World Heritage Sites – India

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Agra Fort (Agra, Uttar Pradesh – 1983) – Built by the Mughal emperor Akbar in the 16th century, the massive Agra fort is located close to world famous Taj Mahal. Also known as the Red Fort of Agra, the fort houses a number of magnificent structures such as Jahangir Palace, Khas Mahal, Diwan-i-Khas and two very beautiful mosques.


Ajanta Caves (Aurangabad, Maharashtra – 1983) – Ajanta Caves, the first Buddhist caves, date back to the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. are one of the world’s greatest historical monuments. There are 30 caves at Ajanta, of which 5 are chaitya-grihas and the rest are monasteries. Ajanta caves are a masterpiece of mud-plaster paintings in tempera technique, made over centuries since the 2nd century. All paintings show heavy religious influence and centre around Buddha, Bodhisattvas, and incidents from Buddha’s life. Today, the sculptures and paintings at Ajanta are considered masterpieces of Buddhist religious art.


Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh – 1989) – Sanchi is located approx 60 kms from Bhopal, on a hill overlooking the plains. The site comprises of a group of Buddhist monuments (monolithic pillars, temples and monasteries and stupas), tracing the growth of Buddhist architecture and sculptures from the 3rd century BC to the 12th century AD. Emperor Ashoka built the Stupa at Sanchi, the central chamber of which contains relics of Buddha. The stupas at Sanchi are ornamented by depiction of incidents from the life of Lord Buddha, his previous incarnations and various episodes from Jataka tales. The museum at Sanchi displays a collection of artifacts found at the site, and nearby locations


Champaner – Pavagadh Archaeological Park (Panchmahal, Gujarat – 2004) – This site is dotted with unexcavated archaeological, historic and cultural heritage properties including prehistoric sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital, and remains of the 16th-century capital of the state of Gujarat. The site also houses fortifications, palaces, religious buildings, residential precincts, agricultural structures and water installations, built from the 8th to 14th centuries.


Churches and Convents of Goa (Old Goa – 1986) – Once the capital of the Portuguese, Old Goa is home to a number of churches and convents. The heritage sites include the Church of Bom Jesus, which contains the tomb of St Francis-Xavier.


Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Mumbai – 2004) – The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus Station, in Mumbai, 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 (Colaba, Maharashtra – 1987) – Set on an island close to Mumbai, Elephanta caves are home to 7th century rock-cut temples, featuring delicately carved panels depicting the life of Lord Shiva. The highlight is the main central cave that houses the ‘Maheshamurti’ – a three-headed sculpture of Lord Shiva resplendent in all his 3 forms i.e. creator, preserver and destroyer of life.


Ellora Caves (Aurangabad – 1983) – 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. Not only is the Ellora complex a unique artistic creation and a technological exploit but, with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it illustrates the spirit of tolerance


Fatehpur Sikri (Agra, Uttar Pradesh – 1986) – Fatehpur Sikri meaning the ‘City of Victory’ is red sandstone Mughal palatial complex, a fine example of Indo-Islamic architectural style. Within the complex lies a mosque built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar and dedicated to Sheikh Salim Chisti, a Muslim Sufi Saint who blessed Emperor Akbar with a son. Fatehpur Sikri, perched atop a rocky ridge, 40 km west of Agra, used to be the erstwhile capital of the Mughal Empire, which was abandoned by the Mughals due to water shortage.


Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (Himachal Pradesh – 2014) – This National Park in the western part of the Himalayan Mountains in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh is 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. The GHNPCA protects the monsoon-affected forests and alpine meadows of the Himalayan front ranges. It is part of the Himalaya biodiversity hotspot and includes twenty-five forest types along with a rich assemblage of fauna species, several of which are threatened. This gives the site outstanding significance for biodiversity conservation.


Great Living Chola Temples (Thanjavur – 1987) The Great Living Chola Temples were built by kings of the Chola Empire, which stretched over all of south India and the neighbouring islands. 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. The Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram, built by Rajendra I, was completed in 1035. Its 53-m vimana (sanctum tower) has recessed corners and a graceful upward curving movement, contrasting with the straight and severe tower at Thanjavur. The Airavatesvara temple complex, built by Rajaraja II, at Darasuram features a 24-m vimana and a stone image of Shiva. The temples testify to the brilliant achievements of the Chola in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting.


