The best places to visit in India

In this blog, I will be talking about the top 4 places in India that you MUST visit. India is a diverse country with a lot to offer to the world from romantics to spirituality, art and culture to entertainment. India introduced the concept of masala (species) to the world way back in the day. Can you imagine a world without a hint of masala? Damn, I can not!  Along with the contribution of dance drama to the theater which evolved into cinema later on.

Now, let’s get to the topic, which magnificent Indian cities should you visit when you have a time restriction? Well, since I have lived in India for more than 15 years I could be a little biased about a few places but as a whole nation, India is a wonder in itself. I am still amazed by the idea of how the Indian government handles a country as a whole. But you do not need to worry about it as I will filter the best places for you to enjoy the fullest of the culture, heritage, cuisines, diversity, and people for you to visit.

So, these are the four gorgeous cities that you have to visit if you plan on exploring India, namely: Agra, Varanasi, Mumbai, and Kolkata. Each city has its own unique significance. Like:-

  • Agra and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Agra is best known for romantics and fans of Mughal history. Home to the iconic Taj Mahal and other stunning monuments. Varanasi is best known for spiritual seekers and lovers of the intense. One of the oldest and holiest cities in the world, where Hindu pilgrims bathe in the sacred Ganges river.
  • Mumbai in Maharashtra is best known for urban explorers and Bollywood hopefuls. The bustling and glamorous megacity that offers a mix of culture, cuisine, nightlife and entertainment.
  • Kolkata in West Bengal is best known for its colonial heritage and intellectual pursuits. The former capital of British India and a center of art, literature, politics and cuisine.

Agra

Okay, let us begin with the iconic “Taj Mahal” which is in Agra. Agra is a city situated in the province of  Uttar Pradesh in the northern part of the country. This city is known as “the city of love” because of Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. As everyone knows it is one of the wonders of the world and a symbol of eternal love. A perfect vision of beauty, love and history you can visualize.

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Pro Tip: If you love to take beautiful pictures then consider visiting the place in the early morning for two reasons; first, you would not have to wait for too long in line for a security check because the entrance gates get crowded very quickly. Therefore, secondly, you would have fewer people crowded so you will have the freedom to take selfies and solo pictures of the mausoleum with the spectacular sunrise.

Next, you should visit Agra Fort which is 2.5 km away from its sister monument Taj Mahal. It was kind of intriguing when I first got to know that the royalties or the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty used to stay in that massive fort in 1638 until the capital shifted from Agra to Delhi.  I kind of started to visualize myself staying in that fort’s majestic rooms, going down the halls for an evening walk in the garden and having food in huge utensils as if it is a feast every day. Wow! What a royal life it would be. After Agra Fort to continue the royal life experience visit Fatehpur Sikri, the Itmad-ud-Daulah and the Mehtab Bagh.

And that would be the end of the extravagant Agra- the city of love.

Varanasi

Did you know that Varanasi is called “the city of light”? That originated from the Sanskrit word ‘Kashi’ which means- to shine. This city is said to be the oldest city in the world situated in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh which is rich in spirituality and lovers. Why would not it be after all this is the place where death and life coincide in harmony.

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Begin your journey with Kashi Vishwanath Temple, one of the most popular Hindu temples in India, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is said that if you bathe in the sacred Ganges river of this temple your sins are washed away and you can seek salvation. Therefore, Hindu pilgrims bathe in the sacred Ganges river to wash away their sins and seek salvation.  I find this place a bit overwhelming because near this temple is the Manikarnika shrine, which is the epicenter of cremation taking place on the ghats of the Ganga river burning the bodies of the deceased which is believed to release their souls to the afterlife.

If you get the opportunity, do witness the rituals and ceremonies that take place along the river banks, such as the aarti, the puja, the sadhus and the boat rides. Do not miss it. Trust me you will get a sense of awe and reverence for the faith and devotion of the people.

Pro Tip: do not leave Banaras without having kachori, lassi and paan. Especially ‘sweet paan’.

Varanasi is a beautiful city of contrasts, where life and death coexist in a chaotic and colorful way. Even talking about this city gives me goosebumps, for me spiritually puts me into a completely different dimension of peace, faith, love and a sense of fulfillment. Varanasi, the ultimate pilgrimage spot, depicts the end of the cycle of birth and rebirth in Hinduism.  So, anyone who gets the honor of getting cremated here is set free from the cycle, that is what has been believed for decades.

