A UNESCO World Heritage Site can be any place such as a forest, lake, building, island, mountain, monument, desert, complex or a city; which has a special physical or cultural significance. Currently there are 981 World Heritage sites in the world. However 32 World Heritage Properties are in India out of which 25 are Cultural Properties and 7 are Natural Properties. Let’s have a look of all World Heritage Sites of India on yearly basis.
Year wise nomination of world heritage sites in India is as follows:
1. Agra Fort: Agra Fort, also known as “Laal Quila”, is located in Agra, India. It is tagged as world heritage site by UNESCO in 1983. The fort is about 2.5 kilometers far from the Taj Mahal. It was designed and built by the great Mughal Emperor Akbar in the year 1565 A.D . Agra was the capital of India in the ancient times. This glorious fort is built alongside Yamuna River. The 380,000 m2 (94-acre) fort has a semicircular plan. It has four gates; two of the fort's gates are notable: the "Delhi Gate" and the "Lahore Gate."
2. Ajanta caves: The Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra state of India are about 30 rock-cut Buddhist cave monuments which constructed from the 2nd century BCE to about 480 or 650 CE. These paintings are magnum opus of Buddhist religious art, with figures of the Buddha and depictions of the Jataka tales (stories related to the life Lord Buddha). The Ajanta Caves have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
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3. Ellora Caves: Ellora is an archaeological site 29 km (18 mi) north-west of the city of Aurangabad in the Indian state of Maharashtra, built by Kalachuri, Chalukya and Rashtrakuta dynasties during (6th and 9th centuries). The 34 "caves" are actually structures excavated out of the vertical face of the Charanandri hills. These caves are dedicated to Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religions. The 17 Hindu (caves 13–29), 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves, built in proximity. The Ellora Caves were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
4. The Taj Mahal : The Taj Mahal is located on the right bank of the Yamuna River in a vast Mughal garden that encompasses nearly 17 hectares, in the Agra District in Uttar Pradesh. It was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal with construction starting in 1632 AD and completed in 1648 AD. Ustad-Ahmad Lahori was the main architect of the Taj Mahal. For its construction, masons, stone-cutters, inlayers, carvers, painters, calligraphers, dome builders and other artisans were requisitioned from the whole of the empire and also from the Central Asia and Iran. Ustad-Ahmad Lahori was the main architect of the Taj Mahal.
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5. Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram: This group of sanctuaries, founded by the Pallava kings, was carved out of rock along the Coromandel coast in the 7th and 8th centuries. It is known especially for its rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (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.
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6. Sun Temple Konark: An Architecture Marvel of India's heritage, Konark Sun Temple, commonly known as Konark is situated in the eastern state of Odisha (earlier known as Orissa), India and is one of the eminent tourist attractions. Konark houses a massive temple dedicated to the Sun God. The word 'Konark' is a combination of two words 'Kona' and 'Arka'. 'Kona' means 'Corner' and 'Arka' means 'Sun', so when combines it becomes 'Sun of the Corner'. Konark Sun Temple is situated on the north eastern corner of Puri and is dedicated to Sun God.
7. Kaziranga National Park:
Kaziranga is located between latitudes 26°30' N and 26°45' N, and longitudes 93°08' E to 93°36' E within two districts in the Indian state of Assam -the Kaliabor subdivision of Nagaon district and the Bokakhat subdivision of Golaghat district (Assam). Kaziranga covers an area of 378 km2 (146 sq mi).It is a world heritage site, the park hosts two-thirds of the world’s Great One-horned rhinoceros. Kaziranga has the highest density of tigers among the protected areas in the world and was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006.
Image source: kaziranga.co.uk
8. Keoladeo National Park-
Formerly known as the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, the Keoladeo National Park lies between two of India's most historic cities, Agra and Jaipur. This north Indian park is situated in the country's northwestern part of Rajasthan. It was declared a national park in 1982 and then later tagged as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1985. The park is home to over 370 species of birds and animals such as the basking python, painted storks, deer, nilgai and more. It is mainly known for migrated Siberian cranes.
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9. Manas Wildlife Sanctuary-
It is located at the base of foot hills of the Bhutan-Himalayas in the state of Assam. It is famous for unique biodiversity and landscape. Manas is the first reserve included in the network of tiger reserve under Project tiger in 1973. The Manas Wildlife Sanctuary was tagged as World Heritage Site in 1985. In 1989, Manas acquired the status of a Biosphere reserve. It extends over an area of 2837 Sq. Km from Sankosh River in the west to Dhansiri River in the east.
