Think of India’s most iconic sights and the Taj Mahal is probably the first to come to mind. Beyond the ivory-white marble mausoleum, the country’s diverse and colourful array of modern and historical buildings make it a dream destination for architecture enthusiasts and shutterbugs.
From grand palaces to modern cities conceived by the likes of Le Corbusier and Edwin Lutyens, India’s gamut of locales will dazzle anyone with a keen eye for design. Here, we cast the spotlight on more noteworthy monuments to see and the places to visit, during your sojourn to India.
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Planned by the late Swiss-born French architect Le Corbusier, this city in northwest India is a must-see for any architecture pilgrim. As Corbusier’s largest project, the living experiment hints at his vision of an urban utopia. Its Capitol Complex has also been named by UNESCO as one of the 17 sites that honours the iconoclastic architect’s long-lasting legacy. While in Chandigarh, consider visiting the Virasat-e-Khalsa, a museum dedicated to Sikhism at the nearby town of Anandpur Sahib. “Covered in honey-coloured sandstone, roofs of this 65-acre complex have a striking geometric shape in the form of sliced cones, cubes, and cylinders, which reflects modern Indian architecture,” explains Aarti Shastry, a Bangalore-based guide from experiential travel company Unventured Expeditions.
The capital of Rajasthan in Northern India, this historical city is known for its fascinating array of hill forts and palaces. Must-sees include the City Palace, where the royal family continues to reside in; the honeycomb-like palace of Hawa Mahal; and the Jal Mahal Water Palace which appears to float above the Man Sagar Lake. If you’ve time for a day trip, Shastry also picks out the Chand Baori as one of the must-sees while in Rajasthan. First built in the ninth century, this ancient well is one of the largest and deepest in the region; its zig zag, Escher-esque steps make it a hypnotic sight. “The 13-storey well is built with porous volcanic stones that allow water to seep through to the bottom, and has a steep descent with triangular structures covering its walls,” shares the guide.
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Picture sights of rocky, mountainous terrain that’s dotted with stupas and Tibetan architecture, set against clear blue skies in the city of Leh. This high-altitude location is situated within the scenic Kashmir region, with the Leh Palace is among the city’s architectural highlights. “This palace, built between the 16th and 17th century, represents medieval Tibetan architecture,” explains Shastry. “The palace’s cultural history offers insights into the Ladakhi culture, and its placement amidst breathtaking snowy mountains make it a must see.”
While in New Delhi, get to see Edwin Lutyens’ vision of India's capital city—the British architect played an instrumental role in building and planning the city and its monuments, such as the Rashtrapati Bhavan (also known as the Presidential Palace) and the India Gate. Other postcard-worthy spots include Mughal-style monuments such as the beautifully restored Humayun's Tomb — one of the key architectural inspiration for the Taj Mahal — as well as the Red Fort. “Spread over 254 acres, the Red Fort is decorated by floral patterns and double domes all over. This fort is a perfect blend of Iranian, Indian and European art work,” says Shastry.
Set against the backdrop of Aravalli Hills and historic monuments, the lake city of Udaipur has oft been described as the Venice of the East. One of the best ways to sightsee in this scenic locale? By boat across its interconnected lakes, followed by day tours of the many palaces, temples and gardens, and lively performances by its thriving arts scene. Chief amongst the city’s popular attractions: the City Palace Udaipur that’s located by the banks of Lake Pichola, as well as the Jagdish Temple, a striking Indo-Aryan style temple that stands tall atop an ornate raised terrace.
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Dating from the 18th century, the holy city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh runs along the Ganges river, and is best known for its atmospheric array of temples and ghats. Ghats are areas located right by the riverside, which serve as spiritual spaces for religious rites of cleansing and cremation, as well as everyday rituals. “Located at the banks of the majestic river of Ganges, these ghats bring together the essence of the region. Each one of these ghats tell a different story, has structures that stands out amidst the hustle and bustle around the riverfront, and bring together historical, mythological and religious India,” shares the guide.
Jet Airways flies daily direct flights from Singapore to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru, and connects to the following cities via these hubs. Read more about stunning palace-inspired hotels, under Preferred Hotels & Resorts, in India in the June-July 2017 issue of Singapore Tatler Homes.