Cultural Heritage Sites of Unesco In India: Art & Culture for UPSC Exams

UPSC Exam Art & Culture

Cultural Heritage Sites of Unesco In India: Art & Culture for UPSC Exams

The world Heritage Sites in India recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization are 28 as of 2010. The Indian state of Tamil Nadu has the highest number of world heritage site in India. India’s first two sites were the Agra Fort and the Ajantha Caves (1983). Over the years, 26 more sites have been   inscribed. The latest site inscribed in 2010 was the Jantar Mantar , Jaipur. Of these 28 sites 23 are cultural sites and the other five are natural sites.
Ajantha Caves, Maharashtra (1983) : Ajanta Caves listed under UNESCO World Heritage site are  Buddhist caves that  were built in two phases. The first phase was built from 2nd Century BC. In the second phase many more richly decorated caves were added to the original group during the Gupta period in the 5th and 6th Centuries AD. The paintings and  sculptures of Ajantha are considered masterpieces of Buddhist religious  art.  As a whole, there are 31 rock cut cave monuments which are   unique representations of the religious art of Buddhism.
Agra Fort, Uttar Pradesh (1982) : The Agra Fort is located on the right bank of the Yamuna River. It is built in red sandstone covering a lengt h of 2.5  kilo met res.  It encloses several palaces, towers and mosques. It  was built starting with emperor Akbar’s reign in the 16th Century to that of Aurangazeb in the  early part of the 18th Century. Agra Fort is remarkable for the fusion of Persian art and the Indian Art form. Taj Mahal,  Uttar Pradesh (1983)  is mausoleum built by Emperor Shahjahan in memory of his wife Begum Mumtaz Mahal. It is  set amidst vast Mughal Gardens, which covers 17 hectares of land on the right bank of the Yamuna River. It has an octagonal layout marked by four exclusive minarets at four corners with  a pristine elevation of a central bulbous dome below   which the tombs are laid in an underground Chamber.
Ellora Caves, Maharashtra (1983) : Ellora caves are a cultural mix of  religious arts of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. These 34 monasteries and temples, extending over more than 2 km, were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff. Dated to  600 to 1000 AD they are  a reflection of artistic creation of the ancient civilization of India.
Sun Temple, Konark, Orissa (1984) : It is a 13th Century Sun Temple located on the east coast of the Bay of Bengal in the Mahanadi Delta. It is  built in the form of the Chariot of Surya,  the Sun god with 24 wheels, and is heavily  decorated with  symbolic  stone carvings and led by  a team of six horses.
Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram, Tamil  Nadu (1984)  :  The  Group  of Monuments at Mahabalipuram were built by Pallava kings in the 7th and 8th centuries. These monuments have been  carved out of rock along the Coromandel coast. It is known especially for its Rathas or temples in the form of  Chariots, Mandapas or cave sanctuaries, giant  open - air reliefs such as the famous -Descent of the Ganges’ and  the temple of Rivage, with thousands of  sculptures to the glory of Shiva.
Kaziranga National Park, Assam (1985) : Kaziranga is one of the last wild abodes in eas t ern  Indi a  undisturbed  by  a  human presence. It was first established as a reserved forest in 1908 and declared a national park in 1974. The park has the distinction of being home to the  world’s largest population of the Great Indian one horned Rhinoceros.
Manas Wild Life Sanctuary Assam (1985): The sanctuary is the habitat of several species of  plants and 21 most threatened species of birds. It was declared a reserve forest in 1907 and  it  became a Tiger Reserve in 1973.
Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan (1985): This  park was once a duck hunting reserve of the Maharajas. Today it is one of the major wintering areas for large numbers of acquatic birds from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia. Some 3 64 species of bi rds including the rare Siberian Crane, have been recorded in the park. It was declared a national park  in 1982.
