UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India_00.1
UPSC Exam   »   UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

GS Paper – 1: Indian Heritage Sites, Indian Architecture

  • The sites are designated by UNESCO as having “outstanding universal value” under the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. This document was adopted by UNESCO in 1972 and formally took effect in 1975 after having been ratified by 20 countries. It provides a framework for international cooperation in preserving and protecting cultural treasures and natural areas throughout the world.
  • There are three types of sites: cultural, natural, and mixed.
  • Cultural heritage sites include hundreds of historic buildings and town sites, important archaeological sites, and works of monumental sculpture or painting.
  • Natural heritage sites are restricted to those natural areas that (1) furnish outstanding examples of Earth’s record of life or its geologic processes, (2) provide excellent examples of ongoing ecological and biological evolutionary processes, (3) contain natural phenomena that are rare, unique, superlative, or of outstanding beauty, or (4) furnish habitats for rare or endangered animals or plants or are sites of exceptional biodiversity.
  • Mixed heritage sites contain elements of both natural and cultural significance.
  • Currently, there are 40 World Heritage Sites located in India. These include 32 cultural sites, 7 natural sites, and 1 mixed-criteria site.
Natural World Heritage Site State Important Fact
Kaziranga National Park(1985) Assam In the heart of Assam, this park is one of the last areas in eastern India undisturbed by a human presence. It is inhabited by the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinoceroses, as well as many mammals, including tigers, elephants, panthers and bears, and thousands of birds.
Keoladeo Ghana National Park(1985) Rajasthan This former duck-hunting reserve of the Maharajas is one of the major wintering areas for large numbers of aquatic birds from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia. Some 364 species of birds, including the rare Siberian crane, have been recorded in the park.
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary(1985) Assam On a gentle slope in the foothills of the Himalayas, where wooded hills give way to alluvial grasslands and tropical forests, the Manas sanctuary is home to a great variety of wildlife, including many endangered species, such as the tiger, pygmy hog, Indian rhinoceros and Indian elephant.
Nanda Devi National Park and Valley of Flowers(1988,2005) Uttarakhand Nestled high in West Himalaya, India’s Valley of Flowers National Park is renowned for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers and outstanding natural beauty. This richly diverse area is also home to rare and endangered animals, including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep.
Sundarbans National Park(1987) West Bengal The Sundarbans covers 10,000 km2 of land and water (more than half of it in India, the rest in Bangladesh) in the Ganges delta. It contains the world’s largest area of mangrove forests. A number of rare or endangered species live in the park, including tigers, aquatic mammals, birds and reptiles.
Western Ghats(2012) Maharashtra,

Goa,

Karnataka,

Tamil Nadu and

Kerala

It has an exceptionally high level of biological diversity and endemism and is recognized as one of the world’s eight ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity. The forests of the site include some of the best representatives of non-equatorial tropical evergreen forests anywhere and are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species.
Great Himalayan National Park(2014) Himachal Pradesh Characterized by high alpine peaks, alpine meadows and riverine forests. The 90,540 ha property includes the upper mountain glacial and snow meltwater sources of several rivers, and the catchments of water supplies that are vital to millions of downstream users.

 

