World Heritage Sites in India - Part I


Why should you read this topic?

Assuming that you are preparing for bank recruitment tests, you should realize that there is a section on General Awareness that tests if you are aware of the happening around you. The happening on Economy, Sports, Industry, Trade and Policies. Who would assume that you will be a prospective bank hire without knowing the fundamentals of General Awareness? So, it is high time that you started taking the GK-in-Depth articles, and Daily GK Digest diligently. You are shown the resources, it is on you to utilize them. And, if you are planning to take MBA tests like CAT, FMS, XLRI, NMAT, even then the General Awareness plays a significant role in the Group Activity and interview rounds.

What is a world heritage site?

A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area which is selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, and is legally protected by international treaties. The sites are judged important to the collective interests of humanity.

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What are the criteria?

To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be an already classified landmark, unique in some respect as a geographically and historically identifiable place having special cultural or physical significance (such as an ancient ruin or historical structure, building, city, complex, desert, forest, island, lake, monument, mountain, or wilderness area). It may signify a remarkable accomplishment of humanity, and serve as evidence of our intellectual history on the planet. The sites are intended for practical conservation for posterity, which otherwise would be subject to risk from human or animal trespassing, unmonitored/uncontrolled/unrestricted access, or threat from local administrative negligence. Sites are demarcated by UNESCO as protected zones.

How did the idea begin?

In 1954, the desert valley containing the twin Abu Simbel temples – which were carved out of a mountainside in southern Egypt in the 13th century BC on the orders of the Pharaoh Ramesses II – were about to be flooded by the building of the Aswan Dam. Frustrated by the Egyptian government's lack of action to protect the ancient buildings, Unesco launched a worldwide campaign that saved the temples by relocating them to higher ground at a cost of $80m, half of it collected from 50 countries.

The project was such a success that Unesco campaigns followed to save Venice and the ruins of one of the world's earliest urban settlements, Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan's Indus Valley, as well as the largest Buddhist structure in existence, the Borobodur temple compounds in Java, Indonesia.


The United States initiated the idea of cultural conservation with nature conservation. The White House conference in 1965 called for a "World Heritage Trust" to preserve "the world's superb natural and scenic areas and historic sites for the present and the future of the entire world citizenry". The International Union for Conservation of Nature developed similar proposals in 1968, and they were presented in 1972 to the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. Under the World Heritage Committee, signatory countries are required to produce and submit periodic data reporting providing the World Heritage Committee with an overview of each participating nation's implementation of the World Heritage Convention and a "snapshot" of current conditions at World Heritage properties.

A single text was agreed on by all parties, and the "Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage" was adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on 16 November 1972.

The Convention came into force on 17 December 1975.

Who gives the tag?

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which is elected by nation states every four years. It meets once a year to choose the world's natural or human-made wonders in the greatest need of protection. Any country is eligible to send in a list of nominees for protection.

What happened at the recent session of World Heritage Committee?

The 42nd session of World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) held in Manama, Bahrain has inscribed four cultural sites on the World Heritage List. These four cultural sites are –

  • Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai (India),

  • Sassanid Archaeological Landscape of Fars region (Iran),

  • Hidden Christian Sites in Nagasaki Region (Japan)

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  • Sansa, Buddhist Mountain Monasteries in Korea (South Korea).

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What are the benefits?

  • Identity: The recognized site gets a new identity world over. The status itself confirms about the outstanding and exceptional features of the listed site.

  • Funding: The site gets funds from a global body for its protection and conservation.

  • Tourism: once listed, it brings international attention to the site. Hence, ensures economic benefits to the nation.
  • Protection during wartime: the site becomes protected under Geneva convention against destruction or misuse during war.

  • Access to global project management resources, as they will be more willing to participate with such projects.

How many are there in the world?

There are a total of 1073 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world (as of January 2018: 832 Cultural, 206 Natural and 35 Mixed). Here are the top 20 countries having the most number of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

How many in India?

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As of June 2018, India has 37 heritage sites, the sixth most of any country.

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary was listed as being in danger in 1992, but was removed in 2011 following significant improvements. Hampi was added to the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger in 1999, but removed in 2006 following successful conservation efforts. Kumbh Mela which is organized in every 12 years in different holy places in India viz. Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Haridwar in Uttarakhand and Nashik, Maharashtra is selected in UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists in 2017.

