Uttar Pradesh is a state with a rich history and heritage. There are many such places in Uttar Pradesh which tell the story of the bygone era. These were once beacons of culture, knowledge, tradition and commerce.
By knowing about these ancient cities of Uttar Pradesh, one can get an insight into the glorious past and admire the architectural brilliance that existed during those times.
The Ancient Cities of Uttar Pradesh can be studied under the following circuits –
- Varanasi is known as the city of lights or Kashi. It is a holy city on the west bank of the river Ganges.
- It is said to be one of the India’s oldest continuously inhabited cities for more than 3000 years. It is probably the oldest continuously inhabited city in India and has been the cradle of Indian Vedic culture.
- It is believed that this was the abode of Lord Shiva. It is famous for the production of silk. Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Manikarnika Ghat, Chaukhandi & Dhamekh stupas are the major ancient places in Varanasi.
- Varanasi became the first cultural and tourism capital of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Significance of Varanasi
- Geographical Significance: Varanasi is situated on the banks of the holy river Ganga. The surrounding area is predominantly agricultural, with agricultural activities supported by the fertile soil. Many such places in Uttar Pradesh’s cultural importance contribute to the overall economic and geographical importance of Varanasi.
- Economic Significance: Varanasi is strategically located in the eastern part of Uttar Pradesh, a populous and politically important state in India.
- Its proximity to other major cities such as Lucknow, Allahabad (Prayagraj), and Patna make it a major transportation hub and centre of commerce, trade, and tourism in India’s oldest continuously inhabited city in industry, which produces exquisite Banarasi silk sarees and garments.
- Visitors can view bustling markets and witness the intricate art of silk weaving. The city is also known for its handicrafts, which include wooden toys, brassware, and stone carvings.
- Cultural Heritage: Varanasi is known for its rich cultural heritage. The city has been a centre of music, art and literature for centuries. Visitors can enjoy classical music and dance performances, especially mesmerising sitar and tabla renditions.
- The Bharat Kala Bhavan Museum within the Banaras Hindu University houses many paintings, sculptures and artefacts. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is one of the most revered temples in India.
- Other notable temples include Sankat Mochan Hanuman, Durga, and Tulsi Manas.
- Tourism in Varanasi: Sarnath, located a few kilometres from Varanasi, is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site. It was here that Gautam Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment.
- Dhamek Stupa, Chaukhandi Stupa and Moolgandha Kuti Vihar are some of the important attractions of Sarnath.
- Varanasi has more than 80 ghats along the banks of the river Ganges, each with its own significance.
- A boat ride along the river during sunrise or sunset gives a breathtaking view of the Ghats and the spiritual atmosphere of the city.
Varanasi is the Cultural Junction of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism because this is the place where:
- Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple, one of the 12 Jyotirlinga, of Hinduism, is situated.
- Gautama Buddha delivered his first sermon.
- Jain Tirthankars Suparshwanath, Chandraprabha and Shreyansanath were born.
- Ayodhya – Ayodhya is one of the most ancient cities of India. Ayodhya was historically known as Saketa. Ayodhya (Awadhpuri) has been regarded as one of the seven most important pilgrimage sites (Mokshdayini Sapt Puris) for Hindus.
- Ayodhya is mostly known as the backdrop of the old Hindu epic Ramayana. Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Rama (Shri Ram Janmabhoomi).
- The city is situated on the banks of the Saryu River. Ayodhya is described in the Atharvaveda as “built by the gods and as prosperous as heaven itself”. Ayodhya was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Kosala.
Significance of Ayodhya
- Cultural and Historical Significance: The geographical setting of Ayodhya has influenced its cultural and historical heritage. The city’s location along the banks of the Sarayu River, surrounded by fertile plains, has attracted settlers and witnessed the rise and fall of various civilisations over centuries.
- This has contributed to Ayodhya’s rich history, making it a place of historical significance.
- Geographical Significance: Ayodhya is located on the banks of the Sarayu River, also known as the Ghaghara River. The river flows through the city, adding to its scenic beauty and providing a natural water source. The presence of the river has been an important factor in the city’s historical and cultural development.
