9 World Heritage Sites in India


India is home to 28 World Heritage Sites as recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). These are places of cultural or natural heritage. As of date, there are 911 properties under the World Heritage List, which cover 711 cultural sites, 180 natural sites and 27 mixed properties across 152 countries. We present some of the lesser-known World Heritage Sites in India...

Built in: 3BC, 5 and 6AD and 19AD
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Monument for its cultural and archaeological importance. 

The Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya (Buddha Gaya) is spread over an area of 12 acres. The first temple built here was created around the Bodhi Tree by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd Century BC. This temple marks the place where Siddharth Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment in 531BC at the age of 35 and from where he started to propagate Buddhism. However, the temples now seen date between the 5th and 6th Centuries AD and the structures have been built with bricks. The main temple in the complex is 50mts tall and is the oldest temple in the Indian sub-continent. It was built during the Golden Age of Indian culture, credited to the Gupta Period. Sculpted balustrades of the Ashokan times are preserved in the Archaeological Museum located within the temple complex.

Built in: 1570
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Monument for its cultural importance. 

Humayun's Tomb was the first tomb built with several architectural innovations. Set at the centre of luxurious gardens with water channels, it was a precursor to the Taj Mahal, which was built a century later. It was built between 1569 and 1570 by Mughal Emperor Humayun's widow, Biga Begum (Hajji Begum). Its architecture has been credited to Mirza Ghiyath and is known for its double domed elevation provided with chhatris (umbrella-like structures). The tomb is built with a char-bagh (fourfold) layout with two gates, one on the south and the other on the west. It has a number of water channels, a pavilion and a bath. The tomb is set on an irregular octagonal plinth and has a raised dome of 42.5mts height, covered by marble slabs and decorated with chhatris.

Built in: Prehistoric times and 8th to 14th Centuries
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a natural site. 

The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is situated in the Panchmahal district in Gujarat. The area is known for its concentration of largely unexcavated archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage properties cradled in an impressive landscape that includes prehistoric (chalcolithic) sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital and remains of the 16th Century capital of the state of Gujarat. The site also includes palaces, religious buildings, residential precincts, agricultural structures and water installations that date between the 8th and 14th Centuries. The Kalikamata Temple on top of the Pavagadh Hill is considered to be an important shrine. It attracts large numbers of pilgrims throughout the year. The site is also the only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city.

Built in: 8th Century
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural and archaeological importance. 

The group of monuments in Pattadakal were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 and include a remarkable series of nine Hindu temples as well as a Jain sanctuary. The Virupaksha Temple, built in 740 by Queen Lokamahadevi to commemorate her husband's victory over the kings from the south, is considered the most outstanding architectural edifice on the site. The monuments include temples built during the Chalukya Dynasty in the 6th Century at Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal, which was known as the 'City of the Crown Rubies and was the capital city of the Chalukya Kingdom when the Pallavas had occupied Badami in the 7th Century. The temples represent a remarkable fusion of the architectural features of northern and southern India. Pattadakal is also considered as a Hindu holy city with eight temples dedicated to Shiva as well as a Shaivite sanctuary, the Papanatha Temple and a Jain temple.

Built in: 11th and 12th Centuries
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural importance. 

The Great Living Chola Temples were built by kings of the Chola Empire, which stretched across all of Tamil Nadu. This cultural heritage site includes three great temples of the 11th and 12th Centuries namely 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 53mt-tall 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 24mt vimana and a stone image of Shiva. The temples showcase the brilliant achievements of the Chola Dynasty in architecture, sculpture, painting and bronze casting.

Built in: 19th and early 20th Century
Given World Heritage recognition for being outstanding examples of bold, ingenious engineering solutions for the problem of establishing an effective rail link through a rugged, mountainous terrain. 

The Mountain Railways of India include five railway lines built in the mountains of India in the 19th and early 20th Century, during the British Raj. These railway lines are operated even today by the Indian Railways. 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. These are the Nilgiri Mountain Railway in southern India and the Matheran Hill Railway in Maharashtra.

Built in: 2nd and 1st Centuries BC
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Monument as a unique cultural property representing a long interaction of the people and the landscape with links to the hunting gathering economy of the past. 

The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka include a magnificent collection of rock paintings within natural rock shelters. They are located in the foothills of the Vindhya range of hills in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The shelters are spread across sandstone formations extending over an area of 1,893 hectares with a buffer zone of 10,280 hectares (25,400 acres). The rock shelters, discovered only in 1957, comprise a group of five clusters of rock shelters with paintings that are believed to date from the Mesolithic Period right through to the Historical Period. At that time, 21 villages surrounded this area and the traditions of the villages are reflected
and displayed in these rock paintings. This unique rock art has been discovered in 400 painted shelters spread
amidst dense forests with highly diverse flora and fauna. The shelters date back between 100000BC (Late
Acheulian) to 1000AD.

Built in: 16th Century
Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Monument for its cultural and archaeological importance. 

Agra Fort, also known as the Red Fort of Agra, represents Mughal opulence and power. The fortress is located on the right bank of the Yamuna River and is built in red sandstone. Covering a length of 2.5kms and surrounded by a moat, the fort encloses several palaces, towers and mosques. These were built during the reign of Emperor Akbar, Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb from the 16th Century till the early 18th Century. The impressive structures built within the precincts of the fort include the Khas Mahal, the Shish Mahal, Muhamman Burje (an octagonal tower), Diwan-i-Khas, Diwan-i-Am, the white marble mosque or the Pearl Mosque and the Nagina Masjid. These monuments are remarkable for the fusion of Persian art and Indian art forms. The Agra Fort is located very close to the famous Taj Mahal with a buffer zone separating the two monuments.

Built in: 1939 and 1982
Inscribed as part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves. 

The Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks are nestled high in the West Himalayas. Valley of Flowers National Park, renowned for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers and outstanding natural beauty, is located in the Garhwal Himalaya of the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand (formerly a part of Uttar Pradesh). This richly diverse area is also home to rare and endangered animals including the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep. The gentle landscape of the Valley of Flowers National Park complements the rugged mountain wilderness of Nanda Devi National Park.

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