Churches and Convents of Goa (1986) : Thes emonuments   were   built by  the Portuguese colonial rulers of Goa between 16th and 18th Centuries. These monuments are mainly in the former capital of Velha Goa. These monuments  of G oa known as  the ‘Rome of the Orient’ were established   by differ ent cathol ic religious orders.   The monuments are built in laterites and walls plastered with limestones mortar mixed with broken shells.
Khajuraho Group of Monuments, Madhya Pradesh : The temples of Khajuraho were built during the Chandela dynasty of Rajput descent. Of   the 85 temples built, only 22 temples  have survived in an area of These temples fall into three distinct groups a nd b elong  to t wo di ffer ent r el igi ons  - Hinduism and Jainism. They strike a perfect balance between architecture and sculpture. The temple of Kandariya is decorated with a profusion of sculptures that are among the greatest  masterpieces of Indian art.
Group of Monuments at Hampi, Karnataka (1986) : The austere grandiose site of Hampi was the last capital of the last great Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar. Dravidian temples and palaces abound in Hampi.   These won the admiration of travellers between the 14th and 16th centuries. Hampi as an important Hindu religious centre, has the Virupaksha Temple and several other monuments.
Fatehpur Sikri (1986) : It was built during the second half of the 16t h Century by the Emperor Akbar. Fatehpur Sikri or the city of victory was the capital of the Mughal Empire for only some 10 years.  Akbar experimented both with architecture and art and built a city expressing his ideals and vision.  The finest monuments within this area are the Diwan-i- Am, Diwan-i- Khas, Panch House, Panch Mahal, Buland Darwaza and the tomb of saint Shaikh Salim Chisti and  one of the largest mosque in India, Jama Masjid.
Group of Monuments  at  Pattadakal , Karnataka (1987 ) :   The   Group of monuments in Pattadakal cover a remarkable series of nine Hindu temples, as well as   a Jain sanctuary. In this  group of  temples, the Virupaksha Temple, built in C 740 by Queen Loka ma ha devi t o commemora t e her husband’s victory over the kings from  the South is considered the most outstanding architectural edifice. These temples were built during the   Chalukya Dynasty in the 6th Century. The temples represent a remarkable fusion of the architectural features of northern and southern India.
Elephanta Caves, Maharashtra (1987) : The Elephanta Caves are a network of sculpted ca ves  loca ted on El ephant a Isl and near Mumbai, The island consists of two group of caves - the first is a large group of five Hindu caves and the second a smaller group of  two Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves contain rock cut stone sculptures dedicated   to the god Shiva.   The rock - cut architecture of the caves is dated to between the 5th and the 8th Centuries. The caves are hewn from solid basalt rock.
Sunderbans National Park, West Bengal (1987) : The Sunderbans National Park, the largest estuarine mangrove forest in the world is  a National   Park, Tiger Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve located in the Sunderbans Ganges River delta bordering the Bay of Bengal in West Bengal. The region is densely covered by mangrove forests, and is one of the largest reserves for the Bengal tiger. It is also home to a variety of birds, reptiles and invertebrate species, including the salt-water crocodile.
Nanda Devi  National Park, Uttarakhand (1988) : It is a famous for its meadows of endemic alpine flowers a nd out standing natural beauty. It is also home to rare and endangered animals including the Asiatic black bear,   snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep. It was established as a national park on  6 November 1982.
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh (1989) : Buddhist Monuments of Sanchi comprises  a group of   Buddhi st monuments, which include monolithic pillars, palaces, temples and monasteries, all in different  states of  conservation and mainly dating back to the 2nd and Ist centuries BC. It is the oldest Buddhist heritage site in existence and was a major centre of Buddhism in India until the 12th Century AD.
Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi (1993) : Humayun’s tomb built in 1570, is of particular significance as it was the first garden tomb on the Indian subcontinent. His tomb was built by Haji Begum, wife of Humayun. Apart from the tomb of Humayun, the funerary also has 150 tombs of various members of the  royal family. The tomb is built with a four fold 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.
