World Heritage Sites
Properties inscribed on the World Heritage List (32)
Agra Fort (1983)
Ajanta Caves (1983)
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi (1989)
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park (2004)
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) (2004)
Churches and Convents of Goa (1986)
Elephanta Caves (1987)
Ellora Caves (1983)
Fatehpur Sikri (1986)
Great Living Chola Temples (1987)
Group of Monuments at Hampi (1986)
Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram (1984)
Group of Monuments at Pattadakal (1987)
Hill Forts of Rajasthan (2013)
Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi (1993)
Khajuraho Group of Monuments (1986)
Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya (2002)
Mountain Railways of India (1999)
Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi (1993)
Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) at Patan, Gujarat (2014)
Red Fort Complex (2007)
Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (2003)
Sun Temple, Konârak (1984)
Taj Mahal (1983)
The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur (2010)
Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (2014)
Kaziranga National Park (1985)
Keoladeo National Park (1985)
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (1985)
Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks (1988)
Sundarbans National Park (1987)
Western Ghats (2012)
Properties submitted on the Tentative List (47)
Temples at Bishnupur, West Bengal (1998)
Buddhist Monastery Complex, Alchi, Leh, known as Alchi Chos-kor (1998)
Mattanchery Palace, Ernakulam, Kerala (1998)
Group of Monuments at Mandu, Madhya Pradesh (1998)
Ancient Buddhist Site, Sarnath, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh (1998)
Hemis Gompa (1998)
Sri Harimandir Sahib, Amritsar, Punjab (2004)
River Island of Majuli in midstream of Brahmaputra River in Assam (2004)
Namdapha National Park (2006)
Wild Ass Sanctuary, Little Rann of Kutch (2006)
Kangchendzonga National Park (2006)
Urban and Architectural Work of Le Corbusier in Chandigarh (2006)
Churchgate – Extension to Mumbai CST (2009)
Excavated Remains at Nalanda (2009)
Bhitarkanika Conservation Area (2009)
Neora Valley National Park (2009)
Desert National Park (2009)
Silk Road Sites in India (2010)
The Qutb Shahi Monuments of Hyderabad Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs, Charminar (2010)
Mughal Gardens in Kashmir (2010)
Historic city of Ahmadabad (2011)
The Victorian & Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai (2012)
Delhi – A Heritage City (2012)
Monuments and Forts of the Deccan Sultanate (2014)
Cellular Jail, Andaman Islands (2014)
The Glorious Kakatiya Temples and Gateways (2014)
Iconic Saree Weaving Clusters of India (2014)
Sites along the Badshahi Marg – The Grand Trunk Road (2014)
Dholavira: A Harappan City (2014)
Apatani Cultural Landscape (2014)
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam (2014)
Monuments of Srirangapatna Island Town (2014)
Chilika Lake (2014)
Padmanabhapuram Palace (2014)
Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysala (2014)
Sites of Saytagrah, India’s non-violent freedom movement (2014)
Thembang Fortified Village (2014)
Narcondam Island (2014)
Moidams – the Mound-Burial system of the Ahom Dynasty (2014)
Ekamra Kshetra – The Temple City, Bhubaneswar (2014)
The Neolithic Settlement of Burzahom (2014)
Archaeological remains of a Harappa Port-Town, Lothal (2014)
Mountain Railways of India (Extension) (2014)
Chettinad, Village Clusters of the Tamil Merchants (2014)
Bahá’í House of Worship at New Delhi (2014)
Evolution of Temple Architecture – Aihole-Badami- Pattadakal (2015)
The Red Fort and the Taj Mahal bear an exceptional and complementary testimony to a civilization which has disappeared, that of the Mogul Emperors. Agra’s history goes back more than 2,500 years, but it was not until the reign of the Mughals that Agra became more than a provincial city. Humayun, son of the founder of the Mogul Empire, was offered jewellery and precious stones by the family of the Raja of Gwalior, one of them the famous Koh-i-Noor. The heyday of Agra came with the reign of Humayun’s son, Akbar the Great. During his reign, the main part of the Agra Fort was built.
The Red Fort of Agra is a powerful fortress founded in 1565 by the Emperor Akbar (1556-1605) on the right bank of the Yamuna; it is placed today on the north-west extremity of the Shah Jahan Gardens which surround the Taj Mahal and clearly form, with them, a monumental unity.
