Top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

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The UNESCO World Heritage Centre was born by merging two separate movements. The first was a movement for the preservation of cultural sites. The second was a movement that dealt with the conservation of nature.

It was the United States that led the movement to combine the conservation of natural wonders along with cultural sites. In 1972, the World Heritage Fund was created which aims to assist nations in identifying, preserving and promoting World Heritage Sites. To be eligible for nomination as a World Heritage Site, the place or cultural landmark must be located within the boundaries of those countries that have signed for the World Heritage Convention. As of 2018, India has 36 heritage sites, here we picked the top 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.

1. Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh

The Taj Mahal is an inspiring monument built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan between 1631 and 1648, as a tribute to the memory of his favourite wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631. It is one of the most flawless architectural creations of all time. Situated on the right bank of the Yamuna  River, Taj Mahal gleams like a jewel in the perfect setting of its vast gardens. The purity of the white marble, and the intricacy of the floral arabesques, as well as the decorative bands, all high-light to perfection the exquisite calligraphy.

2. Qutb Minar, Delhi

The Qutb Minar was built by Sultan Qutbu’d Din Aibak. The work started in 1202 and was completed by his successor Muhammed Bin Sam. This conical tower is an exquisite example of Indo-Islamic Afghan architecture. It is 72.5 meters tall and 14.32 meters at the base. The minar is 5-storeys high and each storey has a different design theme. Verses from the holy Koran are carved on its sandstone walls. It has survived the ravages of time impressively.

3. Ajanta  Caves, Maharashtra

Ajanta Caves are situated north of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. They get their name from the village of Ajanta that is located nearby. The caves are carved out of a horseshoe shaped rock surface that overlooks a stream. There are 31 caves in all, and it is believed that they were carved in the 2nd century BC as a retreat of Buddhist monks during the rainy season. The caves include the paintings and sculptures considered to be the masterpieces of Buddhist religious art.

4. Konark Sun Temple, Odisha

On the shores of the Bay of Bengal, stands a magnificent stone temple built with such precision and skill that the rays of the rising sun strike its main entry at dawn. The temple is built to resemble the Sun God’s chariot. It has 24 wheels with spokes sculpted with symbols that represent the cycle of the seasons and the months. Historians feel that the temple was built by Narasimha Deva of the Ganga dynasty around 1250.

5. Kaziranga National Park, Assam

The Kaziranga National Park is located on the banks of Brahmaputra River. It is one of the oldest parks in Assam made up of swamps and tall thickets of elephant grass. The park has an ideal habitat for the one horned Indian Rhino, in fact, it has the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinoceroses. In 1940, the park was declared a wildlife sanctuary. More than 15 species of India’s threatened mammals can be found here.

6. Khajuraho Monuments, Madhya Pradesh

Khajuraho was the first capital of the Chandelas, who ruled Bundelkhand from 10th to 14th centuries. The town got its name from the khajur or the date palm trees which abound this region. It took more than 200 years to build these Khajuraho monuments. They are a tribute to the North Indian architectural style. These extraordinary temples rise, spire upon spire, like a mirage. Khajuraho has the largest group of medieval Hindu and Jain temples.

7. Mahabodhi Temple, Bihar

The Mahabodhi Temple literally means the ‘Great Awakening Temple’. It is one of the 4 holy sites associated with the life of Lord Buddha. The temple is located in Bodh Gaya in Bihar, at the place where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. It has great influence in the development of architecture over the centuries, especially in the use of sculpted stone balustrades and the memorial column. It was declared as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2002.

8. Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh

Fatehpur Sikri was built by the Emperor Akbar in 1571. It derives its name from the village of Sikri, which occupied the spot earlier. It was built on a rocky plateau, near an artificial lake, and the monuments were constructed of red sand-stone in a blend of Hindu, Persian and Indo-Muslim traditions. There is pleasure place of Akbar called the Panch Mahal which is a 5-floored pillared pavilion in Fatehpur Sikri.

9. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus in Mumbai, was designed by the British architect F.W. Stevens. It soon became the symbol of Mumbai. The terminal was built over 10 years, starting in 1878 and represents Victorian Gothic revival architecture in India, with a blend of themes derived from Indian traditional architecture. CST is one of the historic structures in Mumbai and is also the headquarters of the Central Railways of the country.

10. Mountain Railways

There are three mountain railways in India that are included in the World Heritage List. The first is the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR), second is the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR), and the third one is the Kalka Shimla Railway (KSR). The DHR was laid to connect Darjeeling with Siliguri and it passes through 13 stations during its journey. The NMR connects the hill station of Ooty to Mettupalayam, at the foot of Nilgiri hills. The KSR was built to connect the summer residences of the British with the capital in Delhi.