8 Oldest Cities in India

8 Oldest Cities in India

India is a vast and beautiful country, rich in culture and history. It is home to some of the oldest cities in the world, many of which have been around for thousands of years. Some of these cities have seen empires come and go and witnessed some of the most important events in Indian history.

From the ancient port city of Lothal to the holy city of Varanasi, here are eight of the oldest cities in India that have stood the test of time.

These cities offer a glimpse into India’s past, from their origins to present-day status. Each of these cities has something unique to offer, whether for their incredible architecture, rich cultural heritage, or religious importance. So take a journey back in time and explore the ancient wonders of India. 

8. Gwalior

Year Founded: 8 CE
Area: 289 sq. km.
Elevation: 646 ft.
Population: 1,473,000 (2023)

photo source: WikiVoyage

Gwalior is a city in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, located in the northern part of the state. It is the administrative headquarters of the Gwalior district and Gwalior division. It is home to many administrative offices of the Chambal division of northern Madhya Pradesh.

Gwalior has a long history that dates back to 8 C.E. when it was founded after a local chieftain was cured of leprosy from a drink given to him by a holy man called Gwalipa.

It remained under Muslim rule until the 13th century when it became a significant location of rebellion during the 1857 uprising. Post-independence, Gwalior has emerged as an important tourist attraction in central India, while many industries and administrative offices came up within the city. It is known for its marvelous palaces, old temples, and medieval fort.

Did You Know?

It is also home to many important cultural events, such as the Tansen Music Festival, one of the world’s largest classical music festivals. 

7. Madurai

Year Founded: 3 BCE
Area: 148 sq. km.
Elevation: 440 ft.
Population: 1,834,000 (2023)

Maduraiphoto source: Amusing Planet

Madurai is a city located in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage and is a major center for commerce and tourism. In addition, the city is famous for its Meenakshi Amman Temple, a historic Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Parvati, also known as Meenakshi.

The temple attracts millions of tourists worldwide annually and is considered one of the finest examples of Dravidian architecture. Regarded as one of the oldest cities in India, Madurai was once the capital of the Pandya Dynasty and has been continuously inhabited for over 2,500 years.

Did You Know?

Madurai is known for its unique cuisine, vibrant festivals, and rich arts and literary traditions.

6. Vaisali

Year Founded: 6 BCE
Area: 2,036 sq. km.
Elevation: 167 ft.
Population: 4,510,000 (2023)

Vaisaliphoto source: India the Destiny

Vaisali is an ancient city located in the present-day state of Bihar, India. The city is believed to be the second capital of the ancient kingdom of Vaishali and was the seat of power from 600 BCE to 483 BCE. It is also identified as the birthplace of Mahavira, the last Jain Tirthankara, a spiritual teacher and founder of the Jain religion.

Vaisali was an important economic center in the ancient world and a major city on the old Silk Road.

It was an important center for trade and commerce and a hub for Buddhism and Jainism. The city was also the site of the Second Buddhist council, which was held in 383 BCE. Today, Vaisali is a small town, but it is still home to many archaeological sites and monuments. The city is also a popular tourist destination, where visitors can explore the remains of its glorious past.

Did You Know?

Vaisali was also mentioned in the Indian epic Mahabharata and was home to the Lichchhavi dynasty.

5. Thanjavur

Year Founded: 300 BCE
Area: 128 sq. km.
Elevation: 194 ft.
Population: 355,000 (2023)

Thanjavurphoto source: TripSavvy

Thanjavur is another ancient city located in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The city is the headquarters of the Thanjavur District and is known for its rich cultural heritage and history, as well as its exquisite art and architecture. Thanjavur was once the capital of the Chola Empire, which ruled over the region for nearly three centuries.

It was also a significant center of learning and the arts during the Chola reign. The city was home to the famous Saraboji Saraswati Mahal Library, established in the 17th century and contained manuscripts, books, and other valuable works of art. It also served as a learning center for scholars, poets, and musicians.