Cultural World Heritage Site State Important Facts
Dholavira(2021) Gujarat
  • The ancient city of Dholavira, the southern centre of the Harappan Civilization, is sited on the arid island of Khadir in the State of Gujarat.
  •  Occupied between ca. 3000-1500 BCE, the archaeological site, one of the best preserved urban settlements from the period in Southeast Asia, comprises a fortified city and a cemetery.
Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple(2021) Telangana
  • Rudreshwara, popularly known as Ramappa Temple, is located in the village of Palampet approximately 200km north-east of Hyderabad, in the State of Telangana.
  • It is the main Shiva temple in a walled complex built during the Kakatiyan period (1123–1323 CE) under rulers Rudradeva and Recharla Rudra.
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement(2016) Chandigarh
  • Chosen from the work of Le Corbusier, the 17 sites comprising this transnational serial property are spread over seven countries and are a testimonial to the invention of a new architectural language that made a break with the past.
  • Ex: The Complexe du Capitole in Chandigarh (India)
Victorian and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai(2018) Maharashtra
  • The Victorian ensemble includes Indian elements suited to the climate, including balconies and verandas. The Art Deco edifices, with their cinemas and residential buildings, blend Indian design with Art Deco imagery, creating a unique style that has been described as Indo-Deco.
Historic City of Ahmedabad(2017) Gujarat
  • The walled city of Ahmadabad, founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in the 15th century, on the eastern bank of the Sabarmati river, presents a rich architectural heritage from the sultanate period, notably the Bhadra citadel, the walls and gates of the Fort city and numerous mosques and tombs as well as important Hindu and Jain temples of later periods
Jaipur City(2020) Rajasthan
  • The walled city of Jaipur, in India’s north-western state of Rajasthan, was founded in 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh II. Unlike other cities in the region located in hilly terrain, Jaipur was established on the plain and built according to a grid plan interpreted in the light of Vedic architecture.
Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University)(2016) Bihar
  • It comprises the archaeological remains of a monastic and scholastic institution dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE.
  • It includes stupas, shrines, viharas (residential and educational buildings) and important art works in stucco, stone and metal.
  • Nalanda stands out as the most ancient university of the Indian Subcontinent. It engaged in the organized transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years.
Rani-Ki-Vav(2014) Gujarat
  • Rani-ki-Vav was built at the height of craftsmens’ ability in stepwell construction and the Maru-Gurjara architectural style, reflecting mastery of this complex technique and great beauty of detail and proportions.
Hill Forts of Rajasthan(2013) Rajasthan
  • The serial site, situated in the state of Rajastahan, includes six majestic forts in Chittorgarh; Kumbhalgarh; Sawai Madhopur; Jhalawar; Jaipur, and Jaisalmer.
The Jantar Mantar(2010) Rajasthan
  • The Jantar Mantar, in Jaipur, is an astronomical observation site built in the early 18th century. It includes a set of some 20 main fixed instruments.
  • It is an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince.
Red Fort Complex(2007) Delhi
  • The Red Fort Complex was built as the palace fort of Shahjahanabad – the new capital of the fifth Mughal Emperor of India, Shah Jahan. 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.
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park(2004) Gujarat
  • Includes prehistoric (chalcolithic) sites, a hill fortress of early Hindu capital, and remains of the 16th-century capital of the state of Gujarat.
  • The site also includes, among other vestiges, fortifications, palaces, religious buildings, residential precincts, agricultural structures and water installations, from the 8th to 14th centuries.
  • The Kalika Mata Temple on top of Pavagadh Hill is considered to be an important shrine, attracting large numbers of pilgrims throughout the year.
  • The site is the only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus(2004) Maharashtra
  • 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.
Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka(2003) Madhya Pradesh
  • The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains on the southern edge of the central Indian plateau.
Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya(2002) Bihar
  • The first temple was built by Emperor Asoka 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, from the late Gupta period.
Mountain Railways of India(1999) Tamil Nadu
  • This site includes three railways: Darjeelinh, Neelgiri and Kalka-Shimla.
Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi(1993) Delhi
  • This tomb, built in 1570, is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent.
Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi(1993) Delhi
  • The red sandstone tower of Qutb 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.
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi(1989) Madhya Pradesh
  • On a hill overlooking the plain and about 40 km from Bhopal, the site of Sanchi 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 centre in India until the 12th century A.D.
Elephanta Caves(1987) Maharashtra
  • The ‘City of Caves’, on an island in the Sea of Oman close to Bombay, contains a collection of rock art linked to the cult of Shiva.
  • Here, Indian art has found one of its most perfect expressions, particularly the huge high reliefs in the main cave.
Great Living Chola Temples(1987) Tamil Nadu
  • The site includes three great 11th- and 12th-century Temples: the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikondacholisvaram and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram
Group of Monuments at Pattadakal(1987) Karnataka
  • Pattadakal, in Karnataka, represents the high point of an eclectic art which, in the 7th and 8th centuries under the Chalukya dynasty, achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from northern and southern India.
  • An impressive series of nine Hindu temples, as well as a Jain sanctuary, can be seen there. One masterpiece from the group stands out – the Temple of Virupaksha, built c. 740 by Queen Lokamahadevi to commemorate her husband’s victory over the kings from the South.
Churches and Convents of Goa(1986) Goa
  • The churches and convents of Goa, the former capital of the Portuguese Indies – particularly the Church of Bom Jesus, which contains the tomb of St Francis-Xavier – illustrate the evangelization of Asia.
  • These monuments were influential in spreading forms of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art in all the countries of Asia where missions were established.
Fatehpur Sikri(1986) Uttar Pradesh
  • Built during the second half of the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar, Fatehpur Sikri (the City of Victory) was the capital of the Mughal Empire for only some 10 years.
  • The complex of monuments and temples, all in a uniform architectural style, includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid.
Group of Monuments at Hampi(1986) Karnataka The austere, grandiose site of Hampi was the last capital of the last great Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar.
Khajuraho Group of Monuments(1986) Madhya Pradesh
  • 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.
Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram(1984) Tamil Nadu
  • This group of sanctuaries, founded by the Pallava kings, was carved out of rock along the Coromandel coast in the 7th and 8th centuries.
  • It is known especially for its rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), giant open-air reliefs such as the famous ‘Descent of the Ganges’, and the temple of Rivage, with thousands of sculptures to the glory of Shiva.
Sun Temple, Konarak(1984) Orissa
  • On the shores of the Bay of Bengal, bathed in the rays of the rising sun, the temple at Konarak is a monumental representation of the sun god Surya’s chariot; its 24 wheels are decorated with symbolic designs and it is led by a team of six horses.
  • Built in the 13th century, it is one of India’s most famous Brahman sanctuaries.
Agra Fort(1983) Uttar Pradesh
  • Important 16th-century Mughal monument known as the Red Fort of Agra.
  • 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 very beautiful mosques.
Ajanta Caves(1983) Maharashtra
  • The first Buddhist cave monuments at Ajanta date from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. During the Gupta period (5th and 6th centuries A.D.), many more richly decorated caves were added to the original group.
  • The paintings and sculptures of Ajanta, considered masterpieces of Buddhist religious art, have had a considerable artistic influence.
Ellora Caves(1983) Maharashtra
  • These 34 monasteries and temples, extending over more than 2 km, were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff, not far from Aurangabad, in Maharashtra.
  • Ellora, with its uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from A.D. 600 to 1000, brings the civilization of ancient India to life.
  • Its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.
Taj Mahal(1983) Uttar Pradesh
  • An immense mausoleum of white marble, built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favourite wife, the Taj Mahal is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.

 

Mixed World Heritage Site-

Khangchendzonga National Park

Located at the heart of the Himalayan range in northern India (State of Sikkim), the Khangchendzonga National Park includes a unique diversity of plains, valleys, lakes, glaciers and spectacular, snow-capped mountains covered with ancient forests, including the world’s third-highest peak, Mount Khangchendzonga. Mythological stories are associated with this mountain and with a great number of natural elements (caves, rivers, lakes, etc.) that are the object of worship by the indigenous people of Sikkim. The sacred meanings of these stories and practices have been integrated with Buddhist beliefs and constitute the basis for Sikkimese identity.

 

 

 

 

 

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