- Ayodhya holds a central location in the northern part of India. It is strategically positioned in Uttar Pradesh, making it easily accessible from various parts of the country. Its proximity to major cities like Lucknow and Varanasi contributes to its accessibility and attracts a significant number of tourists.
- Pilgrimage Destination: Ayodhya’s geographical location plays a vital role in its status as a major pilgrimage destination. The city’s accessibility and central position make it convenient for devotees from different regions of India to visit and pay their respects at the various temples and religious sites associated with Lord Rama.
- Natural Beauty and Environment: Ayodhya is blessed with natural beauty, characterised by the river, lush greenery, and serene surroundings. The picturesque landscapes and tranquil environment enhance visitors’ spiritual and religious experiences. The city’s natural setting provides a peaceful atmosphere conducive to reflection and worship.
- Hinduism is not the only religion that flourished here, but Jainism, Buddhism and Islam also thrived here. Five out of 24 Jain Tirthankaras were born here.
- Mathura (Vrindavan) – Being the birth place of Lord Krishna, Mathura must be one of the oldest places in India. Today, it is considered one of the holiest sites in India and one of the seven most important pilgrimage sites for Hindus in the world.
- Vrindavan is renowned as one of the most important places for Lord Krishna’s followers. It is located on the banks of the Yamuna river in the Mathura District of Uttar Pradesh.
- Both culturally and religiously significant ISKCON temple is situated here.
Significance of Mathura
- Geographical Significance: Mathura is situated on the banks of the Yamuna River, about 150 kilometers (93 mi) southeast of the Indian capital New Delhi. Its strategic location on the banks of a major river has contributed to its growth and development over the centuries.
- Ancient Trade Route: Mathura is located on an ancient northern India’s Gangetic plains with western and central India. This location made Mathura an important centre of trade and commerce in ancient times, attracting merchants from various regions.
- Economic Significance: Mathura is known for its traditional handicrafts and artefacts, especially those related to Lord Krishna.
- Skilled artisans create and sell various items such as wooden sculptures, metalwork, paintings and textiles.
- These handicrafts serve as popular souvenirs for tourists, allowing the local handicraft industry to flourish and provide a livelihood to many artisans.
- Mathura and its surrounding areas are known for their dairy industry. The city is famous for its milk-based products, including ghee (clarified butter), butter and various sweets like peda and barfi.
- The dairy sector plays an important role in the local economy, supporting dairy farmers, milk collection centres and processing units.
- Tourism: Mathura is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Hindus, as it is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Krishna.
- The city attracts millions of tourists and devotees worldwide, generating substantial revenue from tourism-related activities such as accommodation, transportation, restaurants and souvenir shops.
- The local economy thrives on the influx of visitors, especially during festivals such as Holi and Janmashtami. The city has many ancient temples, including the famous Krishna Janmabhoomi Temple, which attracts devotees worldwide.
- Kannauj – Kannauj, the original name of this city was Kanya Kubja, is one of the most ancient cities of India and is also preserving its rich heritage.
- There are various archaeological sites near it. Prehistoric weapons and tools belonging to bronze have been found at Kannauj.
- Famous travellers like Fa Hien, the Chinese pilgrim, visited Kannauj between 399 and 414 AD during the reign of Chandragupta II.
- Harsha made Kannauj the capital of his kingdom. The smell of fragrances in the small streets of Kannauj spreads an indelible attraction.
Significance of Kannauj
- Historical Importance: Kannauj has a rich historical heritage and was once a prominent political and cultural centre in ancient and medieval India.
- Kannauj was located in the Panchal kingdom. Kannauj witnessed the rise and fall of several dynasties, including the Guptas, Pratiharas, Palas, and Chauhans, leaving behind numerous architectural remnants and cultural influences.
- Harshavardhana unified most of northern India and ruled for four decades from his capital Kanyakubja, also known as Kannauj. Kannauj was the main centre of the Tripartite Struggle.
- Cultural Heritage and Tourism: Kannauj has a rich cultural heritage reflected in its historical monuments, ancient temples and traditional festivals.