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10. Churches and Convents of Goa-
The Churches and Convents at Velha (Old) Goa owe their existence to the Portuguese rule in this part of the western coast of India. The most comprehensive group of churches and cathedrals built during 16th to 17th century AD at Old Goa comprise of the following: Se' Cathedral, Church and Convent of St. Francis of Assisi, Chapel of St. Catherine, Basilica of Bom Jesus; Church of Lady of Rosary; Church of St. Augustine.
The construction of this imposing edifice began in 1562 during the reign of King Dom Sebastião (1557-78) and substantially completed by 1619. It was consecrated in 1640. The church is 250 ft in length and 181 ft in breath. The frontispiece stands 115 ft high. The building is Portuguese-Gothic in style with a Tuscan exterior and Corinthian interior. The exterior of the cathedral is notable for its plainness of style whereas, its vaulted interior overwhelms the visitors by sheer grandeur.
Image source: www.gounesco.com
11. Fatehpur Sikhri-
Fatehpur Sikri built during the second half of the 16th century by the Emperor Akbar. Fatehpur Sikri (the City of Victory) was the capital of the Mughal Empire for only some 10 years. The complex of monuments and temples, all in a uniform architectural style, includes one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid. Akbar shifted his residence and court from Agra to Sikri to honour the Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chishti, who resided here (in a cavern on the ridge).
12. Group of Monuments at Hampi-
The austere and grandiose site of Hampi comprise mainly the remnants of the Capital City of Vijayanagara Empire (14th-16th Cent CE), the last great Hindu Kingdom. The property encompasses an area of 4187, 24 hectares, located in the Tungabhadra basin in Central Karnataka, Bellary District.
Hampi’s spectacular setting is dominated by river Tungabhadra, craggy hill ranges and open plains, with widespread physical remains. The sophistication of the varied urban, royal and sacred systems is evident from the more than 1600 surviving remains that include forts, riverside features, royal and sacred complexes, temples, shrines, pillared halls, Mandapas, memorial structures, gateways, defence check posts, stables, water structures etc.
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13. Khajuraho Group of Monuments-
Khajuraho Temples (in Madhya Pradesh) are among the most beautiful medieval monuments in the country. These temples were built by the Chandella rulers between AD 900 and 1130. It was the golden period of Chandella rulers. It is presumed that every Chandella ruler has built at least one temple in his lifetime. So all Khajuraho Temples are not constructed by any single Chandella ruler, rather building Temples was a tradition of Chandella rulers followed by almost all rulers of Chandella dynasty.
14. Elephanta Caves-
The Elephanta Caves (natively known as Gharapurichi Leni, basically Gharapuri) are a network of sculpted caves located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri (literally "the city of caves") in (Mumbai) Maharashtra. The island, located in the lap of the Arabian Sea, consists of two groups of caves—the first is a large group of five Hindu caves, the second, a smaller group of two Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves contain rock cut stone sculptures, representing the Shaiva Hindu sect, dedicated to the Lord Shiva.
15. Great Living Chola Temples-
The Great Living Chola Temples were built by kings of the Chola Empire, which stretched over all of south India and the neighbouring islands. The site includes three great 11th- and 12th-century Temples: 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 53-m 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 24-m vimana and a stone image of Shiva.
16. Group of Monuments at Pattadakal-
Pattadakal, in Karnataka, represents the high point of an eclectic art which, in the 7th and 8th centuries under the Chalukya dynasty, achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from northern and southern India. An impressive series of nine Hindu temples, as well as a Jain sanctuary, can be seen there. One masterpiece from the group stands out – the Temple of Virupaksha, built c. 740 by Queen Lokamahadevi to commemorate her husband's victory over the kings from the South.
17. Sundarban National Park-
Sundarban, the largest delta in the world, consists of 10,200 sq km of Mangrove Forest, spread over India and Bangladesh. The part of the forest within Indian Territory is called Sundarbans National Park and is in the southern part of West Bengal. The Sundarbans cover an area of 38,500 sq km, of which about one-third is covered by water/marsh. The forest has a large number of Sundari trees. Sundarban is world famous for the Royal Bengal tigers.
