UNESCO India World Heritage Sites: India has interesting monuments and natural sites. There are some of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India compiled so that you may get more information while on a trip to India. The information on the heritage sites will definitely enrich your India knowledge.
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Taj Mahal: This unique love memorial is located in Agra that was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal is the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements from Persian, Islamic and Indian architectural styles. The white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar component of the Taj Mahal; it is actually an integrated complex of structures. The construction began around 1632 and was completed around 1653, and employed thousands of artisans and craftsmen. In 1983, the Taj Mahal was declared the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage. Recently, in a project that attempted to update the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, popularity poll was led by Canadian-Swiss Bernard Weber and organized by the Swiss-based, government-controlled ‘New 7 Wonders Foundation’ considered Taj Mahal to be one of the present New Seven Wonders of the World.
Agra Fort: It is located in Agra that is also known as Lal Qila. It is about 2.5 kms northwest of the Taj Mahal, near the gardens stands the important 16th-century Mughal monument known as the Red Fort of Agra. This powerful fortress of red sandstone encompasses long enclosure walls, the imperial city of the Mughal rulers. It comprises many fairy-tale palaces, such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan; audience halls, such as the Diwan-i-Khas and two beautiful mosques. It is the most important fort in India. The great Mugals such as Humayun, Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb resided and governed from here.
Fatehpur Sikri: This historical city was constructed by Mughal emperor Akbar in 1570 and served as the empire’s capital from 1571 to 1585. It was abandoned after 14 years of occupation because of the shortage of water. The surviving palace and mosque are a tourist attraction and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The site is known as a ghost town also.
The Red Fort Complex: The Red Fort Complex was built in 17th century as the palace fort of Shahjahanabad – the new capital of the fifth Mughal Emperor in India, Shah Jahan in the walled city of Old Delhi. It was named for its massive enclosing walls of red sandstone; it is adjacent to an older fort, the Salimgarh, built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546, with which it forms the Red Fort Complex. The Red Fort was originally referred to as “Qila-i-Mubarak” (the blessed fort), since it was the residence of the royal family. After Independence, the site experienced a few changes in terms of alteration to the structures. It served as the capital of the Mughals until 1857, when Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled by the British Indian government. The British used it as a military camp until India was made independent in 1947. The Red Fort is a popular tourist attraction now. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
Humayun’s Tomb: It is a complex of buildings built as the Mughal Emperor Humayun’s tomb in 1562 CE. It was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It was also the first structure to use red sandstone at such a scale. The site was chosen on the banks of Yamuna river, due to its proximity to Nizamuddin Dargah, the mausoleum of the celebrated Sufi saint of Delhi, Nizamuddin Auliya, who was much revered by the rulers of Delhi, and whose residence, Chilla Nizamuddin Auliya lies just north-east of the tomb. The last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar took refuge here, during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, along with three princes, and was captured by Captain Hodson before being exiled to Rangoon. This complex was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993.
Humanyun’s Tomb: Delhi: This tomb, built in 1570, is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent. It inspired several major architectural innovations, culminating in the construction of the Taj Mahal.
The Qutab complex: This is an array of monuments situated in Delhi. The most famous of which is the five-storied 72.5-meter high Qutub Minar built in 1192 AD, by Qutbuddin Aibak, viceroy and general in Mohammed Ghori of Ghazni’s army to mark their victory over Delhi. The surrounding archaeological area contains funerary buildings, notably the magnificent Alai-Darwaza Gate, the masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art (built in 1311), and two mosques, including the Quwwatu’l-Islam, the oldest in northern India, built of materials reused from a complex of twenty-seven ancient Jain temples which were destroyed. The complex was added to by many subsequent rulers, including Firoz Shah Tughlaq and Ala ud din Khilji and the British.
Qutab Minar: Delhi: Built in the early 13th century a few kilometers south of Delhi, the red sandstone tower of Qutab Minar is 72.5 m high, tapering from 2.75 m in diameter at its peak to 14.32 m at its base, and alternating angular and rounded flutings. The surrounding archaeological area contains funerary buildings, notably the magnificent Alai-Darwaza Gate, the masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art (built in 1311), and two mosques, including the Quwwatu’l-Islam, the oldest in northern India, built of materials reused from some 20 Brahman temples.