- The city’s attractions include the Chausath Yogini Temple, the Kaleshwar Mahadev Temple and the Gauri Shankar Temple. These cultural sites, along with their historical significance to the city, attract tourists and history enthusiasts, contribute to the local tourism industry and support related businesses such as hotels, restaurants and handicraft shops.
- Economic Significance: Kannauj is famous for its perfume industry, especially the production of attar (natural perfume). The city has been associated with perfumes for centuries and is often referred to as the “Perfume Capital of India”.
- The skilled perfumers of Kannauj have mastered the art of extracting essential oils from flowers, herbs and other natural ingredients to create exquisite fragrances. The perfume industry of Kannauj contributes significantly to the local economy, provides employment opportunities and attracts buyers from across the country and internationally.
- Kannauj is located in the fertile Gangetic plains, making agriculture one of the primary economic activities in the region. The agricultural sector in Kannauj contributes to the local and regional food supply and creates employment opportunities for the rural population.
- Sankisa – It is identified as Basantpur village situated on the banks of river Kali in Farrukhabad district.
- Lord Buddha is said to have descended here after preaching to his mother in heaven. Emperor Ashoka erected a pillar with an elephant capital to mark this holy place.
Significance of Sankisa
- Geographical Significance: Sankisa is located in the Farrukhabad district of Uttar Pradesh, India. It lies approximately 47 kilometres northwest of Kannauj and about 80 kilometres west of Lucknow, the capital city of Uttar Pradesh.
- The city is situated in the fertile Gangetic plains, historically significant for their agricultural productivity.
- The region surrounding Sankisa is primarily agricultural, benefiting from the fertile Gangetic plains. The alluvial soil and favourable climate support the cultivation of crops such as wheat, rice, sugarcane, mustard, and vegetables.
- Sankisa’s geographical location offers good connectivity to nearby cities and towns. The city is well-connected by road networks, which allows for easy access to other parts of Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring states.
- Historical and Cultural Significance: Sankisa is an important pilgrimage site for Buddhists. Tushita is believed to have descended from heaven after the Buddha preached to his mother, Queen Maya.
- Sankisa is also famous for its archaeological heritage.
- Excavations have revealed remains of ancient structures, including the Ashoka Pillar and the Gupta Vishnu Temple.
- These archaeological findings provide insight into the city’s historical and cultural past, attracting researchers, historians and tourists interested in ancient civilizations.
- The historical significance of Sankisa extends well beyond the Buddhist period. The city has seen the influence of various dynasties and empires, including Maurya, Kushan, and Gupta.
- As a result, Sankisa has a rich cultural heritage with diverse architectural styles, art forms and traditions. This cultural heritage contributes to the city’s identity and can be a source of cultural tourism.
- Tourism and Spiritual and Cultural Exchange: The presence of important Buddhist sites and archaeological remains in Sankisa supports the development of the tourism industry. Pilgrims and tourists visiting Sankisa contribute to the local economy through expenditure on accommodation, transport, food and souvenirs.
- Sankisa’s status as a pilgrimage site and its association with Buddhism provide opportunities for spiritual and cultural exchange. Tourists from around the world come to Sankisa to explore and understand Buddhist philosophy and teachings. This exchange of ideas and cultural contact can build bridges between different communities and contribute to global understanding and harmony.
- Shravasti – This huge complex of well-preserved stupas and ruins is about 15 km from Bahraich.
- It was the capital of the ancient Kosala kingdom. Buddha demonstrated his divine power to impress non-believers.
- Believed to have been established by the legendary king Sravasta, this is the place where Buddha spent several monsoons and delivered important sermons.
Significance of Shravasti
- Geographical Significance: Shravasti is located in the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India. It is located about 180 km northeast of Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh. Its strategic location makes it easily accessible to both domestic and international visitors.
- Shravasti is situated in the fertile Ganga plains, which provide a picturesque landscape and natural beauty. The region has lush green fields, water bodies and a serene environment. The Rapti River flowing near Shravasti adds to the region’s natural charm.
- Historical and Cultural Significance: Shravasti is famous as one of the major pilgrimage sites for Buddhists. It is closely related to the life of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
- It is believed that Buddha spent 24 monsoons and gave many discourses in Sravasti. The city is of immense importance to Buddhists around the world and attracts pilgrims who visit ancient Buddhist sites and relics.
