Lucknow

Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, extends along the banks of the River Gomti. The city is dotted with remnants of its historic past and became known as a centre for Urdu poetry and courtly diction. Visit the Bara Imambara, built by Nawab Asaf-ud-Daula in 1784, one of the architectural highlights of the era. The central hall is believed to be the largest vaulted chamber in the world. Except in the galleries in the interior, no woodwork has been used in the structure. See the Rumi Darwaza – the colossal, ornate gate which is a replica of the one in Istanbul; Hussainabad Imambara built by Mohammed Ali Shah in 1835. The walls of the mausoleum are decorated with verses in Arabic. Chandeliers, gilded mirrors, colourful stucco, the King’s throne and ornate tazia or replicas of the tombs at Karbala adorn the interior.

Kushinagar

It is here that the Buddha is reputed to have breathed his last words, ‘Decay is inherent in all component things’ and expired. Pilgrims now come here in large numbers to see the remains of his brick cremation stupa, the large reclining Buddha figure in the Mahaparinirvana Temple, the modern India-Japan-Sri Lanka Buddhist Centre and the monasteries.

Shrawasti

The extensive ruins of this ancient city and Jetavana monastery are here, near the villages of Sateh-Maheth. It was at shravasti that the Buddha performed the miracle of sitting on a 1000-petalled lotus and multiplying himself a million times, fire and water emanating from his body. Ashoka was among the early pilgrims and left a couple of pillars to commemorate his visit.

Allahabad

Allahabad is one of the sacred cities of Hinduism and also one of the oldest in India. The city was formerly called Prayag. Allahabad stands on the confluence of India’s two of the holiest rivers, the Ganga and the Yamuna.

The great Mughal Emperor Akbar visited Prayag in 1575 and founded a new city by the name of Illahabas, which has now become modern Allahabad. The city was an important cantonment during the British period of India and has some beautiful remnants of colonial architecture. The Allahabad University was the foremost centre for learning in the early 20th century.

Varanasi

Varanasi is one of India’s most important pilgrimage sites and the holiest of holy cities for Hindus. Known also as Kashi and Benaras, Varanasi is one of the world’s oldest living cities, and has been a centre of learning and culture for well over 2000 years.

Agra

Agra is famous as the home to one of the Seven modern Wonders of the World – the Taj Mahal. This city having been the capital of the Mughal dynasty for over hundred years till 1650 there are many Mughal monuments of repute.