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Top 10 Ancient & Oldest Cities in India to Explore

India is home to several cities that exist since time immemorial. Here is the list of the top 10 oldest cities in India. These ancient places hold incredible importance in India’s cultural heritage. If you want to know the country to its core, visit its hearts — the ancient cities of India.

Top 10 oldest cities in India
List of the top 10 oldest cities of India

If you’re curious about the oldest cities in India, you’ve come to the right place! Here are our picks for the 10 oldest cities in India, spanning more than 4,000 years of civilization and providing a great history lesson along the way. Whether you’re in search of an unusual travel destination or simply want to educate yourself on some ancient history, be sure to include one of these ancient Indian cities on your list of places to visit!

Read More: Top 10 Most Beautiful Temples in India You Must Visit

List of the oldest cities in India that are also the most ancient places in the country

1. Varanasi

varanasi oldest city in india
Varanasi is among the most sacred place for Hindus. (BBC)

Varanasi (also spelled Benares or Banaras) is one of the oldest inhabited cities in India and the world as well. Varanasi is one of the holiest places for Hindus. Pilgrims come to Varanasi to bathe in the holy river and to perform prayers and rituals. The city is also known for its ghats, or steps, leading down to the river. In ancient times, Varanasi was known as Kashi, and ‘Sarnath’. The latter refers to Sarnath, a small city within Varanasi where Gautama Buddha delivered his first sermon after attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya. Varanasi is a fascinating place to explore, and its long history makes it a must-visit for any traveler interested in Indian culture.

2. Ujjain

ujjain mahakal city
A great religious site, Ujjain is among the oldest Indian cities. (Shutterstock)

Ujjain, the city of Mahakal, finds itself in the list of the top 10 oldest cities in India. Located in Madhya Pradesh, it was once known as Avantika. The city has a rich history that can be traced back to the times of the Mahabharata. Ujjain is also an important religious center in India, with a large number of temples and shrines. The Kumbh Mela, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, is held in Ujjain every 12 years. If you’re interested in history and religion, Ujjain is definitely worth exploring.

Read More: Why Hinduism is the Best Religion in the World: 10 Reasons

3. Madurai

Madurai oldest city in south india
Madurai is among the oldest cities in India. (Shutterstock)

Built during the Pandya period, Madurai is one of the most ancient cities in India. The city is famous for its cultural heritage with buildings like Meenakshi Amman Temple and a group of temples. There are many other historical and religious places in Madurai like the  Alagar Koyil Temple, and Thirumalai Nayak Palace. In addition to these old buildings and monuments, some modern attractions attract there are also some modern attractions that attract visitors from different parts of India and abroad such as Mudiveeswarar Temple, Thiagarajar Botanical Garden, Dr. M.G Road, etc.

4. Gaya

Gaya oldest cities in India
The land of Enlightenment, Gaya is among the most ancient cities of india

Gaya, the land of Lord Vishnu, is the heritage capital of Bihar. The city finds its mention in several ancient Indian texts including Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc. Plus, Gaya is also the most sacred place for the followers of the Buddhism faith. Bodh Gaya, a town in the Gaya district, is the place where Mahatma Buddha attained enlightenment. This is why thousands of Buddhists from around the world come to visit Bodh Gaya. There are various important historical places to visit in Gaya, including Mahabodhi Temple, Vishnupad Mandir, etc.

5. Delhi

delhi oldest city
India’s capital city holds enormous importance in the country’s history

One of the oldest inhabited cities in India, Delhi was founded sometime around 1052. This Oldest city in India is located on the Yamuna River and has emerged as the capital of several empires. The city of Delhi has many sites to visit like Red Fort, Jama Masjid, and Lotus Temple. Its nearby cities are Noida, Faridabad, and Ghaziabad making it a metropolitan region with a population of more than 16 million.

Recently, Delhi has been declared as World Heritage City by UNESCO for its rich heritage and cultural values. A World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by UNESCO as having an outstanding universal value that should be preserved for all time, as an example representing major milestones such as large metropolises or complex societies. The 11th century Delhi Fort stands proud amidst other Mughal era monuments like Humayun’s Tomb and Jama Masjid.

Read More: Top 5 Largest Mosques in India

6. Pushkar

Pushkar is home to Lord Brahma.
Pushkar is home to Lord Brahma. (cnti)

Pushkar is located in the state of Rajasthan. According to legends, Pushkar was born when Brahma dropped a lotus petal on the ground, creating the lake that surrounds the city to this day. With a history that can be traced back to the 5th century BC, Pushkar is one of the oldest inhabited cities in India. Its long and storied past is on display in its many temples, palaces, and ghats (the steps leading down to the lake).

7. Tanjore

Tanjore is among the top 10 oldest cities in India
Tanjore is among the top 10 oldest cities in India (Pinterest)

Located in Tamil Nadu, Tanjore is one of the oldest cities in India. The city was built in 1010 CE by Maratha ruler Rajaraja Chola I and later it turned into the capital of Rajaraja Chola II. The prime attraction here is Brihadeeswarar Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Other places worth visiting include Gangaikonda Cholapuram, Kumbakonam, Pudukkottai, and Thanjavur Palace Museum. Speaking about ancient temples, it’s believed that Tanjore has more than 1000 temples as old as 1000 years!

8. Ayodhya

The birthplace of Lord Ram, Ayodhya
The birthplace of Lord Ram, Ayodhya is certainly one of the oldest Indian cities (opi)

Ayodhya, a historic town in Uttar Pradesh is also known as Saket. Ayodhya, at one time, was said to be one of the largest cities in India, and according to a few historians, it is also considered as one of the oldest cities in India. According to Hindu Scriptures Ramayana and Mahabharata, Ayodhya, once upon a time, served as the capital city for King Rama after he defeated demon king Ravana and rescued his wife Sita. It is believed that ever since then the city has been considered sacred land for Hindus and holds great religious importance for them.

9. Kannauj

Kannauj city
Kannauj is a beautiful city in Uttar Pradesh (pinterest)

Located in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Kannauj is one of the oldest inhabited cities in India. Kannauj was founded as Kanyakubja around 700 CE by Yashovarman. Located near modern-day Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. Kannauj was an important city during the rule of the Mughals and was home to many royal families. Today, the city is known for its aromatic attars (perfumes) made from distilled essential oils. If you’re looking for an offbeat and historic Indian city to explore, Kannauj is a great choice.

10. Gwalior

Gwalior Fort/Qila
Gwalior is a historical beauty and the oldest cities in India’s central region. (outlook)

The city of Gwalior is located in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh and is one of the oldest cities in the country. The city was ruled by various dynasties over the centuries, including the Tomaras, the Scindias, and the British. Gwalior is known for its palaces, forts, and temples, which attract tourists from all over India. Some of the most popular tourist attractions in Gwalior include the Gwalior Fort, the Scindia Museum, the Teli Ka Mandir, and the Man Mandir Palace.

These are just a few of the many ancient and fascinating cities in India that are worth exploring. Each one has its own unique history and culture that is well worth learning about. If you’re interested in exploring India’s rich and diverse legacy of the ancient era, be sure to visit some of these amazing cities!

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