- Shravasti has been identified with the remains at Saheth-Maheth, situated on the banks of the river Rapti. It was the capital of the ancient Kosala kingdom.
- The Jetavana Monastery at Sravasti was one of the most prominent monastic complexes of the Buddha’s time. It was gifted to the Buddha by a wealthy merchant named Anathapindika. The Jetavana Monastery served as a major centre for Buddhist teachings and discussions.
- Even today, visitors can explore the ruins of this historic monastery, which is an important attraction for tourists and scholars interested in Buddhism.
- Tourism in Sravasti: Sravasti is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site, as it is believed that Lord Buddha spent a significant part of his monastic life there and delivered many discourses.
- Buddhist pilgrims worldwide come to Sravasti to pay homage to sites associated with the Buddha’s life, such as the Jetavana Monastery and the Stupa of Anathapindika.
- The flow of tourists and pilgrims contributes to the local economy through accommodation, transport, restaurants and souvenir shops. It is well connected by good roads constructed under Buddhist-Circuit.
- The huge World Peace Bell, installed with the help of Japan in Shravasti, is said to convey the message of humanity through its toll.
- Prayagraj – The city of Prayagraj is one of the largest cities of Uttar Pradesh and is situated at the confluence of three rivers – the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. The meeting point is known as Triveni and is especially sacred to Hindus.
- Earlier settlements of Aryans were settled in this city, which was then known as Prayag.
- Koldihwa, situated on the banks of the Belan River in the Prayagraj district, is considered the earliest evidence of rice.
- Neolithic tools and weapons have been found in Mirzapur, Sonbhadra, Prayagraj and Pratapgarh excavations.
- Prayag is the birthplace of Soma, Varuna and Prajapati. Prayag has been associated with mythological personalities in Brahmanical (Vedic) and Buddhist literature. It was the seat of the great sages Bharadwaja, Durvasa and Sage Pannas.
- This city was the heart of the Indian Freedom Movement against British rule, with Anand Bhawan being the epicenter.
- It was in Prayagraj (then known as Allahabad) Mahatma Gandhi proposed his program of non-violent resistance to liberate India.
- Prayagraj has provided the largest number of Prime Ministers of Post-independence India.
- Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh. Former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar was a student of Allahabad University.
Significance of Prayagraj
- Historical and Cultural Significance– Prayagraj is one of the historical and mythological cities of India with glorious past and present. It continues to distinguish between being haunted and a place of lasting memories.
- It is a city of mixed culture of Hindus, Muslims, Jains and Christians.
- Its sanctity is evident from its references in the Puranas, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
- According to Hindu mythology, Lord Brahma, the creator god of Trimurti, at the beginning of creation, chose a land on earth (i.e. Prayag) to perform ‘Prakrit Yajna’ and he also referred to it as Tirtha Raja or King.
- According to ‘Padma Purana’ – “As the sun is amongst the moon and the moon amongst the stars, likewise Prayag is best amongst all places of pilgrimage”.
- There is a mention of bathing in Prayag in the Brahma Purana – In the month of Magh, bathing on the banks of the Ganga-Yamuna in Prayag gives the result in millions of Ashwamedha Yagyas.
- Tourism: Prayagraj has immense religious and cultural significance. It is the site of the Triveni Sangam, the confluence of three holy rivers: the Ganges, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.
- This confluence is considered sacred in Hinduism and attracts lakhs of devotees and tourists throughout the year.
- The city hosts the Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest religious event, which attracts millions of pilgrims and tourists.
- It is said that – “Prayagasya Praveshshu Papam Nashwati Tatkshanam” means all sins are washed away by entering Prayag.
- Administrative and Legal Centre: Prayagraj is the administrative and judicial capital of Uttar Pradesh. It houses various government offices, administrative bodies and the Allahabad High Court, one of India’s oldest and most prestigious high courts.
- Education and Research: Prayagraj is home to several renowned educational institutions, including Allahabad University, Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology and Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad.
- These institutions attract students from across the country and contribute to developing a skilled workforce.