Hillman’s Wonders of India
Wonders of India listed in Howard Hillman’s “See the World’s top 100 wonders before you die” are at no. 3 – Taj Mahal, at no. 51 – Kashmir Valley, at no. 53 – The Golden Temple, at no. 55 – Meenakshi Temple, at. 69 – Varanasi and Ganges and at no. 87 – Ladakh. Over a million travelers across 217 countries trust the information provided by Hillman’s 1100 page website. Out of his 100 wonders 6 are from India and are listed below.
About Howard Hillman
Howard Hillman is an author who loves to explore the cuisines and travel wonders of the world, specializing in cooking, and wine. He is a graduate of Harvard Business School, and has published over 25 books. His great grandparents were born in four different countries. He maintains an extensive website on “Wonders of the World.” He wrote the “longest article ever to appear in The New York Times Travel Section. The Hillman Wonders list is the world’s most comprehensive, best-researched travel wonder listing. It now embraces the world’s top 1000 wonders. He is an established world travel and food writer who has traveled more than a million miles to over 100 countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.
The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal also known as “The Monument of Love” is located in the Indian city Agra. Most travelers call this wonder in India the world’s most beautiful building – ever. Some say it’s worth a trip half way around the world just to see it. Taj Mahal is the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Ottoman, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. In 1983, the Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was cited as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.” The grieving Mogul emperor Shah Jahan erected it in the 1600s as the final resting place for his beloved queen. He wanted to perpetuate her memory. It took 22 years and 22,000 people to complete the Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal means “Crown Palace” and is in fact the most well preserved and architecturally beautiful tomb in the world. It is best described by the English poet, Sir Edwin Arnold, as “Not a piece of architecture, as other buildings are, but the proud passions of an emperor’s love wrought in living stones.” It is a celebration of woman built in marble and that’s the way to appreciate it.
Taj Mahal changes its moods with the seasons and the different times of the day. At dawn, the marble has a delicate bloom in shell pink, by noon it glitters majestically white, turning to a soft pearly grey at dusk, on full-moon away against the star-spangled sky. Monsoon clouds give it a moody blue tint and it appears and disappears like a mirage in the drifting mists of winter.
The Kashmir Valley
The Kashmir Valley or Vale of Kashmir is a valley between Himalayas and the Pir Panjal Range. It is around 135 km long and 32 km wide, formed by the Jhelum River. It was called as “Heaven on Earth” by Jahangir. Set like a jeweled crown on the map of India, Kashmir is a multi-faceted diamond, changing its hues with the seasons – always extravagantly beautiful. Kashmir is a land where myriad holiday ideas are realised. In winter, when snow carpets the mountains, there is skiing, tobogganing, sledge-riding, etc. along the gentle slopes. In spring and summer, the honey-dewed orchards, rippling lakes and blue skies beckon every soul to sample the many delights the mountains and valleys have to offer. Golfing at 2,700 m above the sea, water-skiing in the lakes and angling for prized rainbow trout, or simply drifting down the willow fringed alleys of lakes in shikaras and living in gorgeous houseboats are some of the most favoured ones. The Major attraction is the Dal lake, the Shikaras (house boats) and the floating vegetable and flower markets.
The Golden Temple
Golden Temple or Darbar Sahib , informally referred to as The Golden Temple or Temple of God, is culturally the most significant place of worship of the Sikhs and one of the oldest Sikh gurdwaras. It ia also listed as the “Wonder of Peace and Harmony”. It is located in the city of Amritsar, which was established by Guru Ram Das Ji, the fourth guru of the Sikhs, and is, also due to the shrine, known as Guru Di Nagri meaning city of the Guru. The tiny Golden Temple in Amritsar, India has a glorious setting. It resides by itself in the middle of the large blue sacred Pool of Nectar. The body of water is framed on all four sides by a backdrop of bright-white buildings. The Golden Temple is the Sikh religion’s holiest of holy temples – and the bonding symbol of Sikhs around the world. The Golden Temple gained its name because its dome is gilded with gold, as are the temple’s upper outer walls.
Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple or Meenakshi Amman Temple is a historic Hindu temple located in the holy city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is also listed in The 7 Wonders of India. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his consort, Goddess Parvati (in the form of Meenakshi). The complex houses 14 magnificent Gopurams or towers including two golden Gopurams for the main deities, that are elaborately sculptured and painted. The temple is the geographic and ritual center of the ancient city of Madurai. The temple walls, streets and finally the city walls (ancient) were built around the temple in concentric squares. Ancient Tamil classics mention that the temple was the center of the city and the streets happened to be radiating out like the lotus and its petals. It is one of the few temples in Tamil Nadu to have four entrances facing four directions. According to Hindu legend, Shiva came down to earth in the form of Sundareswarar to marry Meenakshi, an incarnation of Parvati.
Varanasi and Ganges
India’s Ganges River is sacred to Hindus and flows by their holiest city, Varanasi (formerly Banaras). Varanasi is principally known to travelers for its ghats (stone steps leading directly into the water). It has about 100 of these riverbank stairways. Varanasi, also commonly known as Benares or Banaras and Kashi , is a city situated on the left (west) bank of the River Ganga (Ganges) in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, regarded as holy by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Senthoo. It is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Most ghats are used for ritual bathing. Hindu pilgrims, while standing waist high in the water, pray to cleanse their souls as they face the rising sun. Varanasi also has cremation ghats because Hindus believe that those who die and are cremated in Varanasi go directly to heaven, bypassing the lengthy reincarnation process. First the dead are burned on riverside pyres, then their ashes are scattered on the sacred Ganges River. Being at the ghats (especially the ritual bathing variety) is glorious at the crack of dawn. Most worshipers prefer that time because the surroundings mystically glow with the reflected golden-red hues of the low-lying sun. Photographers do, too, for the same reason.
Ladakh’s remoteness and awesome high-altitude landscape appeal to adventure travelers. It is sometimes called “Little Tibet” as it has been strongly influenced by Tibetan culture and lifestyles remain firmly entrenched, largely untouched by the western world. Ladakh is a region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and the main Great Himalayas to the south. Ladakh, which is inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent, is one of the most sparsely populated regions in the area. The mountainous region of Ladakh in the Northern Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, is like NO other place in the World. Because of it’s unusual terrain and barren landscape it’s sometimes referred to as ‘Moonland’. Set high up in the Himalaya’s at 3,000 m (9,800 ft) Ladakh is a plateau in the Indus Valley between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and the main Great Himalayas to the south.