Today, Thanjavur is a bustling city with more than a million population. It is a popular tourist destination where visitors can explore its many ancient monuments and temples, savor its unique culinary offerings and experience its unique culture and history.

Did You Know?

The city is well-known for its magnificent Hindu temples, including the Brihadeeswarar Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4. Patna

Year Founded: 600 BCE
Area: 250 sq. km.
Elevation: 174 ft.
Population: 2,321,000 (2023)

Patnaphoto source: Ruptly TV

Patna is the capital of Bihar, India, and one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities. Evidence shows that the city has been occupied since at least 600 BCE and has seen continuous occupation. Patna is an important historical and cultural center with many monuments, temples, and other religious structures.

Patna is home to the ancient Nalanda University, the world’s most renowned learning center from the 5th century A.D. until the 12th century A.D. Then, it was a major Buddhist learning center famous for disseminating knowledge and learning. Today, Patna is a vibrant city with a population of over two million people. It is a major commercial center and is home to many modern industries.

Did You Know?

The city is also home to many educational institutions, including Patna University, one of India’s oldest universities.

3. Ujjain

Year Founded: 600 BCE
Area: 250 sq. km.
Elevation: 174 ft.
Population: 2,580,000 (2023)

Ujjainphoto source: Tour My India

Ujjain is another ancient city located in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. It is one of the seven sacred cities of India and is said to be the home of the Hindu god Shiva. Ujjain has a long and storied history, first mentioned in the Hindu epic of Ramayana and various other Vedic texts. Ujjain has been a major center of Hindu culture and religious activities throughout history.

It was the capital of the powerful Malwa dynasty and later the Maratha Empire. It was also the venue for one of India’s most important religious events, the Kumbh Mela, held every twelve years.

Today, Ujjain continues to be an important center of pilgrimage and education. In addition, it holds many festivals and special fairs, such as the Sharad Purnima and Gopal Mela, and is a popular tourist destination.

Did You Know?

It is also home to the renowned Vikram University and the world-famous Jyotirlinga temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva.

2. Rajgir

Year Founded: 600 BCE
Area: 111.4 sq. km.
Elevation: 240 ft.
Population: 56,000 (2023)

Rajgirphoto source: TripAdvisor

The city of Rajgir in India is believed to have a rich and ancient history, with evidence of human settlement dating back to the 600 century BCE. According to historical records and archeological findings, the city was once the capital of the mighty Magadh Empire and was a center of political, economic, and cultural activity.

Excavations of the area have revealed the existence of well-planned streets, palaces, and public buildings, indicating a highly organized and developed society.

Rajgir was also known for its hot springs, which were considered to have healing properties and were a major attraction for visitors. In the later centuries, the city played an essential role in spreading Buddhism, as it was visited by the Buddha himself and was home to several Buddhist monasteries and monuments.

Did You Know?

The ruins of these structures still exist today and attract many tourists and pilgrims.

1. Varanasi

Year Founded: 985 BCE
Area: 82 sq. km.
Elevation: 264.8 ft.
Population: 1,652,000 (2023)

Varanasiphoto source: TripAdvisor

Varanasi, also known as Banaras or Kashi, is located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Varanasi is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities worldwide and is believed to have been founded over 3,000 years ago. The city is steeped in religious and cultural significance, as it is considered one of the holiest cities in Hinduism.

The river Ganges runs through Varanasi and is regarded as a sacred river by Hindus, who flock to the city to bathe in its waters as part of their religious rituals.

It has been a center of learning and knowledge for centuries, with numerous educational institutions and centers of spiritual learning located in the city. Overall, Varanasi’s unique combination of spiritual significance, rich cultural heritage, and historical significance make it one of the most important cities in India and a must-visit destination for anyone interested in India’s history and culture.

Did You Know?

In addition to its religious importance, Varanasi is also known for its rich history and cultural heritage.


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