India is among the most unique countries in the world. Given its reputation for spicy-hot cuisines, colorful festivals, and diverse landscapes, it’s no wonder India is among the destinations on many people’s bucket lists.
But before you book that ticket and pack your bags, it’s good to know a little about this great country and what to expect once you get there.
Let’s explore the largest cities in India and some captivating features about them.
1. Delhi – 573 Square Miles
The city of Delhi is India’s capital. It’s located in the north-central area and covers a land area of 573 square miles. The city lies approximately 100 miles on the southern part of the Himalayas.
It is near the western bank of the River Yamuna, which contributes its water to the mighty Ganges River.
As the nation’s capital, Delhi is historically significant as a cultural, transport, and commercial hub. It’s also the headquarters of the nation’s political leadership.
Delhi wasn’t always the capital city of India. That title used to belong to Calcutta, today known as Kolkata.
Britain’s king then, George V, decreed that the capital be shifted to Delhi in 1911. The British began constructing the city center a year later, and the new capital was officially dedicated in 1931.
Delhi is divided into two main sections: New Delhi or Nayi Dilli in the local dialect and Old Delhi or Purani Dilli.
Old Delhi is where you’ll find all the captivating historical pieces dating back to the era of the Moghuls. The scattered ruins dotting the city landscape tell stories of the many powerful kingdoms and empires that once ruled over the land.
Meanwhile, New Delhi is the section the British constructed when the city assumed its capital city status.
Some of the must-visit locations in Delhi include the India Gate, Qutub Minar, Humayun’s Tomb, and the Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple. Others are the Museum of Illusions and the National Gallery of Modern Art.
2. Bangalore – 286.1 Square Miles
Bangalore, officially known as Bengaluru, occupies a land area of 286.1 square miles.
The city is the capital of Karnataka State. It is also home to about 13 million people, making it the third-largest city in India by population.
India is generally known for its hot and humid climate, but Bangalore has unusually moderate and pleasant weather all year round.
Bangalore is famous for many things, but what stands out is its reputation as India’s Silicon Valley. Many international IT companies and Indian technology firms have outlets in the city.
Bangalore has a rich history that traces back to 890 CE. But it wasn’t until 1537 that Kempe Gowda, a local chief, constructed the city’s nucleus.
The British made Bangalore the headquarters of their administration between 1831 and 1881 when they handed over administrative duties to the newly restored raja.
The British maintained their military force in the city until 1947, the year of India’s independence. The Indian administration elevated Bangalore to the capital of the newly formed Mysore State.
The city is loved for its beautiful parks and lakes, street food corners, and many pubs spread across the metropolis. You can sample cuisines from different parts of the world at its late-night restaurants and rooftop cafes.
3. Visakhapatnam – 263.3 Square Miles
Visakhapatnam is the third-largest city in India by geographical size. It occupies a total land area of 263.3 square miles and an elevation of roughly 147 feet.
The city is surrounded by multiple ecological features, including the Yarada Hills on its southern border, the Simhachalam Hill Range on its western border, and the Kambalakonda Wildlife Sanctuary on the northeastern border.
Visakhapatnam goes by many names, including Waltair, Visakha, and Vizag. The coastal city is located in Andhra Pradesh State and lies between the Bay of Bengal and the Eastern Ghats.
Like many Indian cities, Visakhapatnam has a rich history tracing back many centuries ago. It has fallen into the control of many different kingdoms and dynasties, including the Kalinga Kingdom in 6 BCE. The Pallava, Vengi, and Eastern Ganga dynasties have also ruled over Visakhapatnam.
Visakhapatnam is best known for its vibrant tourism industry, driven by its serene landscape and picturesque beaches. It is a popular destination among tourists, which explains why it’s marketed as the “Jewel of the East Coast” and the “City of Destiny.”
The Visakhapatnam landscape is dotted with many beaches, the most popular being Yarada Beach. Visitors to this beach will notice that it’s boxed between the Bay of Bengal and three majestic hills.
The beaches in Visakhapatnam stand out from the others on the Indian subcontinent for their cleanliness. They are also less crowded.
4. Hyderabad – 250 Square Miles
Hyderabad is the fourth largest city in India by geographical size. It occupies a land area of 250 square miles.
Hyderabad is the capital of Telangana. The city lies on the Musi River banks. It shares its boundaries with Medak on its east, Karnataka State on the west, Mahaboobnagar District on the south, and Nalgonda District on the north.
Two primary and competing narratives explain how the city acquired its name. Interestingly, both stories reveal the city’s Islamic past and influence.
The first story emphasizes that Hyderbard means “lion’s city” and was named after Caliph Ali Abi Taib (600-661), also known as Haydar. Taib was a cousin to Prophet Muhammad and is remembered for demonstrating lion-like valor doing battles.
According to this legend, Baghnagar, which roughly translates to “City of gardens,” was the city’s original name before it was renamed Hyderabad in the 17th century by two European travelers.
The second story suggests that the city was named after the wife of the city’s founder, Muhammad Quli Quib Shar. Shar originally named the city Bhagyanagar after his wife, Bagmati. She later embraced Islam and took the new title of Hyder Mahal. The city leadership decided to honor her by naming the city Hyderabad after her name.