This bastioned fortress, with walls of red sandstone rising above a moat and interrupted by graceful curves and lofty bastions, encompasses within its enclosure walls of 2.5 km, the imperial city of the Mogul rulers. Like the Delhi Fort, that of Agra is one of the most obvious symbols of the Mogul grandeur which asserted itself under Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan.
The wall has two gates, the Delhi Gate and the Amar Singh Gate. The original and grandest entrance was through the Delhi Gate, which leads to the inner portal called the Hathi Pol or Elephant Gate. But now the entrance to the fort is only through the Amar Singh Gate.
Emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal, was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb in Agra Fort, from which he had a view of the building erected for his deceased wife. Shah Jahan is said to have died in the Musamman Burj, a tower with a beautiful marble balcony.
The style of Ajanta has exerted a considerable influence in India and elsewhere, extending, in particular, to Java. With its two groups of monuments corresponding to two important moments in Indian history, the Ajanta cave ensemble bears exceptional testimony to the evolution of Indian art, as well as to the determining role of the Buddhist community, intellectual and religious foyers, schools and reception centres in the India of the Gupta and their immediate successors.
The caves are situated 100 km north-east of Ellora, 104 km from Aurangabad and 52 km from Jalgaon Railway Station. They are cut into the volcanic lava of the Deccan in the forest ravines of the Sahyadri Hills and are set in beautiful sylvan surroundings. These magnificent caves containing carvings that depict the life of Buddha, and their carvings and sculptures are considered to be the beginning of classical Indian art.
The 29 caves were excavated beginning around 200 BC, but they were abandoned in AD 650 in favour of Ellora. Five of the caves were temples and 24 were monasteries, thought to have been occupied by some 200 monks and artisans. The Ajanta Caves were gradually forgotten until their ‘rediscovery’ by a British tiger-hunting party in 1819.
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi
From the time that the oldest preserved monument on the site (Asoka’s column with its projecting capital of lions inspired by Achaemenid art) was erected, Sanchi’s role as intermediary for the spread of cultures and their peripheral arts throughout the Maurya Empire, and later in India of the Sunga, Shatavahana, Kushan and Gupta dynasties, was confirmed.
Sanchi is the oldest extant Buddhist sanctuary. Although Buddha never visited the site during any of his former lives or during his earthly existence, the religious nature of this shrine is obvious. The chamber of relics of Stupa 1 contained the remains of Shariputra, a disciple of Shakyamuni who died six months before his master; he is especially venerated by the occupants of the ‘small vehicle’ or Hinayana. Having remained a principal centre of Buddhism in medieval India following the spread of Hinduism, Sanchi bears unique witness as a major Buddhist sanctuary to the period from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD.
When it was discovered in 1818 by General Taylor, Sanchi had lain abandoned for 600 years. The site, 45 km from Bhopal, was overrun with vegetation. Excavations began in somewhat disorganized fashion until the Archaeological Survey of India stepped in and took control. Gradually, as the hill was cleared, the ruins of about 50 monuments were uncovered, revealing one of the most remarkable archaeological complexes in India.
Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park
The Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park with its ancient Hindu architecture, temples and special water-retaining installations, together with its religious, military and agricultural structures, dating back to the regional capital city built by Mehmud Begda in the 16th century, represents a perfect blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture, mainly in the Great Mosque (Jami Masjid), which was a model for later mosque architecture in India. This special style comes from the significant period of regional sultanates. It is furthermore an outstanding example of a very short-lived capital, making the best use of its setting, topography and natural.
The sites are at the foot of and around the Pavagadh hill, surrounded by lower hillocks, escarpments and plateaux, all result of volcanic eruptions and lava flows. At the top of the hill is the temple of Kalikameta. The site itself comprises fortifications, water installations and standing structures from the 8th to 14th centuries as well as a deserted city of Mahmud Begharha. It includes also the living village, Champaner, within the area of the historic town. There are two precincts. The first is the Royal Enclosure, fortified by high defensive stone walls, with towers and gates, which formerly housed palaces, gardens, royal mosque and administrative buildings, and is now the site of the modern village and government offices. Most of the precinct is buried and unexcavated.
A processional way links the royal palace, through the city gate, with the mosque, outside the precinct. The second precinct, called Jahanpanah, is also unexcavated. It was the capital of Begharha, and abandoned in the mid-16th century when conquered by the Mughal Empire. The urban plan has been studied by exposing the main road system, comprising well-built and paved streets, all leading from the surrounding fortifications to the centre of the city.