  • In yet another landmark achievement, India’s nomination of the "Victorian and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai " has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The decision was taken at the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO at Manama in Bahrain. As recommended by the World Heritage Committee, India accepted the renaming of the ensemble as “Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai”.

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Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam (1985)

  • The Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the province of Assam in India and one of the province’s most important tourist attractions. Its unique natural environment contributed to it being named as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. In 1908, it was named as a reserved forest in order to preserve the dwindling population of the rhinoceros species that inhabit the area. In 1950, it was renamed to its current name and was named a national park in 1974. This area is most notable for being the habitat of the largest population of the Indian one-horned rhinoceros, as well as several other species of mammals and birds.

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam (1985)

  • This is another site in the Assam province that was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This one is located within the plains in Manas River and the foot of the Himalayas. This sanctuary serves as home to various plant species and threatened species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians. After it was declared as a reserved forest, it was elevated into a sanctuary until it was included in the “Project Tiger” wherein the sanctuary was developed into a tiger reserve. It was also named as one of the World Heritage Sites in Danger but was restored with extensive conservation efforts in 2011.

Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya, Bihar (2002)

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  • This temple complex is not only a World Heritage Site in India but is also considered as one of the four holy sites relating to the life of Buddha. Much of the property left today is part of the ruins of a temple complex built in the 5th and 6th century AD. It is one of the first Buddhist temples that were constructed solely out of brick. In fact, it started the development of brick architecture in the centuries to follow. UNESCO recognized both the temple area and the Lotus Pond around it in the listing.

Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi (1993)

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  • This tomb was commonly referred to as the precursor to the Taj Mahal, which introduced several innovations by the time it was built. Built in the 16th century, this site was listed by UNESCO due to its cultural value. It was built for by the widow of Mughal Emperor Humayun and is a work of Mirza Ghiyath using the Mughal architectural style. It has also earned the name as “Necorpolis of the Mughal dynasty”. The property holds the tomb of Humayun and 150 tombs from the royal family.

Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi (1993)

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  • This complex of monuments was inscribed into the list of World Heritage Sites in India by UNESCO in 1993. The main feature of the complex is the red sandstone tower, Qutb Minar, that rises to a height of over 72 meters. These complex structures were built in the 13th century that testify to the Islamic depredations during that time (the materials used for constructing these structures were from the ruins of Jain and Hindu temples). It is most notable for showcasing the artistic and architectural excellence of Islam.

Red Fort Complex, Delhi (2007)

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  • This palace fort was built for the 5th Mughal Emperor in the 17th century. In 2007, it was inscribed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India due to the unique architectural design that features a blend of Indian, Persian and Timuri styles. In fact, it is believed that the Persian capital was the source of inspiration for the construction of this fort complex. The enclosure wall surrounding this palace complex is made out of red sandstone, which is why it was named as the Red Fort Complex.

Churches and Convents of Goa (1986)

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  • This is another cultural property listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. These monuments were built by the Portuguese colonial rulers during the 16th and 18th centuries in Goa. The Basilica of Born Jesus is the primary structure among these monuments, which also houses the tomb with the relics of St. Francis Xavier. This site has been dubbed as the “Rome of the Orient”.

Champaner-Pavagahdh Archaeological Park, Gujarat (2004)

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  • This cultural site was inscribed in 2004 as it holds a large collection of unexcavated archaeological properties within a prehistoric landscape. Within this archaeological park is a prehistoric chalcolithic site, hill fortress and what is left of the 16th century Gujarat capital. From palaces, to religious buildings, to fortifications and agricultural structures, all of these combine to making this site important to the region.

Group of Monuments at Hampi, Karnataka (1986)

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  • This group of monuments dominates a somber but ostentatious town of Hampi. It was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 as the temples showcase how the town became an important religious center for the Hindu worshippers. The Virupaksha temple and several other monuments comprise this cultural heritage site.

Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, Karnataka (1987)

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  • This site is composed of nine Hindu temples and a Jain sanctuary. The most important architectural edifice belonging to this group of monuments is the Virupaksha Temple, which should not be confused with the temple of the same name in Hampi. Most of these temples were built during the reign of the Chalukya Dynasty from the 6th to the 8th centuries. The temples also showcase a combination of architectural styles inspired by northern and southern India.

Where are the others in the list?

Stay tuned to:


Read 125 times Last modified on Saturday, 06 October 2018 11:07
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