On April 18, 1982, International Council on Monuments and Sites organised a conference and came up with a suggestion to celebrate the day as ‘International Day for Monuments and Sites’. The suggestion was accepted by UNESCO in 1983. Since then the day is celebrated as ‘World Heritage Day’ with an aim to raise awareness about cultural heritage and the need to protect and conserve such sites.
India is home to 35 World Heritage Sites approved by UNESCO which brings cultural and natural glory to the country. Today on the occasion of World Heritage Day here are 10 heritage sites in India that are a must-visit.
- Rock Shelters at Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh
Located 45 km South of Bhopal at the Southern edge of the Vindhya hills, the area is covered with thick vegetation, natural shelters and rich flora and fauna. The shelters were discovered in 1957 and were added to heritage list in 2003. The name ‘Bhimbetka’ has been associated with ‘Bhima’, the hero-diety of Mahabharata and the name literally means ‘sitting place of Bhima’. The place is a magnificent repository of rock paintings within natural rock shelters. These paintings depicts man’s experimentation with creativity and belongs to different prehistoric periods, including Late Paleolithic Period i.e. Old Stone Age that consists of large represntations of rhinoceroses and bears. Paintings from Mesolithic i.e. Middle Stone Age consists of animals and human activities, Chalcolithic i.e. early Bronze Age consists of agriculture, early historic and medieval consists of religious motifs and tree gods.
- Rani ki Vav, Gujarat
Located on the banks of Saraswati river, Rani ki Vav (Queen’s step well) was built in 11th century AD in memory of King Bhimdev I. Stepwells are a distinctive form of water storage systems that have been in existence since the 3rd millennium BC. Rani ki Vav is designed into seven levels of stairs with more than 500 principle sculptures and over thousand mythological and religious works. The site has also been felicitated with the ‘Cleanest Iconic Place’ title by the Indian Sanitation Conference (INDOSAN) in October 2016.
- Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Gujarat
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park is located around the Pavagadh hill and is known for its archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage properties. The history of this site dates back from the 8th to 14th centuries. The park is studded with eleven different types of buildings including temples, mosques, tombs, wells, walls and more.
- Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, Karnataka
The heritage site is named as ‘Group of Monuments at Pattadakal’ by UNESCO as it houses nine Hindu temples and a Jain sanctuary that potrays an amalgamation of architectural features of Northern (Nagara) and Southern (Dravida) India. Eight among the nine temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva and the ninth is Papanatha Temple, a shaivite sanctuary. Apart from the major temples, several small Shiva shrines are seen here.
- Khajuraho Group of Monuments, Madhya Pradesh
Khajuraho Group of Monuments are popular for its artistic magnificence rather than religious aspects. The site comprises of 22 temples. It is said that initially there were about 82 temples built. The temples belong to the Hindu and Jain community and have an amazing fusion of sculpture and architecture. Every evening the Khajuraho temple complex organises a light and sound show in the open lawns in English and Hindi. Besides, The Khajuraho Dance Festival is held every year in February that features classical Indian dances.
- Mountain Railways of India
The Mountain Railways of India represents a collective listings of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (West Bengal), the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (Tamil Nadu) and the Kalka-Shimla Railway (Himachal Pradesh) and were recognised to the UNESCO’s heritage list in 1999, 2005 and 2008, respectively.
- Khangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim
Khangchendzonga National Park (former Kanchenjunga National Park) also known as Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve is the first ‘Mixed Heritage’ site of India. Located in the Himalayan range, the park is home to plains, glaciers, lakes and valleys. Animals like snow leopard, red panda and musk deer are spotted here regularly. Besides, the park is home to several rare and threatened plants and animals.
- Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara, Bihar
The ancient Nalanda University or a large Buddhist monastery located in the Souteast of Patna was a centre for learning in the seventh century. The site comprises of stupas, shrines, viharas and several art works in metal and stone. The site stands out as the most ancient university in the Indian subcontinent. It is also said that the site was an organised mediation of knowledge over 800 years. The historical development of the site proves the development of Buddhism into a religion and its educational traditions.
- Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Uttarakhand
The heritage sites comprises of two core areas -Nanda Devi National Park and the Valley of Flowers National Park -about 20 km apart. The Valley of Flowers is popular for its natural beauty and endemic alpine flowers. While the Nanda Devi National Park is known for its wilderness and spectacular topographical features including glaciers and moraines. Both the parks are blessed with high diversity of flora and fauna, with a notable number of globally threatened species including Himalayan musk deer and various plant species.
- Mughal Gardens, Jammu & Kashmir
The Mughal Gardens in Jammu & Kashmir comprises of six gardens -Chashma Shahi, Shalimar Bagh, Pari Mahal, Verinag Garden, Achabal Gardens and Nishat Bagh. Apart from possessing exceptional beauty these gardens are irreplaceable physical evidence to the understanding of history and evolution of Mughal Gardens in India. These gardens also demonstrate brilliant engineering skills of the Mughal architecture.