The whole area is now an excavation site which includes residential areas for the wealthy and more common people, with gardens and water channels being part of the design; shops and commercial areas along some streets; pavilions and public gardens; mosques located in and near residential areas. Next to the mosques there are graveyards and mausolea, temples, located mainly on the Pavagadh hill, belong to different Hindu deities. The temples are richly decorated, mainly with stone carvings.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus)
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is an outstanding example of late 19th-century railway architecture in the British Commonwealth, characterized by Victorian Gothic Revival and traditional Indian features, as well as its advanced structural and technical solutions. It became a symbol for Bombay (now Mumbai) as a major mercantile port city on the Indian subcontinent within the British Commonwealth.
The site on which this property is situated is associated with the origins of Mumbai as a city. Bombay Island had formed a coastal outpost of the Hindu in western India, but was not used for commerce. It was first passed to the Portuguese and then, in 1661, to the British. In 1667, the island was transferred to the East India Company, who was principally responsible for its commercial development. Merchants settled here from elsewhere, and the shipbuilding industry and the cotton trade prospered.
The town flourished, especially after the building of railway connections with the inland and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. With the development of trade, the Governor of Bombay planned a series of works aiming at the construction of a more representative city.
Churches and Convents of Goa
These monuments of Goa exerted great influence in the 16th-18th centuries on the development of architecture, sculpture, and painting by spreading forms of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art throughout the countries of Asia where Catholic missions were established. In so doing they illustrate the work of missionaries in Asia.
The Portuguese explorer Alfonso de Albuquerque conquered Goa in 1510 and the Portuguese ruled the territory until 1961. The colony of Goa, which has its centre in Old Goa, became the capital of the vast eastern Portuguese Empire, sharing the same civic privileges as Lisbon. By 1635, the successive waves of Europeans brought about the inevitable decline of Goa.
In 1542 the Jesuits, who were driven by the ardour of medieval crusaders, arrived in the city and Francis Xavier, one of the founders of the Society of Jesus, rapidly became the patron saint of Goa. The churches in Old Goa aimed to awe the local population into conversion and to impress upon them the superiority of the foreign religion. The facades were accordingly made tall and lofty and the interiors were magnificent, with twisted Bernini columns, decorated pediments, profusely carved and gilded altars, and colourful wall paintings and frescoes.
The island of Elephanta, the glorious abode of Lord Shiva and an epitome of Hindu cave culture, consists of seven caves on an island in the Sea of Oman close to Mumbai which, with their decorated temples and the images from Hindu mythology, bear a unique testimony to a civilization that has disappeared. Here, Indian art has found one of its most perfect expressions, particularly in the huge high reliefs in the main cave.
The island of Gharapuri, the ‘City of Caves’, situated about 10 km from Mumbai on the east side of the harbour, owes its name to the enormous stone elephant found there by Portuguese navigators. This elephant was cut into pieces, removed to Mumbai and somehow put together again. It is today the melancholy guardian of Victoria Gardens Zoo in Mumbai, the great metropolis of Maharashtra State and India’s second city population-wise.
The date of the famous Elephanta Caves is still very much debated and varies from the 6th century to the 8th century according to different specialists. They constitute one of the most striking collections of rock-art in India. There are two groups of caves. To the east, Stupa Hill (thus named because of a small brick Buddhist monument at the top) contains two caves, one of which is unfinished, and several cisterns. To the west, the larger group consists of five rock-cut Hindu shrines. The main cave is universally famous for its carvings to the glory of Shiva, who is exalted in various forms and act ions. The cave consists of a square plan mandapa whose sides measure about 27 m.
The Ellora Caves not only bear witness to three great religions (Buddhism, Brahminism and Jainism) but they also illustrate the spirit of tolerance, characteristic of ancient India, which permitted these three religions to establish their sanctuaries and their communities in a single place, which thus served to reinforce its universal value. The caves, with their uninterrupted sequence of from 600 to 1,000 monuments, bring to life again the civilization of ancient India.
These 34 monasteries and temples, extending over more than 2 km, were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff, not far from Aurangabad, in Maharashtra. Ellora, with its uninterrupted sequence of monuments dating from AD 600 to 1000, brings the civilization of ancient India to life. Not only is the Ellora complex a unique artistic creation and a technological exploit but, with its sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, it illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.
