UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India – UPSC Notes

India has 42 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In September 2023, Santiniketan, created by Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore, became the 41st site. The Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysalas in Karnataka were also added in September 2023, making the total number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in India 42.

Latest Update on UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

  • In September 2023, the 12th-century Hoysala Temples of Karnataka and Santiniketan in West Bengal were designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
  • On 27th July 2021, Dholavira, a Harappan City in the Rann of Kutchh, became India’s 40th UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • On 25th July 2021, UNESCO added the Rudreswara Temple (Ramappa Temple) at Palampet, Warangal, Telangana, to the List of World Heritage Sites.
  • Note: India has 50 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.
  • This information is crucial for the static portion of the IAS Exam, and UPSC aspirants should be familiar with UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India are places acknowledged by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for their exceptional cultural or physical significance, deemed of outstanding value to humanity. UNESCO is committed to promoting the preservation, identification, and upkeep of global natural and cultural heritage. This commitment is reflected in the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.

Sure, here’s the information in a tabular format:

Natural World Heritage SiteStateYear of Notification
Kaziranga National ParkAssam1985
Keoladeo Ghana National ParkRajasthan1985
Manas Wildlife SanctuaryAssam1985
Nanda Devi National Park and Valley of FlowersUttarakhand1988, 2005
Sundarbans National ParkWest Bengal1987
Western GhatsMaharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala2012
Great Himalayan National ParkHimachal Pradesh2014
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India – Natural Sites

UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Sites in India:

Cultural World Heritage SiteStateYear of Notification
Sacred Ensembles of the HoysalasKarnataka2023
SantiniketanWest Bengal2023
Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) TempleTelangana2021
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern MovementChandigarh2016
Victorian and Art Deco Ensemble of MumbaiMaharashtra2018
Historic City of AhmedabadGujarat2017
Jaipur CityRajasthan2020
Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University)Bihar2016
Hill Forts of RajasthanRajasthan2013
The Jantar MantarRajasthan2010
Red Fort ComplexDelhi2007
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological ParkGujarat2004
Chhatrapati Shivaji TerminusMaharashtra2004
Rock Shelters of BhimbetkaMadhya Pradesh2003
Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh GayaBihar2002
Mountain Railways of IndiaTamil Nadu1999
Humayun’s Tomb, DelhiDelhi1993
Qutb Minar and its Monuments, DelhiDelhi1993
Buddhist Monuments at SanchiMadhya Pradesh1989
Elephanta CavesMaharashtra1987
Great Living Chola TemplesTamil Nadu1987
Group of Monuments at PattadakalKarnataka1987
Churches and Convents of GoaGoa1986
Fatehpur SikriUttar Pradesh1986
Group of Monuments at HampiKarnataka1986
Khajuraho Group of MonumentsMadhya Pradesh1986
Group of Monuments at MahabalipuramTamil Nadu1984
Sun Temple, KonarakOrissa1984
Agra FortUttar Pradesh1983
Ajanta CavesMaharashtra1983
Ellora CavesMaharashtra1983
Taj MahalUttar Pradesh1983
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India – Cultural Sites

UNESCO Mixed World Heritage Site in India:

Mixed World Heritage SiteStateYear of Notification
Khangchendzonga National ParkSikkim2016
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India – Mixed Site

Important facts about UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India:

  1. Agra Fort
    • 16th Century Mughal Monument (Red Fort of Agra).
    • Includes Jahangir Palace and Khas Mahal.
  2. Ajanta Caves
    • Rock-cut caves.
    • Total of 29 caves.
  3. Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda
    • Oldest university in India.
    • Archaeological remains from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE.
  4. Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi
    • Monolithic pillars, palaces, temples, and monasteries.
    • Oldest Buddhist Sanctuary.
  5. Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park
    • Unexcavated archaeological and historic properties.
    • Structures from the 8th to 14th centuries.
  6. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
    • Formerly Victoria Terminus.
    • Represents Victorian Gothic Revival architecture.
  7. Churches and Convents of Goa
    • Signifies the evangelization of Asia.
  8. Elephanta Caves
    • Local name: Gharapuri Caves.
    • Seven caves.
  9. Ellora Caves
    • 34 monasteries and temples.
  10. Fatehpur Sikri
    • Built by Mughal Emperor Akbar.
    • Mughal capital for 10 years.
    • Includes Jama Masjid.
  11. Great Living Chola Temples
    • Includes Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, Gangaikondacholisvaram, and Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram.
  12. Group of Monuments at Hampi
    • Last capital of the Vijayanagar Empire.
  13. Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram
    • Known for Rathas, Mandapas, Giant open-air reliefs.
  14. Group of Monuments at Pattadakal
    • Represents Chalukyan art.
    • Hindu temples and Jain sanctuary.
  15. Hill Forts of Rajasthan
    • Includes Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Sawai Madhopur, Jhalawar, Jaipur, and Jaisalmer forts.
  16. Historic City of Ahmedabad
    • Founded by Sultan Ahmad Shah in the 15th Century.
  17. Humayun’s Tomb
    • Built in 1570.
    • First garden-tomb in the Indian subcontinent.
  18. Jaipur City
    • Founded by Sawai Jai Singh-II in 1727.
  19. Khajuraho Group of Monuments
    • Chandela Dynasty-built temples.
    • Dedicated to Hinduism and Jainism.
  20. Mahabodhi Temple Complex
    • One of the four holy sites related to Buddha’s life.
  21. Mountain Railways of India
    • Includes Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Kalka Shimla Railway.
  22. Qutb Minar and its Monuments
    • Built in the 13th century.
    • Highest tower in India.
  23. Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell)
    • Built in Maru-Gurjara architectural style.
    • On the banks of Saraswati River.
  24. Red Fort Complex
    • Built as the palace fort of Shah Jahan’s capital.
    • Includes Salimgarh Fort.
  25. Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka
    • Discovered by Dr. V. S. Wakankar in 1958.
  26. Sun Temple
    • Built by King Narasimhadeva I in the 13th Century.
    • Represents Kalinga architecture.
  27. Taj Mahal
    • Built by Mughal Emperor.
    • Located on the Yamuna river banks.
  28. The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement
    • 17 sites on three continents.
    • Includes Complexe du Capitole in Chandigarh, India.
  29. The Jantar Mantar
    • Built by Rajput king Sawai Jai Singh II.
  30. Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai
    • Includes Victorian Neo-Gothic public buildings and Art Deco buildings in Mumbai.
  31. Great Himalayan National Park-Conservation Area
    • High alpine peaks, alpine meadows, and riverine forests in Himachal Pradesh.
  32. Kaziranga National Park
    • Located in Assam.
    • Known for diverse wildlife.
  33. Keoladeo National Park
    • Formerly Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary.
    • Wintering area for Siberian Crane.
  34. Manas Wildlife Sanctuary
    • First reserve in Project Tiger (1973).
    • Also a biosphere reserve.
  35. Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks
    • Nanda Devi West is the second-highest mountain in India.
  36. Sundarbans National Park
    • Part of the Gangetic Delta.
    • Known for mangrove forests and diverse fauna.
  37. Western Ghats
    • Biodiversity hotspots.
  38. Khangchendzonga National Park
    • Mount Khangchendzonga is the world’s third-highest peak.
  39. Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple
    • Built in the 13th century CE.
    • Made of sandstone with distinctive features.
  40. Dholavira
    • Discovered in 1968 in Gujarat.
    • Ancient commercial and manufacturing hub during the Indus Valley Civilization.
  41. Santiniketan
    • Established by Rabindranath Tagore.
    • Significance in human values, architecture, and landscape design.
  42. Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysalas
    • Temples located in Belur, Halebidu, and Somanathapura in Karnataka.
    • Known as ‘poetry carved in stone’.
    • Recommended to the list in 2022-23.

Frequently Asked Questions on UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India

Q1: Which Indian city has recently been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site?

A1: Dholavira in Gujarat, representing the first site of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in July 2021.

Q2: How many World Heritage Sites does India have in 2024?

A2: India boasts a total of 42 World Heritage Sites, comprising 34 cultural sites, 7 natural sites, and 1 site with mixed criteria.

Q3: What is the count of intangible cultural heritage elements in India?

A3: India’s National Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) List comprises over 100 elements, including 13 that have already been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This comprehensive list, aligned with UNESCO’s 2003 Convention for Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, categorizes elements into five domains reflecting the diverse facets of Indian culture.

Q4: Which site holds the distinction of being the first World Heritage site in India?

A4: Agra Fort, also known as “Laal Quila,” situated in Agra, India, received UNESCO World Heritage status in 1983. The fort is approximately 2.5 kilometers away from the Taj Mahal.

Q5: Which countries have the highest number of World Heritage sites?

A5: China and Italy lead the world with the highest count of World Heritage Sites, each boasting 55 entries.

Q6: Which Indian state has the most UNESCO World Heritage sites?

A6: Currently, Maharashtra leads among all states and union territories in India, with a total of five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These include Ajanta Caves, Ellora Caves, Elephanta Caves, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, and the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco buildings of South Mumbai.

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