Khajuraho Group of Monuments: Khajuraho has the largest group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples that is known for their erotic sculptures. The Khajuraho group of monuments has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is considered to be one of the “seven wonders” of India. Khajuraho is small town in Chhatarpur District in Madhya Pradesh state. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in India.
Khajuraho Temples: The temples at Khajuraho were built during the Chandella dynasty, which reached its apogee between 950 and 1050. Only about 20 temples remain; they fall into three distinct groups and belong to two different religions – Hinduism and Jainism. They strike a perfect balance between architecture and sculpture. The Temple of Kandariya is decorated with a profusion of sculptures that are among the greatest masterpieces of Indian art.
Mahabodhi Temple: This is Buddhist temple in Bodh Gaya, where Gautama, the Buddha, attained enlightenment. Bodhgaya is located about 96 km from Patna city.
Mahabodhi Temple Complex is one of the four holy sites related to the life of the Lord Buddha. Emperor Asoka built the first temple in the 3rd century B.C., and the present temple dates from the 5th or 6th centuries. It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick, still standing in India.
Basilica of Bom Jesus or Basilica of Good Jesus, GOA: The basilica holds the mortal remains of St. Francis Xavier. The church is located in Old Goa, which was the capital city in the early days of Portuguese rule. ‘Bom Jesus’ is the name used for the infant Jesus. The churches and convents of Goa particularly the Church of Bom Jesus, which contains the tomb of St Francis-Xavier – the evangelization of Asia. These monuments were influential in spreading forms of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art around Asian countries. The Jesuit church is India’s first Minor Basilica that is considered as one of the best examples of baroque architecture in the country. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hampi: It is a village in Karnataka state. It is located within the ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of Vijayanagara Empire. It is an important religious center that houses the Virupaksha Temple and several other monuments in this ancient city. Hampi village is the original center of Vijayanagar City. These ruins are UNESCO World Heritage Site that is listed as the Group of Monuments at Hampi.
Sanchi: Sanchi is a small village situated on a hill overlooking the plain and about 40 km from Bhopal. It comprises a group of Buddhist monuments (monolithic pillars, palaces, temples and monasteries) all in different states of conservation most of which date back to the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. It is the oldest Buddhist sanctuary in existence and was a major Buddhist center in India till the 12th century A.D. It is one of the important places of Buddhist pilgrimage. There are Toranas that surround the Stupa which represent love, peace, trust and courage. Emperor Ashoka the Great originally commissioned the ‘Sanchi Stupa’ in 3rd century BCE. Its nucleus was a simple hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha. It was crowned by the chatra, a parasol-like structure symbolizing high rank, which was intended to honor and shelter the relics.
Bhimbetka rock shelters: The Bhimbetka shelters exhibit the earliest traces of human life in India; a number of analysis suggest that at least some of these shelters were inhabited by the humans before 100,000 years. There are some Stone Age rock paintings found among Bhimbetka rock shelters are 30,000 years old approximately. These are located in Raisen District in Madhya Pradesh state. The name Bhimbetka is associated with Bhima, a hero-deity renowned for his immense strength, from the epic Mahabharata. The word Bhimbetka is said to derive from Bhimbaithka, meaning, “sitting place of Bhima”.
The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains on the southern edge of the central Indian plateau. Within massive sandstone outcrops, above comparatively dense forest, are five clusters of natural rock shelters, displaying paintings that appear to date from the Mesolithic Period right through to the historical period. The cultural traditions of the inhabitants of the twenty-one villages adjacent to the site bear a strong resemblance to those represented in the rock paintings.
About Rock Paintings of Bhimbetaka: These rock paintings are the mirror of difficulties and triumphs of the native man. The Bhimabetaka hillocks are made of sandstone. They are elevated from the valley and are ideal for human habitat. Bhimabetaka remains a great witness to the evolution of civilization, through its numerous rock weapons, tools, ceramics, and bones. The rock paintings are the greatest wealth the natives of Bhimabetaka left behind.