This rupestral ensemble constitute one of the most beautiful expressions of the art of the Indian Middle Ages; they are noteworthy as three major Indian religions have laid joint claim to the caves peacefully since they were created. These breathtaking caves are definitely worth visiting for their remarkable reliefs, sculptures and architecture. It is not, like that of Ajanta, the expression of a single belief; rather it is the product of the three principal religions of ancient India.
Fatehpur Sikri bears exceptional testimony to the Mughal civilization at the end of the 16th century. It offers a unique example of architectural ensembles of very high quality constructed between 1571 and 1585. Its form and layout strongly influenced the evolution of Indian town planning, notably at Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi).
The ‘City of Victory’ had only an ephemeral existence as the capital of the Mughal empire. The Emperor Akbar (1556-1605) decided to construct it in 1571, on the same site where the birth of his son, the future Jahangir, was predicted by the wise Shaikh Salim Chisti (1480-1572). The work, supervised by the great Mughal himself, was completed in 1573. In 1585, however, Akbar abandoned Fatehpur Sikri to fight against the Afghan tribes and choose a new capital, Lahore. Fatehpur Sikri was to be the seat of the great Mughal court only once more for three months in 1619, when Jahangir sought refuge there from the plague that devastated Agra. The site was then finally abandoned, until its archaeological exploration in 1892.
This capital without a future, some 40 km from Agra was, however, considerably more than the fancy of a sovereign during the 14 years of its existence. The city, which the English traveller Ralph Fitch considered in 1585 as ‘considerably larger than London and more populous’, comprised a series of palaces, public buildings and mosques, as well as living areas for the court, the army, servants of the king and for an entire population whose history has not been recorded.
Great Living Chola Temples
The Great Chola Temples of southern India are an exceptional testimony to the development of the architecture and the ideology of the Chola Empire and the Tamil civilization in southern India. They represent an outstanding creative achievement in the architectural conception of the pure form of the Dravida type of temple (characterized by a pyramidal tower).
The Cholas were the second great historic dynasty of the Tamil Nadu, the Tamil country, which was the home of the ancient Dravidian culture whose influence was so considerable in the whole of south-east Asia. The great temple of Tanjore was built in a few years, from 1003 to 1010, during the reign of the great king Rajaraja (985-1014), true founder of the Chola Empire which spread throughout the whole of southern India, part of Ceylon and the Maldive and Laccadive archipelagos. Richly endowed by the sovereign, the sanctuary, which also bears his name – it is sometimes called Rajarajesvaram – had a permanent staff of several hundred priests, 400 devadasi (sacred dancers), and 57 musicians, according to inscriptions and chronicles. The Brihadisvara’s income in gold, silver and precious stones during the Chola period has been precisely evaluated. These vast resources were efficiently managed and provided not only for the upkeep and improvement of the buildings (which was continued until the 17th century) but also for real investments to be made. The temple lent money, at rates which could sometimes reach 30%, to shipowners, village assemblies and craft guilds. Dedicated to Shiva, the Brihadisvara stands to the south-west of the historic city. A first rectangular surrounding wall, 270 m by 140 m, marks the outer boundary.
Group of Monuments at Hampi
The city of Hampi bears exceptional testimony to the vanished civilization of the kingdom of Vijayanagar, which reached its apogee under the reign of Krishna Deva Raya (1509-30). It offers an outstanding example of a type of structure that illustrates a significant historical situation: that of the kingdoms of South India which, menaced by the Muslims, were occasionally allied with the Portuguese of Goa.
The austere, grandiose site of Hampi was the last capital of the last great Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar. Its fabulously rich princes built Dravidian temples and palaces which won the admiration of travellers between the 14th and 16th centuries. Conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy in 1565, the city was pillaged over a period of six months before being abandoned.
As the final capital of the last of the great kingdom of South India, that of the Vijayanagar, Hampi, enriched by the cotton and the spice trade was one of the most beautiful cities of the medieval world. Its palaces and Dravidian temples were much admired by travellers, be they Arab (Abdul Razaak), Portuguese (Domingo Paes) or Italian (Nicolò dei Conti).
Conquered by the Muslims after the battle of Talikota in 1565, it was plundered over six months and then abandoned. Imposing monumental vestiges, partially disengaged and reclaimed, make of Hampi today one of the most striking ruins of the world.
Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram
Mahabalipuram is pre-eminently testimony to the Pallavas civilization of south-east India.The sanctuary, known especially for its rathas (temples in the form of chariots), mandapas (cave sanctuaries), and giant open-air reliefs, is one of the major centres of the cult of Siva. The influence of the sculptures of Mahabalipuram, characterized by the softness and supple mass of their modelling, spread widely (Cambodia, Annam, Java).
Founded in the 7th century by the Pallavas sovereigns south of Madras, the harbour of Mahabalipuram traded with the distant kingdoms of South-East Asia: Kambuja (Cambodia) and Shrivijaya (Malaysia, Sumatra, Java) and with the empire of Champa (Annam). But the fame of its role as a harbour has been transferred to its rock sanctuaries and Brahmin temples which were constructed or decorated at Mahabalipuram between 630 and 728.
Most of the monuments, like the rock-cut rathas, sculptured scenes on open rocks like Arjuna’s penance, the caves of Govardhanadhari and Ahishasuramardini, and the Jala-Sayana Perumal temple (the sleeping Mahavishnu or Chakrin at the rear part of the Shore temple complex) are attributed to the period of Narasimhavarman I Mamalla.
Group of Monuments at Pattadakal
Pattadakal 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.
Three very closely located sites in the State of Karnataka provide a remarkable concentration of religious monuments dating from the great dynasty of the Chalukya (c. 543-757). There are the two successive capital cities – Aihole (ancient Aryapura), Badami, and Pattadakal, the ‘City of the Crown Rubies’ (Pattada Kisuvolal). The latter was, moreover, for a brief time the third capital city of the Chalukya kingdom; at the time the Pallava occupied Badami (642-55). While Aihole is traditionally considered the ‘laboratory’ of Chalukya architecture, with such monuments as the Temple of Ladkhan (c. 450) which antedate the dynasty’s political successes during the reign of King Pulakeshin I, the city of Pattadakal illustrates the apogee of an eclectic art which, in the 7th and 8th centuries, achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from the north and south of India.
Hill Forts of Rajasthan
Within the State of Rajasthan, six extensive and majestic hill forts together reflect the elaborate, fortified seats of power of Rajput princely states that flourished between the 8th and 18th centuries and their relative political independence.
The extensive fortifications up to 20 kilometres in circumference optimized various kinds of hill terrain, specifically the river at Gagron, the dense forests at Ranthambore, and the desert at Jaisalmer, and exhibit an important phase in the development of an architectural typology based on established “traditional Indian principles”. The vocabulary of architectural forms and of ornaments shares much common ground with other regional styles, such as Sultanate and Mughal architecture. Rajput style was not ‘unique’, but the particular manner in which Rajput architecture was eclectic (drawing inspiration from antecedents and neighbours) together with its degree of influence over later regional styles (such as Maratha architecture) do make it distinctive.
Within the defensive walls of the forts, the architecture of palaces and other buildings reflects their role as centres of courtly culture, and places of patronage for learning arts and music. As well as housing for the court and military guard, most had extensive urban settlements within their walls, some of which have persisted to the present day. And some also had mercantile centres as the forts were centres of production and of distribution and trade that formed the basis of their wealth.
Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi
Exemplifying the formative stage of the Mughal structural style, Humayun’s Tomb stands as a landmark in the development of Mughal architecture, and also represents the earliest extant specimen of the Mughal scheme of the garden tomb, with causeways and channels. It is a well-developed specimen of the double-domed elevation with kiosks on a grand scale. This building tradition culminated in the Taj Mahal, constructed a century later. Despite being the first standardized example of this style, Humayun’s Tomb is an architectural achievement of the highest order.
The tomb of Humayun, second Mughal Emperor of India, was built by his widow, Biga Begum (Hajji Begum), in 1569-70, 14 years after his death, at a cost of 1.5 million rupees. The architect was Mirak Mirza Ghiyath. It was later used for the burial of various members of the ruling family and contains some 150 graves. It has aptly been described as the necropolis of the Mughal dynasty.
The tomb itself is in the centre of a large garden, laid out in char baah (four-fold) style, with pools joined by channels. The main entrance is on the south side, and there is another entrance on the west side. A pavilion and a bath are located in the centre of the eastern and northern walls respectively. The mausoleum itself is on a high, wide, terraced platform with small arched cells along the sides.
