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A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific, or other forms of significance. The sites are judged to contain “cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity”.
By assigning places as World Heritage Sites, UNESCO wants to help to pass them on to future generations. Its motivation is that “heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today” and that both cultural and natural heritage are “irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration”. UNESCO’s mission with respect to World Heritage consists of eight sub-targets. These include encouraging the commitment of countries and local populations to World Heritage conservation in various ways, providing emergency assistance for sites in danger, offering technical assistance and professional training, and supporting States Parties’ public awareness-building activities.
World Heritage Sites in India by UNESCO:
- The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is the nodal agency for forwarding any request for World Heritage status to any Indian site whether cultural or natural.
- Based on the proposals received from the Central or State Government agencies as well as management Trusts, etc., and after their due scrutiny, the Government forwards the nomination dossiers to the World Heritage Center.
- India now has 35 sites, including 27 cultural properties, seven natural sites, and one mixed site, notified as World Heritage Sites.
- The latest entries in 2016 were – (1) Nalanda University (2) Capitol Complex and (3) Khangchendzonga National Park (mixed site).
- The list of places in India that have been granted World Heritage status by UNESCO.
Criteria For Selection:
A. Criteria for Natural Sites:
- Contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
- Outstanding examples represent major stages of the earth’s history, including the record of life, significant ongoing geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features.
- These outstanding examples represent significant ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal, and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.
- Contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
B. Criteria for Cultural Sites:
- To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius”.
- “To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design”.
- “To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared”.
- “To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history”.
- “To be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change”.
- “To be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.
Legal Status Of Designated Sites:
Once a site is declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO, it is accepted as prima facie evidence that such a site is culturally sensitive and warrants legal protection pursuant to the law of war under the Geneva Convention, its Articles, Protocols, and Customs, together with the other treaties including the Hague Convention for the protection of Cultural Property in the Events of Armed Conflict and the International Law.
Article 53 of the Geneva Convention:
PROTECTION OF CULTURAL OBJECTS AND PLACES OF WORSHIP-Without prejudice to the provision of the “Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 14 May 1954’ and of other relevant international instruments, it is prohibited:
- To commit any act of hostility directed against the historic monuments, works of art, or places of worship that constitute the cultural or spiritual heritage of people.
- To use such objects in support of the military efforts.
- To make such objects the object of reprisals.
Also Read: Climate Change Policy of India
List of All UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India:
Name of Site: Ajanta Caves.
Importance: The Buddhist Caves in Ajanta are approximately 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments dating from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 CE in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state in India. The caves include paintings and rock-cut sculptures described as among the finest surviving examples of ancient Indian art, particularly expressive paintings that present emotions through gesture, pose and form.
Name of Site: Ellora Caves.
Importance: It is one of the largest rock-cut Hindu temple cave complexes in the world, featuring Buddhist and Jain monuments with artwork dating from the period 600–1000 CE. Cave 16 features the largest single monolithic rock excavation in the world, the Kailash temple, a chariot-shaped monument dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Name of Site: Agra Fort.
Importance: This is one of the most prominent monumental structures by the Mughal empire.
Name of Site: Taj Mahal.
Importance: This is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
Name of Site: Sun Temple.
Importance: This temple is famous for the traditional style of Kalinga Architecture.
Name of Site: Mahabalipuram Monuments.
Location: Tamil Nadu.
Importance: This monument is famous for being the Largest Open-Air Rock Relief, Mandapas, Chariot Temples, It is a Pallava Dynasty Architecture.
Name of Site: Kaziranga National Park.
Importance: Famous for Worlds 2/3rd population of Great One-Horned Rhinoceroses. It has the highest density of Tigers in the World, Wild Water Buffalo, Elephants, Swamp Deer, and the park is also recognized as the Important Bird Area.
Name of Site: Keoladeo National Park.
Importance: This former duck-hunting reserve of the Maharajas is one of the major wintering areas for large numbers of aquatic birds from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia. Some 364 species of birds, including the rare Siberian crane, have been recorded in the park.
Name of Site: Manas Wildlife Sanctuary.
Importance: This sanctuary is famous for Project Tiger Reserve, Biosphere Reserve and Elephant Reserve.
Name of Site: Churches and Convents of Goa.
Importance: The churches and convents of Goa, the former capital of the Portuguese Indies – particularly the Church of Bom Jesus, which contains the tomb of St Francis-Xavier – illustrate the evangelization of Asia. These monuments were influential in spreading forms of Manueline, Mannerist, and Baroque art in all the countries of Asia where missions were established.
Name of Site: Monuments of Khajuraho.
Location: Madhya Pradesh.
Importance: This monument is popular for a group of Jain and Hindu Temples. It is situated 175 km southeast of Jhansi. Well known for its Nagara style symbolism and erotic figures and sculptures.
Name of Site: Monuments of Hampi.
Importance: Hampi is an ancient village in the south Indian state of Karnataka. It’s dotted with numerous ruined temple complexes from the Vijayanagara Empire. On the south bank of the River Tungabhadra is the 7th-century Hindu Virupaksha Temple, near the revived Hampi Bazaar. A carved stone chariot stands in front of the huge Vittala Temple site. Southeast of Hampi, Daroji Bear Sanctuary is home to the Indian sloth bear.
Name of Site: Fatehpur Sikri.
Importance: Its structure constitutes of four main Monuments. The Jama Masjid, The Buland Darwaza, Panch Mahal or Jada Baai ka Mahal, Diwan-e-Khas, Diwan-e-aam.
Name of Site: Elephanta Caves.
