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iXiGOers Jul 11 2013

Which are the famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India?

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Here is the list of the famous UNESCO World Heritage sites in India.

Qutub Minar, Delhi

Qutub minar is 234 ft high and is one of the tallest and most famous towers of the world. It is part of the timeless landscape of Delhi and features 5 storeys. Each storey is surrounded by a balcony around the minar and supported by honeycomb-designed stone brackets. Arabic and Nagari inscriptions record the story of Qutub and the various repairs carried out.

Hampi, Karnataka

The monuments of Vijayanagar, Hampi, are spread over 26 sq km. ‘Hampi’ is derived from the river Pampa. Visiting chroniclers from Arabia, Italy, Portugal and Russia have described the city’s grandeur. This site is possibly the monkey kingdom of Pampakshetra of Kishkinda mentioned in the Ramayana, and the capital of the last great Hindu Kingdom of the 14th century, Vijayanagar. The famous attractions of Hampi include Pampapati temple, Jain temples, Singaradu Hebbagilu, Vithala Temple, Lotus Mahal, Hazararama Temple and Sugriva’s cave.

Mountain Railways

There are three hill railways worthy of a mention, and are named UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The first is the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway that first ran in 1881 and connects New Jalpaiguri with Darjeeling. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway or The Blue Mountain Express in Tamil Nadu connects Mettupalayam to Udagamandalam (Ooty). The Kalka Shimla Railway is a 96-km long, single track working rail, passes through multi-arched viaducts, tunnels and many curves and chugs through steep mountains.

Sun Temple, Konark

The Konark sun temple is a symbol of the mathematical capabilities of the ancients and how they observed and used nature in their lives. Built in the 13th-century in the form of a chariot drawn by seven horses, the vehicle of the Sun God in Hinduism, the Sun Temple has 24 wheels.

The spokes are actually sundials and help to find the exact time according to the position of the sun and the shadows. The base of the temple, walls and roof have erotic carvings. Three images of the Sun God are positioned to catch the rays of the sun at dawn, noon and sunset. Every piece of sculpture, free standing or part of intricately-designed sceneries, is breathtaking.

Mahabodhi Temple, Bihar

Bodhgaya is the most important Buddhist pilgrimage for followers of the faith the world over. The Mahabodhi Temple Complex of Bodhgaya or Uruvela, as it was known during Buddha’s age, is spread over 12 acres. The main temple, in typical Indian architectural style, is 50 m in height. It is supposed to be the oldest temple surviving in the India.The Archaeological Museum within the temple complex has preserved sculpted balustrades from the time of King Ashoka.

Sunderbans, West Bengal

The Sunderban National Park is the largest estuarine mangrove forest in the world. It is a National Park, Tiger Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve. Situated in the Sunderbans Ganga river delta bordering the Bay of Bengal in West Bengal, the ecosystem stretches across 10,000 km of land and water. It is a home to many mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrate species.

Chola Temples, Tamil Nadu

These temples were symbols of an intense religious commitment of the tremendous power, wealth and imperial rule of the Cholas over vast territories from the east coast of India, Sri Lanka, Burma and the Malay peninsula. There are so many temples in the surrounding area that you will be spoilt for choice.

All the three UNESCO World Heritage Monuments that form the Great Living Chola Temples, are located in and around Thanjavur. The must visit temples in Thanjavur include Brihadeeswara Temple, Airateswara Temple and Gangaikonda Cholapuram.

Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh

Taj Mahal, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was built as a tomb by the grieving Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife Begum Mumtaz Mahal who died in 1631. Made in white marble in typical Mughal style, it seamlessly blends elements from Persian, Islamic and Indian styles. This is a monument with immediate recall, a symbol of love and one of the most photographed monuments in the world. It represents the pinnacle of Mughal architecture.

Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra

One of the most cherished artistic and cultural heritage sites of India, these caves express the artistic skills and spiritual dedication of monks who created an amazing museum of paintings and art work in such a secluded and remote area.

Developed in two phases, these Buddhist caves are a collection of richly-decorated paintings and frescoes that were preserved for posterity by unique methods. Placed in a horseshoe shape, the Ajanta Caves are known for their carvings and wall paintings.

