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5 Top Ancient Indian Cities

Mallikarjuna Temple is devoted to Shiva in Hampi, India (Photo: Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images).
Mallikarjuna Temple is devoted to Shiva in Hampi, India (Photo: Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images).

Varanasi also known as Banaras, or Kashi, is an ancient city on the banks of the river Ganga in India’s Northern state, Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi is a major religious hub in the country and is the holiest of the seven sacred towns (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism and Jainism.

Varanasi is one of the oldest unceasingly inhabited towns in the globe. Kashi is once and still is the seat of Hindu religion and philosophy, and is also a commercial hub in India.

Manikarnika Ghat is the main burning ghat in Kashi and is the most auspicious place for a Hindu to be cremated. Vishwanath temple is one among the many temples which attract thousands of tourists everyday.

Archaeological discoveries have proved that Kashi was one of the ancient Indian temple towns and might have established prior to 2 BCE.

VARANASI, INDIA – DECEMBER 17: A flock of migratory Siberian birds, on December 17, 2018 in Varanasi, India. (Photo by Rajesh Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)











Ujjain is another ancient city located in central Indian state, Madhya Pradesh. Archaeological excavations at Kayatha near Ujjain have revealed chalcolithic agricultural settlements dating back to 2000 BCE.

Emperor Chandragupta Maurya annexed Avanti to his empire. According to historians Ujjain was the capital city of Avanti and showed features of early urbanisation around 700 BCE.

During Gupta period Ujjain was an important city in India. Great Indian classical poet, Kalidasa lived in the city during the period of Gupta king, Vikramaditya. Kalidasa wrote his epic work Meghaduta in which he describes the richness of Ujjain and life of the people.

Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang who visited India in the 6 CE describes the ruler of Avanti as generous.   Number of poets, writers, ancient technologies, Indian system of medicine, astrology, and others flourished in the ancient city of Ujjain.

Naga Sadhus, holy-men who have renounced the wearing of clothes, take part in a procession prior to ritual bathing in the Shipra river in Ujjain, on May 04, 2004, on the last auspicious bathing date during the Kumbh Mela (Nectar pot) festival. This mammoth festival is a salute to the ancient Hindu ritual of taking a dip in the holy river (Photo: AFP/AFP/Getty Images).











Madurai is located in Southern India and is closely associated with Tamil language and culture. The written historical records of the city move back to 3 BCE, being mentioned by Megasthenes and Chanakya, the chief minister of Mauryan emperor Chandragupta Maurya.

In Madurai, the evidence of human settlements and trade relations with the Romans date backs to 300BC. Madurai is still known for its culture, art, traditions, lifestyle, and unique ancient structure of the city.

Pandyas, Cholas, Madurai Sultanate, Vijayanagar Empire, Madurai Nayaks, Carnatic kingdom, and finally British East India Company ruled the Madurai before India’s independence, according to the known history.

Madurai town is ancient and has been mentioned in Sangam era texts, dated to be from the 1st to 4th century CE. Meenakshi Temple is one among the major attractions in Madurai.

The inside of the Menakshi-Sundareshwara Temple in Madurai is decorated with hundreds of artfully carved statues of Gods and Deities (Photo: Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images).











Patna is another oldest continuously inhabited locations in the globe and at present it is located in Northern Indian state, Bihar. The city was established in 490 BCE by the king of Magadha, according to the evidences gathered till now.

Ancient Patna, known as Pataliputra. It was the capital city of the Magadha Empire under the Haryanka, Nanda, Mauryan, Shunga, Gupta, and Pala empires.

Pataliputra was a seat of learning, arts, architecture, literature, and other ancient Indian subjects. It was a land of famous astrologers, astronomers, and scholars including Aryabhata, Vatsyayana, Chanakya, and many others.

During the Maurya period (300 BCE) population of Pataliputra was about 400,000. Patna was one of the major Indian city during the Maurya and Gupta empires.

Nalanda was a Mahavihara, an ancient large Buddhist monastery during the kingdom of Magadha. It was founded in the 5th century CE. At its peak many famous scholars and students from central Asia attended. The site is located 95km southeast of Patna, Bihar. Since 2016 it is an UNESCO World Heritage Site (Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images).











Ancient Indian city, Kannauj is located in country’s Uttar Pradesh state. Under the name of Kanyakubja, Kannauj is mentioned as a town in the Epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata, and by the grammarian Patanjali around 150 BCE.

Archaeological findings have shown that the ancient city was inhabited by the painted grey ware (around 1200-600 BCE) and northern black polished ware cultures (around 700-200BCE). Chinese Buddhist travelers Faxian (5 AD) and Xuanzang (7 AD) had visited the ancient city, according to the evidences available.

Kannauj was a part of the great Gupta Empire. In the 6th century AD when Gupta Empire was slowly weakening, Maukhari Dynasty of Kannauj, a ruler under Guptas declared independence and established a new state controlling large areas of Northern India.

Photo: Kannauj/Govt of Uttar Pradesh.