cast each urn, which can contain 8,182 gallons of water.

Palace of the Winds (Hawa Mahal)City/Region: Jaipur
The Palace of the Winds is Jaipur's most acclaimed attraction. Built in 1799, it is situated on the edge of the City Palace complex overlooking one of the city's main streets and was constructed to offer the women of the court a vantage point, behind stone-carved screens, from which to watch the activity in the bazaars below. The five-story building is shaped like a crown adorning Lord Krishna's head and contains over five hundred finely screened windows and balconies. The building, however, is smaller than one might imagine. Although the primary appeal is the finely carved pink façade, visitors can go inside to see where the women once sat and view the intricate honeycombed stonework close-up.

City PalaceCity/Region: Udaipur
The white walls of the City Palace soar above the peaceful waters of Lake Pichola topped by ornamental battlements and turrets. The sprawling palace has been developed by successive maharanas since the foundation of Udaipur in 1559. Part of the palace is home to the current maharana, a section of it is a first-class hotel (with the best restaurant in the city) and the remainder is a museum. The approach to the city palace is through the Elephant Gate, Hati Pol. The Great Gate, (Bara Pol) leads to the first court, where eight carved arches mark the spot where the rulers were once weighed against gold or silver, the equivalent value of which was then distributed among the poor. Beyond the Tripolia Gate is the arena where the elephant tug-of-war competitions were staged, past which are a series of courtyards, overlapping pavilions, terraces, corridors and hanging gardens. The Krishna Vilas honors a 19th century Udaipur princess who poisoned herself to avoid the dilemma of choosing a husband from the two rival households of Jodhpur and Jaipur. Its walls display miniature paintings portraying royal processions, festivals and hunting parties. Further along, a glass mosaic gallery contains superb portraits and stained glass, and offers a wonderful panoramic view of the city below. Set into the walls of the 17th century Mor Chowk are brilliant mosaics of three peacocks showing the three seasons: summer, winter and monsoon. Perhaps the most splendid rooms in the palace are the women's quarters, Zenana Mahal, with their ornate alcoves, balconies and colored windows.

Jain Temples of RanakpurCity/Region: Udaipur
Forty miles (60km) north of Udaipur is the Jain temples of Ranakpur. It is the largest of its kind in India and boasts some staggering marble work, on a par with any in Asia. The main temple was built in 1439 and is dedicated to the first tirthankara Adinath, whose image is enshrined in its central sanctuary. The temple is two or three storys high in parts, and its roof, topped with five large shikharas, undulates with tiny spires that crown the small shrines to Jain saints lining the temple walls. Within are 1444 pillars, each sculpted with unique and intricate designs, and dissecting the 29 halls. The carving on the walls, columns and the domed ceilings is superb. Friezes depicting the life of the tirthankara are etched into the walls, while musicians and dancers have been modeled out of brackets between the pillars and the ceiling. Visitors may see Jaina monks walking about with masks on their faces to avoid eating insects; the most important teaching of Jainism is 'Ahimsa', meaning non-violence, and this is applied to all sentient beings. Many monks also carry a brush to sweep surfaces to avoid standing on bugs. Ranakpur's isolated position means it is not on the major tourist trail, but it makes a good stop for those traveling between Jaipur and Udaipur.

The GhatsCity/Region: Varanasi
There are over 100 bathing and burning ghats (literally 'steps') at Varanasi but the most sacred is the Manikarnika Ghat, which is the most auspicious place that a Hindu can be cremated. Outcasts, known as chandal, carry the bodies through the alleyways of the old city to the sacred Ganges on a bamboo stretcher swathed in cloth. At the top of the Ghat visitors will see large piles of firewood, each log will have been weighed on giant scales to calculate the price of the cremation. Tourists are welcome to watch the cremations but should dress conservatively and leave their camera behind. The nearby Dasaswamedh Ghat or the 'ghat of ten sacrificed horses' is said to be the spot where Lord Brahma made a sacrifice to pave the way for the return of Shiva after the period of banishment. This is one of the best ghats from which to take in the riverside activity. Crowds of people congregate here not only for a ritual bath, but to do yoga, get a massage, offer blessings, buy flowers, play cricket or do their karma good by giving money to beggars. It is also a good place to arrange a dawn boat trip to view the beauty of Varanasi unfold as the sun rises over the city. Dotted around the ghats are numerous temples, the highlight being the Golden Temple with its stunning golden towers.