Ajanta Caves: Ajanta Caves are located in Aurangabad district in Maharashtra state. The caves are traditionally numbered starting from the one closest to the village. There are 28 – 30 rock-cut cave monuments created during the first century BCE and 5th century AD, containing paintings and sculptures considered to be masterpieces of both Buddhist religious art and universal pictorial art. The Ajanta Caves have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST): It was formerly named Victoria Terminus, and better known by its abbreviation CST or Bombay VT. It is a historic railway station in Mumbai, which serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways. It is one of the busiest railway stations in India. It is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India, blended with themes deriving from Indian traditional architecture. The building, designed by the British architect F. W. Stevens, became the symbol of Bombay as the ‘Gothic City’ and the major international mercantile port of India. The terminal was built over 10 years, starting in 1878, according to a High Victorian Gothic design based on late medieval Italian models. Its remarkable stone dome, turrets, pointed arches and eccentric ground plan are close to traditional Indian palace architecture. It is an outstanding example of the meeting of two cultures, as British architects worked with Indian craftsmen to include Indian architectural tradition and idioms thus forging a new style unique to Bombay.
Elephanta Caves: These are the networks of sculpted caves located on Elephanta Island in Mumbai Harbor situated 10 kilometers from Mumbai City. This island is located on an arm of the Arabian Sea that consists two groups of caves—the first is a large group of five Hindu caves and the second one is a smaller group of two Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves contain rock cut stone sculptures dedicated to the god Shiva. The rock cut architecture of the caves has been dated to between the 5th and 8th centuries. The main cave (Cave 1, or the Great Cave) was a Hindu place of worship until Portuguese rule began in 1534, after which the caves suffered severe damage. These caves were renovated in 1970s after years of neglect and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Ellora: It is an archaeological site that is located 30 kms from Aurangabad City built by the Rashtrakuta rulers. It is known for its monumental 34 caves. Ellora represents the epitome of Indian rock-cut architecture. The structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills – being Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock cut temples and monasteries, were built between the 5th century and 10th century. The 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves, built in proximity, demonstrate the religious harmony at that time.
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park: This Heritage Site is located in Panchmahal district in Gujarat. There are unexcavated archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage buildings. These include prehistoric sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital and the remains of the 16th century capital along with impressive landscapes. These sites also include vestiges of fortifications, palaces, religious buildings, residential precincts, agricultural structures and water installations from 8 to 14 centuries. The Kalikamata Temple is situated on the top of Pavagadh Hill that is an important shrine, attracting scores of pilgrims throughout the year. This site is the only complete and unchanged Pre-Mughal city in India.
Pattadakal: It is a town in Karnataka state and lies on the banks of the Malaprabha River in Bagalkot district. It is 22 km from Badami and about 10 km from Aihole. The group of 8th century CE monuments in Pattadakal are the culmination of the earliest experiments in the vesara style of Hindu temple architecture. They were designated a World Heritage Site in 1987. The town displays both Dravidian (Southern) and the Nagara (Northern, Indo-Aryan) styles of temple architecture.
Konark Sun Temple: This 13th-century Sun Temple or Black Pagoda is located at Konark, in Orissa State. It was constructed from oxidizing and weathered ferruginous sandstone by King Narasimhadeva I (1236-1264 CE) of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty. The temple is one of the most renowned temples in India. It is one of the Seven Wonders of India.
Great Living Chola Temples: These temples were built during the Chola rule in the south India. These temples are the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram. The Brihadisvara Temple was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987. The Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram were added as extensions to the site in 2004. The site is now known as the “Great Living Chola Temples”.
Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram: This group of sanctuaries, founded by the Pallava kings, was carved out of rock along the Coromandel Coast in the 7th and 8th centuries. These are located 58 km from Chennai at Mahabalipuram. These were declared UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984. This temple town, which was a seaport, is believed to be over 2000 years old and has approximately 40 monuments including the largest open-air base-relief in the world.
Keoladeo National Park: Keoladeo Ghana National Park formerly known, as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary in Rajasthan sate is a famous avifauna sanctuary that consists thousands of rare and highly endangered birds such as the Siberian Cranes, visit here during the winters. There are over 230 species of birds are known to have made the National Park their home. At present it is a major tourist center. It was declared a protected sanctuary in 1971. It is also a declared World Heritage Site.