18. Nanda Devi National Park-
The Nanda Devi National Park, established in 1982, as a national park. It is situated around the peak of Nanda Devi (7816 m) in the state of Uttarakhand in northern India. It was inscribed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988. The Park was established as Sanjay Gandhi National Park by Notification in 1982 but was later renamed Nanda Devi National Park. Some 312 floral species that include 17 rare species have been found here. Fir, birch, rhododendron, and juniper are the main flora.
19. Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi-
Sanchi is a hot spot for Buddhist tourist in India. It is situated at Sanchi in Raisen district of Madhya Pradesh. The Great Stupa at Sanchi is the oldest stone structure in India and was originally commissioned by the emperor Ashoka, the Great in the 3rd century BCE. The stupa is located on a hill whose height is 91 m (298.48 ft.). Sanchi tagged as the World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1989.
It is unique in India because of its age and quality, the group of Buddhist stupas, temples and monasteries at Sanchi (variously known as Kakanaya, Kakanava, Kakanadabota and Bota Sri Parvata in ancient times) is one of the oldest Buddhist sanctuaries in existence. These monuments record the genesis and efflorescence of Buddhist art and architecture over a period of 1,300 years from the 3rd century BC to the 12th century CE, thereby spanning almost the entire classical Buddhist period in India.
20. Humayun's Tomb, Delhi-
Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi is the first of the grand dynastic mausoleums that were to become synonyms of Mughal architecture with the architectural style reaching its zenith 80 years later at the later Taj Mahal. Humayun’s Tomb stands within a complex of 21.60 ha. that includes other contemporary, 16th century Mughal garden-tombs such as Nila Gumbad, Isa Khan, Bu Halima, Afsarwala, Barber’s Tomb and the complex where the craftsmen employed for the Building of Humayun’s Tomb stayed, the Arab Serai. Humayun’s Tomb was built in the 1560’s, with the patronage of Humayun’s son, the great Emperor Akbar.
21. Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi-
Qutb Minar was built in the early 13th century a few kilometres south of Delhi, the red sandstone tower of Qutb Minar is 72.5 m high, tapering from 2.75 m in diameter at its peak to 14.32 m at its base to give calls for prayer. Its surrounding contains Alai-Darwaza Gate, the masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art (built in 1311). The building process of Qutub Minar took a long time (about 75 years). Its construction was started by Qutub-ud-din Aibak in 1193 and finished by Iltutmish.
22. Mountain Railways of India-
The Mountain Railway of India consists of three railways: the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway located in the foothills of the Himalayas in West Bengal (Northeast India) having an area of 5.34 ha., the Nilgiri Mountain Railways located in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu (South India) having an area of 4.59 ha. and the Kalka Shimla Railway located in the Himalayan foothills of Himachal Pradesh (Northwest India) having an area of 79.06 ha. All three railways are still fully functional and operational.
23. Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya-
The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is the first temple built by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century B.C., and the present temple dates from the 5th–6th centuries. It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick, still standing, from the late Gupta period and it is considered to have had significant influence in the development of brick architecture over the centuries. The present Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya comprises the 50 m high grand Temple, the Vajrasana, sacred Bodhi Tree and other six sacred sites of Buddha's enlightenment, surrounded by numerous ancient Votive stupas, well maintained and protected by inner, middle and outer circular boundaries. The property has a total area of 4.8600 ha.
24. Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka-
It is a group of "five clusters of rock shelters" and it was recognised in 2003 as a World Heritage Site. The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains on the southern edge of the central Indian plateau. Within massive sandstone outcrops, above comparatively dense forest, are five clusters of natural rock shelters, displaying paintings that appear to date from the Mesolithic Period right through to the historical period. The cultural traditions of the inhabitants of the twenty-one villages adjacent to the site bear a strong resemblance to those represented in the rock paintings.
Some of the Stone Age rock paintings found among the Bhimbetka rock shelters are approximately 30,000 years old. The caves also deliver early evidence of dance.
25. Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park-
A concentration of largely unexcavated archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage properties cradled in an impressive landscape which 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, among other vestiges, fortifications, palaces, religious buildings, residential precincts, agricultural structures and water installations, from the 8th to 14th centuries. The Kalikamata Temple on top of Pavagadh Hill is considered to be an important shrine, attracting large numbers of pilgrims throughout the year. The site is the only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city.
26. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus)-
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) is located in Mumbai on the Western Part of India touching the shores of the Arabian Sea. This building, designed by F. W. Stevens, is spread across a 2.85 hectare area. The terminal was built over a period of 10 years starting in 1878. This is one of the finest functional Railway Station buildings of the world and is used by more than three million commuters daily. It is an outstanding example of the fusion of two cultures, as British architects worked with Indian craftsmen to include Indian architectural tradition and idioms thus forging a new style unique to Mumbai. This was the first terminus station in the subcontinent.
