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Seven wonders of India

A. SRIVATHSAN

The campaign to uncover the seven best natural and man-made marvels in the country kickstarted a race to list some of the most amazing sites. But there was space only for seven to make it to the wonders list.


In 2005 when Time magazine published its 100 best English novels to be read, it explained that the list had two purposes. One is to instruct and the other is to enrage. What it probably meant by “enrage” was the debate and discussion it may lead to.

The list of seven wonders of India recently published by NDTV along with the Union Ministry of Tourism’s Incredible India Campaign too, like the other lists that preceded it — spotlights, enlightens and certainly provokes debates on ranking, representation and definition of heritage.

The campaign to “uncover the seven best natural and man-made marvels in the country” was launched in 2008. More than 150 sites clubbed into 16 State clusters were promoted through media, signature campaign and other events. The participants were asked to vote and choose the best among equals. Twenty of them were short listed and posted for the last round of voting. In March, the final seven wonders along with three other special awardees were announced.

Indian marvels

The Seven Wonders of India are the Red Fort, Jaisalmer Fort, Nalanda University, Sun Temple at Konark, Meenakshi Temple, Dholavira site and Khajuraho. In addition, Taj Mahal was declared as the Wonder of India, The Golden Temple at Amritsar was designated as the Wonder of India: Peace and Harmony, and the Tawang Monastery in Arunachal Pradesh as the Spritual Wonder of India.



Khajuraho : Named after the Khajur tree.

If Red Fort is a representative of the Mughal architecture, Dholavira is an archaeological site dating back to the third millennium B.C. The Sun temple at Konark is more a monument, while Meenakshi Temple is a place of worship for more than 1000 years. To find a common basis to compare the architectural merits of these ‘wonders’ would be impossible and that may not be the point.

The Greeks first introduced the idea of seven wonders about 2,000 years ago. But the list as we now know as the ancient seven wonders took a final shape during the Renaissance period. In 2007, when a private foundation decided to publish the new Seven Wonders of the World, the ancient list appeared unfair in terms of representation.

Photo : Ashoke Chakrabarty

The Sun Temple : Also known as the Golden Pagoda.

The new list had its share of problems. When important structures like the Angkor temple were not recognised, questions were asked if such an important exercise can be decided only by people who could access the computer or mobile phone to vote. The number of slots — seven — is unfairly too small.

The list of seven wonders of India has its omissions. Important monuments such as Hampi do not figure. Hampi, a World Heritage site did not even qualify to the State level short list.

Photo: G. Moorthy

Meenakshi temple : The thousand pillar hall.

The list, it seems has served its purpose. It has created a debate.

On the other hand, it instructs on the impressive variety and the vast time line the Indian architectural heritage encompasses. It also reminds us that there are many more that wait to be discovered, studied and cared for.

Red Fort:

The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built the Red Fort or the Lal Qila in 1638 AD. The fascinating fort, as the name suggests, is built of red sandstone on the banks of river Yamuna.

Jaisalmer Fort:

The Jaisalmer Fort is the second oldest fort in Rajasthan the first being Chittorgarh. Jaisalmer Fort, made of yellow stones, is also called the “Sonar Quila” or the Golden Fort.

Konark Sun Temple: Located 35km north of Puri on the sands of Bay of Bengal, this temple of sandstone was built by king Narashimhadeva in the 13th Century. Konark Sun Temple is also known as “Golden Pagoda.”

Meenakshi Temple:

This famous landmark is situated in the 2,500-year-old city of Madurai. The temple was built during the Nayak rule.

Dholavira Site: Located in Kutch district, Gujarat, this was an Indus Valley settlement known for its sophisticated urban planning and architecture. Dating back to 2900 BC, all the buildings are almost exclusively using brick.

Khajuraho: The temples here were constructed between 950 and 1050 AD during the reign of Chandel Empire. Khajuraho derives its name from the Khajur tree (date palm) which can be found in abundance in the area.

Nalanda University: The Hindu astronomer Aryabhatta studied in Nalanda University near Kusumaputra, now Patna. Hiuen Tsang, the great Chinese traveller and scholar, visited the university in 632 AD and stayed there for 12 years, both as student and teacher.

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