Fort AreaCity/Region: Mumbai
The magnificent Gothic Victorian buildings in the Fort area highlight the power and wealth of the British Empire at its might and are reminiscent of many of the great public buildings in London or Glasgow. The Victoria Terminus (known as CST), was opened in 1888 and is one of the world's grandest railway stations, on a par with New York's Grand Central Station or London's St Pancras. Built in the Italian Gothic style, it looks more like a lavishly decorated cathedral than a railway station; massive arches soar splendidly above the scurrying crowd and carved into the pillars and buttresses are images of monkeys, peacocks, elephants and lions. The station is topped by a tall dome crowned with a statue representing 'Progress'. Nearby, St Thomas' Cathedral was built between 1672 and 1718 and is witness to almost the entire history of the British in Bombay. Its whitewashed interior contains poignant colonial memorials, including one to Henry Robertson Bower, Lieutenant of the Royal Indian Marine, who lost his life returning from the South Pole with Captain Scott. The epicenter of the Fort area is the Horniman Circle, surrounded by curved, arcaded terraces. The lush and leafy garden in the center offers a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding city.

ColabaCity/Region: Mumbai
The southernmost peninsula, known as Colaba, is where most travelers gravitate to as it has a good range of hotels and restaurants and two of the city's best landmarks, the Gateway to India and the Taj Mahal Hotel. The Gateway to India was built in 1911 to commemorate the visit to India of King George V and Queen Mary. The archway is built from honey-colored basalt in a style derived from Gujarati architecture of the sixteenth century. In the days of the steam liner, the Gateway was for many visitors their first and last sight of India but today it acts purely as a colorful tourist stop, and attracts hawkers, snake charmers, and beggars. The neighboring Taj Mahal Hotel was built in 1902 by JN Tata, after he was allegedly refused entry to one of the city's European hotels on account of being 'a native'. It has since turned into a bit of an institution, and the streets behind it have become a Mecca for travelers, the Colaba Causeway is the main street with a melee of street vendors, shops, stalls and cafes. To the north, set in beautiful lush gardens, is the fascinating Prince of Wales Museum displaying a collection of ancient and medieval sculpture and Indian decorative arts, nearby the new National Gallery of Modern Art showcases Indian modern art. To the south is the Sassoon Dock, which at dawn becomes an area of intense and pungent activity as fishing boats arrive to unload their catch.

Marine DriveCity/Region: Mumbai
Built in the 1920s, Marine Drive runs along the shoreline of the Arabian Sea from Nariman Point to the foot of Malabar Hill. It is Mumbai's most famous thoroughfare and a favorite spot for watching the sunset. Lined on the landward side by a crescent of crumbling Art Deco buildings, it is lit up at night prompting travel agents to dub it the Queen's Necklace. At the top end of Marine Drive is Chowpatty Beach, the only beach in the central part of Mumbai. Though not ideal for sunbathing or swimming, it is a popular, though hectic place to spend an afternoon, surrounded by beach traders, entertainers and beggars. It is the best place to watch the annual Ganesh Chaturthi Festival (during August/September) when vast models of Lord Ganesha are immersed into the sea.

Crawford MarketCity/Region: Mumbai
The colorful indoor Crawford Market (Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market) is where locals of central Mumbai go shopping for their fruit, vegetables and (for the brave) meat. Rudyard Kipling was born just south of the market in 1865 and an ornate fountain designed by his father, Lockwood Kipling, sits between old fruit boxes at the market's center. He also designed the frieze depicting Indian peasants in wheat fields which hangs above the main entrance. The animal market at the rear sells everything from poodles to parrots in small cages. North of the market are the narrow lanes of Kalbadevi. This predominantly Muslim area is a seething mass of people and traffic and is the location of several markets selling jewelry, textiles and leather goods. The most famous is the Chor Bazaar, Mumbai's 'thieves' market', which sells 'antiques' and miscellaneous junk - don't place too much faith in authenticity of anything here. This area is also home to the Jama Masjid and the Mumbadevi Temple, which is dedicated to the patron goddess of the island's original Koli inhabitants.