Khajuraho Group of Monuments
The complex of Khajuraho represents a unique artistic creation, as much for its highly original architecture as for the sculpted decor of a surprising quality made up of a mythological repertory of numerous scenes of amusements of which not the least known are the scenes, susceptible to various interpretations, sacred or profane.
Khajuraho is one of the capitals of the Chandella rulers, a dynasty of Rajput origin which came into power at the beginning of the 10th century, and reached its apogee between 950 and 1050. Of the 85 temples which were constructed at Khajuraho during the Chandella period (and which were still resplendent: when the great traveller Ibn Battuta noted them in 1335), 22 still exist, disseminated within an area of about 6 km2.
As, monuments of two distinct religions, Brahminism and Jainism, the temples of Khajuraho are nonetheless distinguished by a common typology: they comprise an elevated substructure, over which rises the body of the richly decorated building, the ‘jangha’, covered with several registers of sculpted panels on to which open-work galleries are opened. This is crowned by a series of bundled towers with curvilinear contours, the Sikharas.
The most important group of monuments is massed in the western zone, not far from the archaeological museum, including the temples of Varaha, Lakshmana, Matangeshwara, Kandariya, Mahadeva Chitragupta, Chopra Tank, Parvati, Vishwanatha and Nandi. But the east and south groups also comprise noteworthy complexes (the temples of Ghantai, Parshvanath, Adinath, Shantinath, Dulhadeo, Chaturbhuja).
Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya
The Mahabodhi Temple, one of the few surviving examples of early brick structures in India, has had significant influence in the development of architecture over the centuries. balustrades, and the memorial column. The present temple is one of the earliest and most imposing structures built entirely from brick in the late Gupta period. The sculpted stone balustrades are an outstanding early example of sculptural reliefs in stone.
The Temple Complex has direct associations with the life of the Lord Buddha (566-486 BC) as the place where in 531 BC he attained the supreme and perfect insight while seated under the Bodhi Tree. It provides exceptional records for the events associated with his life and for subsequent worship, particularly since Emperor Asoka made a pilgrimage to this spot around 260 BC and built the first temple at the site of the Bodhi Tree. The Mahabodhi Temple Complex is located in the very heart of the city of Bodh Gaya. The site consists of the main temple and six sacred places within an enclosed area, and a seventh one, the Lotus Pond, just outside the enclosure to the south.
The most important of the sacred places is the giant Bodhi Tree (Ficus religiosa ). This tree is to the west of the main temple and is supposed to be a direct descendant of the original Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha spent his First Week and where he had his enlightenment. To the north of the central path, on a raised area, is the Animeshlochan Chaitya (prayer hall) where the Buddha is believed to have spent the Second Week. The Buddha spent the Third Week walking 18 paces back and forth in an area called Ratnachakrama (Jewelled Ambulatory), which lies near the north wall of the main temple. The spot where he spent the Fourth Week is Ratnaghar Chaitya, located to the north-east near the enclosure wall. Immediately after the steps of the east entrance on the central path there is a pillar which marks the site of the Ajapala Nigrodh Tree, under which Buddha meditated during his Fifth Week, answering the queries of Brahmins. He spent the Sixth Week next to the Lotus Pond to the south of the enclosure, and the Seventh Week under the Rajyatana Tree currently marked by a tree.
Mountain Railways of India
The development of railways in the 19th century had a profound influence on social and economic developments in many parts of the world. The two Mountain Railways of India on the World Heritage List are outstanding examples of the interchange of values on developments in technology, and the impact of innovative transportation system on the social and economic development of a multicultural region, which was to serve as a model for similar developments in many parts of the world.
The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway is intimately linked with the development of Darjeeling as the queen of hill stations and one of the main tea-growing areas in India, in the early 19th century. The densely wooded mountain spur on which Darjeeling now stands was formerly part of the Kingdom of Sikkim. It was adopted by the British East India Company as a rest and recovery station for its soldiers in 1835, when the area was leased from Sikkim and building of the hill station began, linked to the plains by road. In 1878 the Eastern Bengal Railway submitted a detailed proposal for a steam railway from Siliguri, already linked with Calcutta to Darjeeling. This received official approval and construction work began immediately, and by 1881 it had been completed. Since 1958 it has been managed by the State-owned Northeast Frontier Railway.