Kaziranga National Park: This national park is situated in the Golaghat and Nagaon districts in Assam. This park is one of the last areas in eastern India undisturbed by a human presence. It has the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world and was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006. The park is home to large breeding populations of elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer. In 1904, when Mary Victoria Curzon, the wife of the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, visited the area. After failing to see a single rhinoceros, for which the area was renowned, she persuaded her husband to take urgent measures to protect the dwindling species which he did by initiating planning for a their protection. On 1 June 1905, the Kaziranga Reserve Forest was created with an area of 232 km2, later extended by 152 km2 to the banks of the Brahmaputra River. The Kaziranga Game Sanctuary was renamed the Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary in 1950. The park celebrated its centennial in 2005 after its establishment in 1905 as a reserve forest.
Manas National Park or Wildlife Sanctuary: It is an UNESCO Natural World Heritage site, a Project Tiger Reserve, an Elephant Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve in Assam. It is located in the Himalayan foothills; it is contiguous with the Royal Manas National park in Bhutan. The park is known for its rare and endangered endemic wildlife such as the Assam Roofed Turtle, Hispid Hare, Golden Langur and Pygmy Hog.
Nanda Devi National Park: This national park is situated around Nanda Devi peak at 7817 m (25,646 ft), in Uttarakhand state. It was established as national park in 1982 and declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988. It covers an area of 630.33 km². The park consists the Nanda Devi Sanctuary and a glacial basin surrounded by a ring of peaks between 6,000 and 7,500 m high that is drained by the Rishi Ganga through the Rishi Ganga Gorge. The entire park lies at an elevation of more than 3,500 m (11,500 ft) above sea level.
Valley of Flowers National Park: This Park is nestled high in West Himalaya and situated in Uttrakhand. It is renowned for meadows of endemic alpine flowers and outstanding natural beauty. This valley is a home to rare and endangered animals, including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep also. The gentle landscape of the Valley of Flowers National Park complements the rugged mountain wilderness of Nanda Devi National Park. Together they encompass a unique transition zone between the mountain ranges of the Zanskar and The Himalaya. The park stretches over an expanse of 87.50 km². It is a beautiful high-altitude Himalayan valley that has been acknowledged by renowned mountaineers and botanists. The valley is splashed with color as it bloomed with scores of diverse beautiful flowers. This enchanting valley was declared a national park in 1982, and now it is a World Heritage Site. It is a favorite haunt for flower-lovers, botanists, tourists and trekkers.
Mountain Railways of India: It refers to the five railway lines built in the mountains of India in 19th and early 20th century, during the British Raj, which are run by the Indian Railways presently. Three out of these five railways, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (1881), the Kalka-Shimla Railway (1898) and the Kangra Valley Railway (1924) are located in the rugged hill regions of the Himalayas of Northern India and the other two are much further south in the Western Ghats; the Nilgiri Mountain Railway in Southern India, and the Matheran Hill Railway in Maharashtra. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway and the Kalka-Shimla Railway have been collectively designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site entitled “Mountain Railways of India”. These five railways in India are part of around twenty similar lines of narrow gauge and meter gauge across the world.
All the five railway lines are still operational and connect to important hill resorts, from foothills, winding through rugged and scenic mountainous terrains. Given the terrain that they were constructed on, in the British colonial period they were considered the outstanding examples of the interchange of values on development in technology and engineering marvels.
Kalka-Shimla Railway: It is a 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge railway in Northwest India traveling along mountainous route from Kalka to Shimla. It is known for breathtaking views of the hills and surrounding villages.
Sundarbans National Park: This is a National Park, Tiger Reserve, UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve located in the Sundarbans delta in West Bengal state. This region is densely covered by mangrove forests, and is one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger. It is also home to a variety of bird, reptile and invertebrate species including the salt-water crocodile. The present Sundarbans National Park was declared as the core area of Sundarbans Tiger Reserve in 1973 and a wildlife sanctuary in 1977. On May 4, 1984 it was declared a National Park. It was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1987 and the entire Sundarbans area was declared as Biosphere Reserve in 1989.