Anjuna Flea Market City/Region: Goa
Once just a backpacker and hippy hangout selling kaftans and chillums, the Anjuna Flea Market is now more commercial with a broad range of goods on sale. Traders from all over India come to sell their wares: Lamani women from Karnataka, dressed in their traditional garb, sell colorful, elaborately woven clothes, Kashmiri stalls display silver and papier-mâché boxes and Tibetans preside over orderly rows of sundry Himalayan curios. Even if not planning to haggle for anything the market is a great place to watch the world go by and mingle with bands of musicians, snake charmers, beggars and the inevitable juggling hippies. The market takes place every Wednesday.

PanajiCity/Region: Goa
For most Panaji is simply a busy bus terminal, however it is worth spending a few hours exploring this most sedate of State Capitals. Situated on the southern banks of the Mandovi River, Panaji only became the capital of Goa in 1843 when the harbor at Old Goa had silted up and disease had driven its inhabitants out. The best way to explore the town is by foot, wandering around the old cobbled alleyways, colonial villas, red-roofed houses, taverns and cafes, much like any small Portuguese town. There are some wonderful old government buildings, some dating to before colonization and some elegant churches. Most memorable is the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which was built in 1541; it is topped with a huge bell that sits between two delicate Baroque-style towers.
Old GoaCity/Region: Goa
Old Goa was the State Capital until 1843 when it moved down river to Panaji. Once a byword for splendor, with a population of several hundred thousand, Old Goa was virtually abandoned from the 17th century as the river silted up and a series of malaria and cholera epidemics drove out the inhabitants. It takes some imagination to picture the once-great capital as it used to be. The maze of twisting streets, piazzas and grand Portuguese villas have long gone; all that remains are a score of extraordinarily grandiose churches and convents. Old Goa has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and today is the state's main cultural attraction. Tourists come here from the beach resorts to admire the massive facades and beautiful interiors of the well-preserved churches. The Tuscan St Catherine's Cathedral is the largest church in India and took eighty years to build, finally being consecrated in 1640. The scale and detail of the Corinthian-style interior is overwhelming; huge pillars divide the central nave from the side aisles, and no less than fifteen altars are arranged around the walls. An altar to St Anne treasures the relics of the Blessed Martyrs of Cuncolim, whose failed mission to convert the Moghul emperor Akbar culminated in their murder, while a chapel behind a highly detailed screen holds the Miraculous Cross, which stood in a Goan village until a vision of Christ appeared on it. Said to heal the sick, it is now kept in a box; a small opening on the side allows devotees to touch it. Other sights worth seeing include the Arch of the Viceroys, built in 1597 to commemorate Vasco da Gama's arrival in India, and the distinctive domed Church of St Cajetan (1651), modeled on St Peter's in Rome. Old Goa is a major draw for Christian pilgrims from all over India who come to visit the tomb of St Francis Xavier, the renowned sixteenth-century missionary whose remains are enshrined in the Basilica of Bom Jesus.
Transport: Buses leave regularly for Old Goa from Panjim. Alternatively visitors can hire an auto-rickshaw or taxi. Guided coach tours can be organized through the tourist office and larger hotels

Fatehpur SikriCity/Region: Agra
The deserted city Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of the Mughal Empire between 1570 and 1585. It was built under the personal supervision of the Emperor Akbar; he was childless and, having tried all sorts of solutions to his plight, visited a Sufi saint, Sheikh Salim Chishti, for help. Soon a son was born and, impressed and overjoyed, he started building on the site where he had met the saint. However due to a severe shortage of water the city was abandoned after only fifteen years and the capital was relocated back to Agra. As a result Fatehpur Sikri stands untouched and perfectly preserved; a complete medieval fortress of red sandstone, with vast central squares, exquisitely carved multi-tiered pavilions, cool terraces and formal gardens. Fatehpur Sikri is a 25 mile (40km) journey west of Agra, on the way to Jaipur.

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