Next visit the Ramnagar Fort, located on the opposite bank of the River Ganges, this famous museum and temple are a complex constructed of red sandstone that was constructed by Maharaja Balwant Singh in the 18th century.  Which has now emerged as a favorite spot for shooting movies because of the scenic location. Therefore, a great place to capture memories in your camera.  And end at the Dasaswamedh Ghat known for its celebrating riverfront step locations used for bathing and puja ceremonies.

Damn! I feel close to my soul now, with all of those holy rituals and cleansing received from Varanasi- the city of light.

Mumbai

This city located on the western coast of Maharashtra in southwestern India has been mistaken to be Bollywood, let me rephrase that, what I mean is as Hollywood is a name of a place but also signifies the Western film industry. Therefore, Bollywood is considered to be a physical location while it is not the case. Then, we should thank Priyanka Chopra Jonas for clearing that confusion plenty of times. Now if you are into movies and series then welcome to Mumbai popularly known as “the city of dreams” of India.

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Starting from Colaba, visit the Gateway of India which is situated on the Apollo Bunder overlooking the Arabian Sea. It was originally built to commemorate the visit in 1911 of King George V and Queen Mary, who had come to celebrate their coronation as emperor and empress of India in Delhi. This Gateway stands at the end of Chhatrapati Shivaji Marg at the water’s edge from where you can see the Arabian Sea, honestly, this gives me Pirate’s vibes.  Next, you should take a stop at the Leopards Cafe to eat delicious food and then spend the rest of the day shopping at Colaba Causeway.

Then, visit mani bhavan Gandhi museum in Mumbai (a modest two-storied building on the Laburnum Road, this building is filled with Gandhi’s life’s work as a freedom fighter) and the Marine Drive which is a 3-kilometer-long Promenade along the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road in Mumbai, India. The road and promenade were constructed by Pallonji Mistry. It is a ‘C’-shaped six-lane concrete road along the coast of a natural bay. A picture taken here can never go wrong. Here are a few more places in Mumbai you can go to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Kamala Nehru Park, Dhobi Ghat (Open air Laundry Bay), Banganga (Mythological place), Oval Maidan, Town Hall (Asiatic Society Library, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (Passby Prince of Wales Museum) and Crawford Market.

Pro Tip: If it is feasible try to enter Mumbai on a train to Churchgate Railway Station because this is a building you do not want to miss. And if you can not, try to visit this place, you will find out why?

So, this was a brief view of Mumbai also known as Bombay- the city of dreams.

Kolkata

This city is the capital of West Bengal state that is situated in the northeastern part of the country. Yeah! You noticed it right, the name says ‘West’ while it is located in the east. This is a true state to admire. And if you take a train to Howrah station then are welcomed by the iconic landmark the Howrah Bridge which is over the Hooghly River that is the longest cantilever bridge in the world. Ah! The view from the bridge is to die for, I swear. Adjacent to this bridge is the Malik Ghat Flower Market, which is filled with beautiful and fragrant flowers on the sides of the lane and represents a surreal view.

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Once you reach the city, begin with the Victoria memorial hall, which was made in the memory of Empress of India- Queen Victoria. This monument stands on 64 acres of garden and is the largest monument to a monarch anywhere in the world. Which is now a museum under the control of the Ministry of Culture. It feels powerful when an entire monument is made in the memory of someone so that even after they pass away they still live by default as a landmark.

Similarly, as the Hindu religion goes you have to visit the Parasnath or Parshwanath Jain Temple that was built by Ray Badridas Bahadur in 1867 in Kolkata. This temple has exquisite designs and an impressive structure consisting of mirror-inlaid pillars and windows that have been made of stained glass. Which is surrounded by three beautiful veranda and walls featuring mosaics and other ornamental work. This temple is a complex of 4 temples, therefore has four ‘moortis’ stone figures of the main god of that temple that is Shitalanatha.

Kolkata has just begun to mesmerize you with its art because next comes Kumartuli. Which is a famous locality in Kolkata, known for its traditional potters, since the year 1950. These artists make sculptures with their bare hands of Hindu gods and goddesses for the Bengali festivals, which is a huge celebration that takes place all over the state. If you get the chance to visit Kolkata at the time of “puja” which is ceremonial worship, you would get to experience the authentic vibe of being in that state. It might get a little too crowded at the time of festivals as most of the streets are filled with small movable shop vendors selling items but it is totally worth being part of it.

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How can I forget to mention the food of this city? The city lives on the slogan “Mori morbo kha morbo!” which translates to it is fine if I die but I will die after eating. Starting from Street foot to restaurants, Kolkata never disappoints when it comes to food.

And that is how we reached the end of this blog with Kolkata- the city of joy.

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