Popular Tourist Destination
Hyderabad is a popular tourist destination with so many unique things to sample. History lovers and Buddhist believers can visit the world’s tallest and largest monolithic Buddha Statue. The statue rises from the center of Lake Hussain Sagar. Visitors can only reach the statue by boat.
Another fact about Hyderabad that will delight history lovers is that it was once the home of the Koh-i-Noor.
Koh-i-Noor holds the title of the most precious piece of diamond ever mined or discovered. Miners retrieved it from the Golconda Mines.
You probably already know that Bollywood is the world’s largest film industry, but do you know the location of the largest film studio? It’s in Hyderabad.
The studio isn’t only for shooting videos but is also a tourist attraction that welcomes millions of visitors yearly.
Another factor that adds to Hyderabad’s uniqueness is that it hosts the largest snow park in the country, Snow World.
5. Lucknow – 244 Square Miles
Lucknow is Uttar Pradesh’s capital city and the fifth-largest city in India by geographical size. The city occupies a land area of 244 square miles and rises 404 feet above sea level. Like many Indian cities, Lucknow lies on the banks of a river: the Gomti River.
Lucknow only gained its status as the fifth largest state in 2019 when 88 villages were incorporated into the city, increasing its size from 155 square miles to its current size.
The city shares its eastern border with Barabanki, the western border with Unnao, the northern border with Hardoi and Sitapur, and the southern border with Raebareli.
Several kingdoms and empires have ruled Lucknow since the 1300s, including the Sarqi Sultanate, Delhi Sultanate, Nawabs of Awadh, and Mughal Empire. The British Empire and Raj also ruled over the area.
Lucknow is a cultural and tourist attraction center. This is the place to visit if you want to learn more about Northern India’s culture, cuisine, and art. The city welcomed multiculturalism and once served as the cradle of the Hindu-Sikh-Muslim symbioses.
The city also stands out for its Adab and Tehzeb (translated to manners and hospitality), beautiful gardens, intricate embroiderers, and various dance forms, including the Kathak.
6. Indore – 203 Square Miles
Indore City is the sixth largest city in India by land size. The city has an area of 203 square miles and an average elevation of 1,814 feet above sea level.
Indore is the most populated city in the state and serves as Madhya Pradesh’s financial capital. The city lies on Malwa Plateau’s southern edge and is about 75 miles away from Bhopal, Madya Pradesh’s capital.
Indore’s history traces back to 146 BCE during the Gupta Empire. It served as a trading center between Delhi and Deccan during the 16th century. Later, it fell under the control of the Maratha Empire in 1724. It also served as the state capital between 1950 and 1956.
The city boasts rapid industrialization driven by its cotton handloom industry. It also hosts several temples, palaces, night markets, and street food vendors.
7. Pune – 281.5 Square Miles
Pune is a vibrant city in Maharashtra State. It occupies a land area of 281.5 square miles and has an altitude of 1,837 feet above sea level.
Pune’s history can be traced back to the 9th century when it was an agricultural settlement ruled by the Rashtrakutas. The Pataleshwar Temple was constructed during this dynasty’s era.
During the 18th century, Pune hosted the Panwas seat, where prime ministers were located in the Maratha Empire (1674 to 1818). The city was also popularized by the Aga Khan Palace, constructed in 1892. Today, the palace serves as Mahatma Gandhi’s memorial since his ashes are preserved there.
The other historical landmarks in the city include the Kasba Ganapati Temple, the Lal Mahal, and the Shaniwar Wada.
Today, Pune is India’s automobile manufacturing hub and also ranks as the second IT hub behind Bangalore City. Pune also hosts some of the best institutions of higher learning in India, hence its nickname, “the Oxford of the East.”
8. Ahmedabad – 195 Square Miles
Ahmedabad is the largest and most populated city in Gujarat State. The city is home to 8.3 million people, according to the 2021 census.
Ahmedabad is India’s critical industrial and economic zone, popularized by its vibrant cotton industry. The city is only second to Kanpur in cotton production.
Forbes magazine recognized Ahmedabad in 2020 as the third fastest-expanding city of the decade.
The history of Ahmedabad traces back to the 11th century when it was called Ashaval and was ruled by the Bhil king.
The Solanki, Anhilwara’s ruler, waged a successful war against Ashavael around the same period and made it part of Karnavati City. The Solanki ruled the region until the 13th century when the Delhi Sultanate took over.
In the 15th century, the Gujarat governor, Zafar Khan Muzaffar, elevated himself to sultan status and founded the Muzaffarid dynasty. Muzaffar’s grandson, sultan Ahmed Shah created a new capital city of his sultanate in 1411 and called it Ahmedabad, after the area’s four saints.
Ahmedabad has since grown to be the fifth most populated city in India and the eighth largest by geographical size.
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- Macro Trends, Available here: https://www.macrotrends.net/cities/21176/bangalore/population
- Asia Society, Available here: http://sites.asiasociety.org/education/AsianArt/other.geo.sasia.htm