27. The Red Fort Complex (Delhi)-
In 1638 Shahjahan transferred his capital from Agra to Delhi and laid the foundations of Shahjahanabad, the seventh city of Delhi. It is enclosed by a rubble stone wall, with bastions, gates and wickets at intervals. Red fort has fourteen gates, Lahori gate is its main gate. Its construction started on 13 May 1638 in the sacred month of Muharam and completed in the next nine years. Its construction was supervised Shahjahan himself. It is tagged the world heritage site by the UNESCO in 2007.
28. The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur-
The Jantar Mantar, in Jaipur, is an astronomical observation site built in the early 18th century. It includes a set of some 20 main fixed instruments. They are monumental examples in masonry of known instruments but which in many cases have specific characteristics of their own. Designed for the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye, they embody several architectural and instrumental innovations. This is the most significant, most comprehensive, and the best preserved of India's historic observatories. It is an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period. Through the impetus of its creator, the prince Jai Singh II, the observatory was a meeting point for different scientific cultures, and gave rise to widespread social practices linked to cosmology.
29. Western Ghats-
The Western Ghats scattered from the mount of the river Tapi to the cape of kanyakumari for a distance of 1600 kms. Its average height is 1200 metres. It is not a real hill range; rather it is a rift side in the peninsular plateau. The height of Western Ghats increases from north to south whereas height of Eastern Ghats increases from south to north. Western Ghats are also more continuous than Eastern Ghats.
Older than the Himalaya mountains, the mountain chain of the Western Ghats represents geomorphic features of immense importance with unique biophysical and ecological processes. The site’s high montane forest ecosystems influence the Indian monsoon weather pattern. Moderating the tropical climate of the region, the site presents one of the best examples of the monsoon system on the planet. It also has an exceptionally high level of biological diversity and endemism and is recognized as one of the world’s eight ‘hottest hotspots’ of biological diversity. The forests of the site include some of the best representatives of non-equatorial tropical evergreen forests anywhere and are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish species.
30. Hill forts of Rajasthan-
The serial site, situated in the state of Rajastahan, includes six majestic forts in Chittorgarh; Kumbhalgarh; Sawai Madhopur; Jhalawar; Jaipur, and Jaisalmer. The ecclectic architecture of the forts, some up to 20 kilometres in circumference, bears testimony to the power of the Rajput princely states that flourished in the region from the 8th to the 18th centuries. Enclosed within defensive walls are major urban centres, palaces, trading centres and other buildings including temples that often predate the fortifications within which developed an elaborate courtly culture that supported learning, music and the arts. Some of the urban centres enclosed in the fortifications have survived, as have many of the site's temples and other sacred buildings. The forts use the natural defenses offered by the landscape: hills, deserts, rivers, and dense forests. They also feature extensive water harvesting structures, largely still in use today.
31. Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) at Patan, Gujarat-
Rani-ki-Vav, on the banks of the Saraswati River, was initially built as a memorial to a king in the 11th century AD. Stepwells are a distinctive form of subterranean water resource and storage systems on the Indian subcontinent, and have been constructed since the 3rd millennium BC. They evolved over time from what was basically a pit in sandy soil towards elaborate multi-storey works of art and architecture. Rani-ki-Vav was built at the height of craftsmens’ ability in stepwell construction and the Maru-Gurjara architectural style, reflecting mastery of this complex technique and great beauty of detail and proportions. Designed as an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water, it is divided into seven levels of stairs with sculptural panels of high artistic quality; more than 500 principle sculptures and over a thousand minor ones combine religious, mythological and secular imagery, often referencing literary works. The fourth level is the deepest and leads into a rectangular tank 9.5 m by 9.4 m, at a depth of 23 m. The well is located at the westernmost end of the property and consists of a shaft 10 m in diameter and 30 m deep.
32. The Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP)-
It is located in the Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh, India. GHNP was formally declared a National Park in 1999, scattering area of 754.4 sq kms. The Great Himalayan National Park is a habitat to numerous flora and more than 376 fauna species, including approximately 32 mammals, 180 birds, 3 reptiles, 10 amphibians, 12 annelids, 18 mollusks and 126 insects. It got the tag of World Heritage site on 23rd June 2014.