Group of Monuments at Hampi (Bellary, Karnataka – 1986) – Hampi was the last capital of the Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar. It remains one of the most fascinating historical sites in South India and the most beautiful and evocative of all ruins in the state of Karnataka. The Dravidian temples and palaces at Hampi date back to the 14th and 16th centuries and some of the structural ruins still exemplify architectural marvels.


Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram (Chingleput, Tamil Nadu – 1984)  – Mahabalipuram, founded by the Pallava Kings, is a town famous for its rocks carvings and monolithic sculptures. The main attractions here include the Shore temple (one of the oldest temples in south India, belonging to the early 8th century AD), Arjuna’s penance (the world’s largest bas-relief measuring 27m x 9m – this huge rock consists figures of Gods, men, beasts, birds and represents the entire creation), Five Rathas (five monolithic temples, each having its own style – also known as the “Panch Pandav Rathas”).


Group of Monuments at Pattadakal (Bijapur, Karnataka – 1987) – Ruled by the Chalukyas in the 7th and 8th centuries, the monuments at Pattadakal are known for their unique architectural forms from northern and southern India. Here one can see an impressive series of nine Hindu temples, and a Jain sanctuary.


Hill Forts of Rajasthan (Rajasthan – Jun 21, 2013) – Situated in the state of Rajastahan, includes six majestic forts in Chittorgarh; Kumbhalgarh; Sawai Madhopur; Jhalawar; Jaipur, and Jaisalmer. The eclectic architecture of the forts, some up to 20 kilometres in circumference, bears testimony to the power of the Rajput princely states that flourished in the region from the 8th to the 18th centuries. Enclosed within defensive walls are major urban centres, palaces, trading centres and other buildings including temples that often predate the fortifications within which developed an elaborate courtly culture that supported learning, music and the arts. Some of the urban centres enclosed in the fortifications have survived, as have many of the site’s temples and other sacred buildings. The forts use the natural defences offered by the landscape: hills, deserts, rivers, and dense forests. They also feature extensive water harvesting structures, largely still in use today.


Humayun’s Tomb Delhi (1993) – Built in 1570, the Humayun’s tomb in Delhi is a fine example of early Mughal architecture. The tomb is of particular cultural significance as it was the first garden-tomb of the Indian subcontinent. In fact, the tomb later inspired several major architectural innovations, including the construction of the world famous Taj Mahal. Humayun’s tomb is built in the classic Persian char bagh style – a central tomb surrounded by formal gardens. The Emperor along with his wife and other members lay buried here.


Kaziranga National Park (Assam – 1985) – Situated in the heart of Assam, Kaziranga National Park is one of the few remaining regions of eastern India undisturbed by mankind. Kaziranga is known for the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinoceroses, as well as tigers, elephants, panthers and bears, and thousands of native and migratory birds.


Keoladeo Ghana National Park (Bharatpur, Rajasthan – 1985) – Once the duck hunting reserve of the Rajput Maharajas, today Keoladeo Ghana National Park is home to a large number of native and migratory birds, especially aquatic birds. The national park accommodates more than 365 species of birds, including the rare Siberian crane. The national park is also known as Bharatpur National Park.


Khajuraho group of monuments (Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh – 1986) – Constructed by Chandella rulers between 950 and 1050 A.D, the temples in Khajuraho are known for their erotic sculptures, drawing their inspiration from the ancient art of Kama sutra. Originally, Khajuraho had around 86 temples, but now only 20 temples remain, belonging to Hinduism and Jainism.


Mahabodhi Temple Complex (Bodhgaya, Bihar – 2002): The Mahabodhi temple complex houses temples and the famous Bo tree where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. Mahabodhi Temple Complex draws Buddhists tourists from across the globe.


Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (Assam – 1985) – One of the important wildlife parks of India, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is known for the good population of one-horned rhinoceros. Manas sanctuary is also home to a great variety of wildlife, including tigers, pygmy hog and Indian elephants.


