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Explore India's rich history at ancient sites, great Mogul inspired architecture and the influence of the British Raj.
India has a long and vibrant history. The first civilisation began around 2200 BC in the Indus Valley. Over the years various empires ruled the land including Alexander the Great who left his mark on Northwest India. The Mauryan Empire (321 BC) was the first great Indian empire followed by the mainly buddhist Gupta empire. The Chola empire (800 AD) controlled much of South India leaving some remarkable monuments.
Islam arrived in the north of India in 1100 AD and spread to Gujarat and Bengal, creating architectural gems with arches and domes not seen before. In the 16th century, Hampi became the capital of the Vijayanagar empire controlling all of south India. Hampi is one of India's greatest treasures, a vast site with well preserved buildings such as the elephant stables, the Vijaya Vittala Temple and the 7th century Sri Virupaksha Temple.
It is perhaps the Mughal empire that is most visible to the traveller today. Six great Mughal emperors oversaw a golden age of arts, architecture and military power. The most famous building of all the Mughals is of course the Taj Mahal, built by emperor Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Other examples of great Mughal architecture are Red Fort and Jama Masjid in Delhi. The Mughals also built grand palaces and forts, many now converted into authentic luxury hotels. In Rajasthan, a stay at the Sardargarh Fort is a good example.
The arrival of the Europeans in 1690 AD bought in a new era of construction, with many grand buildings and monuments still standing today in largely their original form, such as the Gateway of India in Mumbai, the Victoria Monument in Kolkata and the English architecture in Shimla hill station. The British also constructed the Indian railways which transformed trade and the economy.
Independence came to India in 1947, after Gandhi's campaign of passive resistance. Gandhi was born in Ahmedabad, Gujarat and a visit to his ashram is to truly understand his life.
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