Importance: The Elephanta Caves contain rock cut stone sculptures, mostly in high relief, that show syncretism of Hindu and Buddhist ideas and iconography.
Name of Site: Chola Temples.
Location: Tamil Nadu
Importance: This temple is popular for Chola Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, and Bronze Casting.
Name of Site: Pattadakal Monuments
Importance: It is popular for its Chalukya style of architecture that originated in Aihole and blended with the Nagara and Dravidian styles of architecture.
Name of Site: Sundarban National Park.
Location: West Bengal.
Importance: This National Park is popular as Biosphere Reserve, Largest Estuarine Mangrove Forest, Bengal Tiger, and Salt-Water Crocodile.
Name of Site: Nanda Devi & Valley of Flowers National Park.
Importance: It is famous for Snow Leopard, Asiatic Black Bear, Brown Bear, Blue Sheep, and Himalayan Monal, World Network of Biosphere Reserves.
Name of Site: Monuments of Buddha.
Location: Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh.
Importance: It is popular for Monolithic Pillars, Palaces, Monasteries, Temples Mauryan Architecture, Ye Dharma Hetu Inscriptions.
Name of Site: Humayun’s Tomb.
Importance: Humayun’s tomb is the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun in Delhi, India. The tomb was commissioned by Humayun’s first wife and chief consort, Empress Bega Begum, in 1558, and designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas and his son, Sayyid Muhammad, Persian architects were chosen by her.
Name of Site: Qutub Minar and its Monuments.
Importance: Includes Qutub Minar, Alai Darwaza, Alai Minar, Qubbat-ul-Islam Mosque, Tomb of Iltumish, and Iron
Name of Site: Mountain Railways of Darjeeling, Kalka Shimla & Nilgiri.
Importance: The mountain railways of India comprise of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and the Kalka-Shimla.
Name of Site: Mahabodhi Temple.
Importance: The Mahabodhi Temple or the Mahabodhi Mahavihar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an ancient, but much rebuilt and restored, a Buddhist temple in Bodh Gaya, marking the location where the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment.
Name of Site: Bhimbetka Rock Shelters.
Location: Madhya Pradesh.
Importance: The Bhimbetka rock shelters are archaeological site in central India that spans the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods, as well as the historic period. It exhibits the earliest traces of human life in India and evidence of the Stone Age starting at the site in Acheulian times.
Name of Site: Shivaji Terminus.
Importance: It is popular for central Railways Headquarters, Terror Attacks on Mumbai in 2008, Gothic Style Architecture.
Name of Site: Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park.
Importance: This place is the only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city. The park also houses some of the ancient Chalcolithic Indian Sites, from the Stone Age era.
Name of Site: Red Fort.
Importance: It is popular for Shahjahanabad, Persian, Timuri and Indian Architectural Styles, Red Sandstone Architecture, Moti Masjid.
Name of Site: Jantar Mantar.
Importance: Famous for Architectural Astronomical Instruments, Maharaja Jai Singh II, Largest of its kind Observatory.
Name of Site: Western Ghats.
Location: Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra.
Importance: Famous for Among World’s Ten “Hottest Biodiversity Hotspots”. Includes many National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries, and Reserve Forests.
Name of Site: Hill Forts.
Importance: The North Western Indian State of Rajasthan has over one hundred fortifications on hills and mountainous terrain. Six Hill Forts of Rajasthan spread across Rajasthan state in northern India.
Name of Site: Rani Ki Vav (The Queen’s Stepwell).
Importance: It is an explicit example of fine Ancient Indian architecture which is constructed during the time of the Solanki dynasty.
Name of Site: Great Himalayan National Park.
Location: Himachal Pradesh.
Importance: It is home to about 375 fauna species and several floral species, including some very rare species of plants and animals such as blue sheep, snow leopard, Himalayan brown bear etc.
Name of Site: Nalanda.
Importance: a renowned Buddhist monastic university in ancient Magadha (modern-day Bihar), India. Considered by historians to be the world’s very first residential university and among the greatest centers of learning in the ancient world.
Name of Site: Khangchendzonga National Park.
Importance: The national park is famous for its fauna and flora, with snow leopards being occasionally sighted.
Name of Site: Architectural Work of Le Corbusier (Capitol Complex).
Importance: Recognized as a World Heritage Site as part of an outstanding contribution to the Modern Movement.
Name of Site: The Historic City.
Importance: A walled city on the banks of Sabarmati where communities following Hinduism, Islam, and Jainism have co-existed for centuries.
Name of Site: Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles.
Importance: It is a group of notable architectural buildings set along a peninsula in the Arabian Sea. Grand structures surround grassy Oval Maidan Park, including the imposing 19th-century High Court of Bombay, while cricket games are popular at Brabourne Stadium. The area is also home to the University of Mumbai, as well as casual eateries.
Name of Site: The Pink City.
Importance: Jaipur is a home of many magnificent forts, palaces, temples, and museums and also filled to the brim with local handicrafts and trinkets.
Name of Site: Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple.
Importance: It is the main Shiva temple in a walled complex built during the Kakatiyan period (1123–1323 CE) under rulers Rudradeva and Recharla Rudra. Construction of the sandstone temple began in 1213 CE and is believed to have continued over some 40 years. The temple is especially known for lightweight porous bricks which are known as floating bricks.
Name of Site: Dholavira.
Importance: It is an archaeological site at Khadirbet in Bhachau Taluka of Kutch District, in the state of Gujarat in western India, which has taken its name from a modern-day village 1 kilometer south of it. This village is 165 km from Radhanpur It is one of the most prominent Indus Valley Civilisation sites.