Mountain Railways of India (Darjeeling, Shimla, Nilgiris – 1999): The heritage site includes the Darjeeling Himalayan railway, Kalka – Shimla railway and Nilgiris Mountain railway. Built by the British, the railways pass through winding treks in mountains and numerous tunnels. Mountain railway was highly significant in facilitating population movement in the British colonial era and till date serves as a convenient mode of transport to hill stations in India.


Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks (Uttarakhand – 1988) – Nestled high in Western Himalayas, in the state of Uttarkhand, Valley of Flowers National Park is noted for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers and outstanding natural beauty. This park is also home to rare and endangered wildlife, including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep. Set amidst rugged mountain terrain, Nanda Devi National Park encompasses a unique transition zone between the mountain ranges of the Zanskar and the Great Himalayas.


Qutub Minar and its monuments (Delhi – 1993) – Built in the early 13th century, the Qutub Minar is a fine example of Indo-Islamic architecture and is the worlds tallest minaret. The minaret is 72.5m high, tapering from 2.75m in diameter at its peak to 14.32m at its base. The tower is surrounded by structures of archaeological significance such as 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.


Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) at Patan (Gujarat – 2014) – Rani-ki-Vav, on the banks of the Saraswati River, was initially built as a memorial to a king in the 11th century AD. Stepwells are a distinctive form of subterranean water resource and storage systems on the Indian subcontinent, and have been constructed since the 3rd millennium BC. They evolved over time from what was basically a pit in sandy soil towards elaborate multi-storey works of art and architecture. 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. Designed as an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water, it is divided into seven levels of stairs with sculptural panels of high artistic quality; more than 500 principle sculptures and over a thousand minor ones combine religious, mythological and secular imagery, often referencing literary works. The fourth level is the deepest and leads into a rectangular tank 9.5 m by 9.4 m, at a depth of 23 m. The well is located at the westernmost end of the property and consists of a shaft 10 m in diameter and 30 m deep.


Red Fort Complex (Delhi – 2007) – Situated in the heart of Old Delhi, the Red Fort Complex was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, as the palace fort of Shahjahanabad. Named for its massive red sandstone enclosing walls, the fort is home to a number of magnificent structures including the famous Diwan – I – Khas and Diwan – I – Aam.


Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (Madhya Pradesh – 1993) – Set in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains, the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are five clusters of natural rock shelters, displaying paintings that date from the Mesolithic Period right through to the historical period. The cultural traditions of the inhabitants of the 21 villages adjacent to the site bear a strong resemblance to those represented in the rock paintings.


Sun Temple, Konark (Puri, Orissa – 1984) – Konark, a small coastal town in Orissa is best known for its 13th century architectural wonder, the Sun Temple. This magnificent black granite temple was conceived as an exquisite 12 wheeled chariot of Sun God ‘Surya’ being pulled by 7 horses and remains an architectural masterpiece to date.


Sunderbans National Park (West Bengal – 1987) – World’s largest delta, the Sundarbans cover 10,000kms of land and water (more than half of it in India, the rest in Bangladesh). Sunderbans is renowned for housing world’s largest area of mangrove forests. Here you can spot a number of rare and endangered species including the famous Bengal tigers, aquatic mammals, birds and reptiles. A unique wildlife park, Sunderbans National Park is the only one of its kind in India, where you can cruise through the park spotting a variety of flora and fauna.


Taj Mahal (Agra, Uttar Pradesh – 1983) – One of the seven wonders of the world, Taj Mahal is a picturesque mausoleum of white marble. Built in the 17th century by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, the Taj Mahal is the jewel of Muslim art in India. Often referred to as a poem in white marble, Taj Mahal displays the saga of love between Emperor Shah Jahan and his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.


The Jantar Mantar (Jaipur – 2010) – 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. They are monumental examples in masonry of known instruments but which in many cases have specific characteristics of their own. Designed for the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye, they embody several architectural and instrumental innovations. This is the most significant, most comprehensive, and the best preserved of India’s historic observatories. It is an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period.


Western Ghats (2012) – Older than the Himalaya mountains, the mountain chain of the Western Ghats represents geomorphic features of immense importance with unique biophysical and ecological processes. The site’s high montane forest ecosystems influence the Indian monsoon weather pattern. Moderating the tropical climate of the region, the site presents one of the best examples of the monsoon system on the planet. It also 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.

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