Qutab Minar an its Monuments, Delhi (1993): Qutab Minar and its Monuments is a complex with the Qutab Minar as the centre piece which is a red sandstone tower of 72.5 metres height with a base of 14.32 metres reducing to 2.75 metres diameter at the top. It  const ructi on wa s sta rted   init ially by Qutabuddin Aibak and completed by Iltumish.
Mahabodhi Temple Complex at   Bodh Gaya, Bihar (2002) : The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is one of the four holy sites related to the life of the Lord Buddha, and particularly to the attainment of Enlightenment. The first temple was built by Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd Century BC.The structures have been built in bricks. The main temple is 50m in height built in Indian architectural style dated between 5th and 6th Centuries. It is the oldest temple in the Indian subcontinent built during the Gupta period.
Rock Shelters  of Bhimbetka,Madya Pradesh (2003) is located in the foothills of the Vindya range of hills in the Madhya Pradesh. It is spread in sandstone formations. The earliest known traces of human life in India were found in Bhimbetka. Stone age rocks shelters and paintings date back to 9000 years are found here.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus , Maharashtra (2004) : Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is a historic railway station in Mumbai. It is the headquarters of the Central Railways.   The station was designed by Frederick William Stevens. It took ten years to  complete  and  was  named  “ Victoria Terminus” in honour of the Queen Victoria. It was opened on the date of her Golden Jubilee in  1887. The style combines the Venetian Gothic popular in England at the time with elements of Indian architechure and is built in the local red standstone.
Champaner - Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Gujarat (2004) : A concentration of largely unexcavated archaeological historic and living cultural heritage properties cradled in  an impressive landscape which includes 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 includes fortifications, palaces, religious buildings, residential precincts, agricultural structures, and water installations from the8th to the 14th centuries. The Kalikamata Temple on top of   t he Pava gadh Hil l is considered to be   an impor tant   shrine, attracting large  numbers   of   pilgrims throughout the year.
Great Living Chola Temples, Tamil Nadu (2004) : This cultural heritage site includes three great temples of 11th and 12th Century namely, the Brihadisvara Temple at Tanjavur, t he Briha disvara temple at Ganga i kondacholis varamand the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram. The Tanjavur temple was built by king Rajaraja, founder of the Chola Empire between 1003 and 1010. The Tanjavur temple was built from blocks of granite and in part from bricks. It is crowned with a pyramidal 13 storey tower, the Vimana of 61m height and  with a bulb- shaped monolith on top.   The Temple of Ganga i kondacholi svaram  was  built  by Rajendra I. Its 53 metres Vimana has recessed cor ners  and a  gra ceful upward curving movement. The Airavatesvara temple complex was built by Rajaraja II. It features a 24 metres Vimana and a stone image of Shiva.
Red Fort Complex Delhi (2007) is a palace fort built in the 17th Century by Shahjahan. The architectural design of the structures built within the fort represents a blend of Persian, Timuri and Indian architectural styles. The palace complex has been   fortified by an enclosure wall built with redsand stone, hence the name Red Fort.
Mountain Raiways of India : Mountain Railways of India include the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, West Bengal (1999) Nil Giri Mountain Railway, Ooty Tamil Nadu (2005), Kalka - Shimla Railway, Himachal Pradesh (2008). These three are outstanding examples of bold,   ingenious engineering solutions for the problem of establishing  an effecti veraillink  through  arugged,mountainous terrain. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was recognised first in 1999, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway in 2005 and Kalka Shimla Railway in 2008. The three together have been titled as Mountain Railways of India.
Jantar Mantar, Jaipur, Rajasthan (2010) : The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is a collection of architectural astronomical instruments, built by Maharaja Jai Singh between 1727 and 1734. He had constructed a tota l of five such facilities at   different locations. The Jaipur observatory is  the largest  and the best preserved of these. It has a set of some 20 main fixed instruments built in masonry.

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