Ellora Caves, Maharashtra

Ellora, one of the largest rock-hewn monastic temple complexes in the world, is famous for the largest single monolithic excavation, the great Kailasa. Ellora caves are hewn out of the volcanic basaltic formation of Maharashtra. The 34 caves contain Buddhist Chaityas or halls of worship and Viharas or monasteries and Hindu and Jain temples.

Agra Fort, Uttar Pradesh

The Agra Fort, the stronghold of the Mughals, is witness to many battles and royal prisoners. It has buildings decorated in the Mughal architectural style. Sikandar Lodi (1487- 1517 CE), the Sultan of Delhi, first shifted his capital to Agra. More than 4,000 builders worked daily and completed it in eight years (1565-1573). Only 30 monuments like the Akbari-Gate and Bengali-Mahal survive.

Humayun’s Tomb, New Delhi

In the heart of Delhi is Humayun’s Tomb, the first garden tomb in India. The impressive blue domed tomb made with Persian tiles was designed by a Persian, Mirak Mirza Ghiyath. In the same compound, the mosque of Isa Khan, a noble of Humayun’s enemy Sher Shah, is quite distinctive in structure. The ‘Arab Serai’ was built to accommodate the 200 Arabs brought by Hamida Banu from Mecca.

Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Bharatpur

Popularly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, it lies between Agra and Jaipur. Falling in the Indus-Ganges Monsoon Forest Biogeographical Province, the park is named after the Keoladeo (Shiva) temple situated inside it.

Famous for over 364 species of birds, including the Siberian Crane, the park became a bird sanctuary in 1956, and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1985. Dr Salim Ali, the famous ornithologist, worked hard to initiate preservation of this natural reserve.

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam

Situated at the foothills of the Himalayas in Assam, it is a one-of-its-kind reserve in the entire North-east. Home to over 20 endangered species, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary was made a part of Project Tiger in 1973 and a National Park in September, 1990. Go for boat rides or elephant rides and spot animals in the jungle or at the waterfront. Manas is also famous for its population of the wild water buffalo.

Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks

The ecosystem of Valley of Flowers is home to rare and endangered animals. The parks form a passage between mountain ranges of the Zanskar and the Himalayas and are dominated by the Nanda Devi, India’s second highest peak. The Nanda Devi National Park (November, 1982), occupying 87.5 km, is designated as the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.

Kaziranga National Park, Assam

The Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary and National Park is situated in the flood plains of the Brahmaputra’s south bank. Spread over 430 sq km, verdant with swamps and tall thickets of elephant grass, its famous inhabitants includes great Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros.

Mamallapuram Group of Monuments, Tamil Nadu

Mamallapuram, also known as Mahabalipuram or ‘Mahabs’ (World Heritage Site, 1995) has offers the sun, sea and heritage on a platter. Mamallapuram was the second capital of the Pallava Kings and is famous for rock carvings. There are 14 cave temples and eight monolithic impressive raths or chariots.

In a natural rock crevice, a superbly-carved relief depicts Arjuna’s Penance, the descent of river Ganga and a host of human and animal carvings in minute detail. On the other side, you can spot Lord Krishna lifting the Govardana hill. The 17th century Shore Temple, a scene of fresh excavations now, features Shiva and Vishnu shrines.

Western Group of Temples, Khajuraho, MP

One of the Seven Wonders of India, the western group of temples are better known as the ‘Temples of Love,’. Now only 20 Hindu and Jain temples remain. The Western Group, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has Hindu temples that contain the finest examples of Chandela art before the 12th century.

Sculptors depicted spiritual themes and other aspects of daily life including sexual poses. Visit the Kandariya Mahadev temple, the Chaunsath Yogini temple and the Chitragupta Temple that is the only sun temple in Khajuraho.

Fatehpur Sikri, Uttar Pradesh

Sikri was the first planned city of the Mughals. The tomb of Saint Salim Chishti has pilgrims flocking it from all over the country. For nearly 12 years, Akbar used Sikri as his capital. Built of red sandstone, the buildings are full of Hindu-style pillars, ornamental arches, parapets, lacy jharokhas, sculpted chhatris and Muslim cupolas. The architecture of Fatehpur Sikri reflects an Indo-Muslim style.

Jantar Mantar, Jaipur, Rajasthan

At first sight, it looks like a giant playground. Its collection of brickwork astronomical instruments attracts architects, artists and art historians. The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is the largest and best preserved of these structures.

The observatory consists of 14 major geometric devices for measuring time, predicting eclipses, tracking stars’ location as the earth orbits around the sun, ascertaining the declinations of planets and determining the celestial altitudes and related ephemerides.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai

The CST is a living monument in Victorian Gothic Revival and Indian styles with modern technological and structural elements. The umbilical cord of Mumbai and India’s most beautiful railway station. Locally called VT, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is still used daily by suburban trains and caters to over three million commuters.

The terminus dome is crowned by a huge female figure holding a torch and a spoked wheel in her hands. The Star Chamber with Italian marble and polished blue stone continues to be the booking office.

Red Fort, Delhi

The Red Fort or Lal Qila is a living monument and a symbol of India’s composite history where the annual Independence Day celebrations take place. The fort, built on the right bank of the Yamuna, is enclosed by a rubble stone wall with bastions and 14 gates like Lahori, Ajmeri, etc.

Begun in 1639 and completed after nine years, it is an irregular octagonal shape with two longer sides to the east and west. The fort combines Islamic principles with Persian, Timurid and Hindu influences.

Champaner Monuments, Gujarat

The Champaner-Pavagadh monuments are an archaeological park. Champaner, Pavagadh hill, at the foothills of the famous pilgrimage centre Kalikadevi temple, has a serene lake with temples on its banks. The historical monuments are fortifications on the Mauliya plateau on top of the hill. On the way to the fort you can see the Chauhan kings’ seven-storey palace.

Elephanta Caves, Maharashtra

The Elephanta Caves are 10 km off the coast of Mumbai, and provides a panoramic view of the city’s skyline. Five Hindu caves and shrines on the western hill are embellished with stunning stone sculptures, UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES the work of Chalukya and Rashtrakuta rulers. The Portuguese renamed it as ‘Elephanta’ after an elephant sculpture that was later removed.

Pattadakal Group of Temples, Karnataka

The temples in Pattadakal mark the transition from rock cut cave structures to building temples. The oldest temple Sangamesvara of Satyasraya (697-733 CE), Kadasiddhesvara and Jambulingeswara temples (7th c CE), Galaganatha temple (or Palluni) on Tungabhadra river with a huge Sparsha linga and the last temple to be built and Kasivisvesvara, blend styles of architecture like Rekha, Nagara, Prasada and Dravida Pallava architecture in the multi-storeyed vimanas. The graceful Chalukya style with attention to details can be seen on ceiling panels.

Churches and Convents, Goa

The churches and convents at Velha (Old) Goa, have been responsible for spreading the artistic styles of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art. These monuments of Goa, known as the ‘Rome of the Orient’ were made with local laterite. This had to be plastered and finished with a lime whitewash.

In design and style, the Sé Cathedral, the 1510 Chapel of St Catherine, the Church and Convent of Saint Francis of Assisi that houses the Archaeological Museum and the black granite Church of Bom Jesus and the Basilica of St Francis Xavier are beautifully built.

Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh

The five clusters of natural rock shelters contain artwork painted from the Mesolithic Period to the historical period. The cultural traditions of the adivasi people of the nearby 21 villages reflect the scenes of the rock paintings. Bhimbetka showcases a hunting and gathering economy. The area is rich in natural resources like perennial water, natural shelter and rich forest flora and fauna that are reflected in the exquisite rock art.

Buddhist Monuments, Sanchi, MP

The Sanchi monuments are the oldest Buddhist stupas with monolithic pillars, palaces, temples and monasteries and are associated with Emperor Ashoka who adopted and helped spread Buddhism.

The 17-m high brick structure of the Great Stupa is a windowless shrine with a terrace-shaped substructure. On that is a platform crowned by a conical spiral. The four entrances have magnificent gates embellished with detailed carvings. The most decorated northern gate depicts scenes from Buddha’s life.

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