Qutb Minar and its Monuments
Lalkot is the first of the seven cities of Delhi, established by the Tomar Rajput ruler, Anang Pal, in 1060. The Qutb complex lies in the middle of the eastern part of Lalkot. Building of the Quwwatu’l-Islam (Might of Islam) congregational mosque was begun in 1192 by Qutbu’d-Din Aibak and completed in 1198, using the demolished remains of Hindu temples. It was enlarged by Iltutmish (1211-36) and again by Alauld-Din Khalji (1296-1316).
The Qutb Minar was also begun by Qutbu’d-Din Aibak, in around 1202 and completed by his successor, Muhammad-bin-Sam. It was damaged by lightning in 1326 and again in 1368, and was repaired by the rulers of the day, Muhammad-bin-Tughluq (1325-51) and Firuz Shah Tughluq (1351-88). In 1503 Sikandar Lodi carried out some restoration and enlargement of the upper storeys. The iron pillar in the mosque compound was brought from elsewhere in India. It bears a Sanskrit inscription from the 4th century AD describing the exploits of a ruler named Chandra, believed to be the Gupta King Chandragupta II (375-413). Of the other monuments, the Tomb of Iltutmish was built in 1235 by the ruler himself and Alai Darwaja was built in 1311 by Alauld-Din Khalji, who also began the construction of the Alai Minar.
Mountain Railways of India
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.
Red Fort Complex
The Red Fort Complex was built as the palace fort of Shahjahanabad – the new capital of the fifth Mughal Emperor of India, Shah Jahan. Named for its massive enclosing walls of red sandstone, it is adjacent to an older fort, the Salimgarh, built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546, with which it forms the Red Fort Complex. The private apartments consist of a row of pavilions connected by a continuous water channel, known as the Nahr-i-Behisht (Stream of Paradise). The Red Fort is considered to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity which, under the Shah Jahan, was brought to a new level of refinement. The planning of the palace is based on Islamic prototypes, but each pavilion reveals architectural elements typical of Mughal building, reflecting a fusion of Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions The Red Fort’s innovative planning and architectural style, including the garden design, strongly influenced later buildings and gardens in Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra and further afield.
The planning and design of the Red Fort represents a culmination of architectural development initiated in 1526 AD by the first Mughal Emperor and brought to a splendid refinement by Shah Jahan with a fusion of traditions: Islamic, Persian, Timurid and Hindu. The innovative planning arrangements and architectural style of building components as well as garden design developed in the Red Fort strongly influenced later buildings and gardens in Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra and further afield. The Red Fort has been the setting for events which have had a critical impact on its geo-cultural region.
Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka
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.
Bhimbetka reflects a long interaction between people and the landscape. It is closely associated with a hunting and gathering economy, as demonstrated in the rock art and in the relicts of this tradition in the local adivasi villages on the periphery of the site.
The site complex was discovered by V. S. Wakankar in 1957. Almost 100 years earlier, in 1867, rock paintings had been discovered in Uttar Pradesh and the first scientific article on Indian rock paintings was published by J. Cockburn in 1883. Bhimbetka was first mentioned in 1888 as a Buddhist site, from information obtained from local adivasis. Two shelters were excavated in 1971 by Bajpai, Pandey and Gour.
Sun Temple, Konârak
Konârak is an outstanding testimony to the 13th-century kingdom of Orissa. It is directly and materially linked to Brahmin beliefs, and forms the invaluable link in the history of the diffusion of the cult of Surya, which originated in Kashmir during the 8th century and finally reached the shores of eastern India.
On the eastern coast of India, south of the Mahanadi Delta, is the Brahmin temple of Kimarak (still spelled as Konârak or Konârka), one of the most famous Brahmin sanctuaries of Asia. Konârak derives its name from Konârka, the presiding deity of the Sun Temple. Konârka is a combination of two words, kona (corner) and arka (Sun). It was one of the earliest centres of Sun worship in India. Built around 1250 in the reign of King Narasingha Deva (1238-64), it marks the apogee of the wave of foundations dedicated to the Sun God Surya; the entire temple was conceived as a chariot of the Sun God with a set of spokes and elaborate carvings.
The present Sun Temple was probably built by King Narashimhadev I (1238-64) of the Ganga dynasty to celebrate his victory over the Muslims. The temple fell into disuse in the early 17th century after it was desecrated by an envoy of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. The legend has it that the temple was constructed by Samba, the son of Lord Krishna. Samba was afflicted by leprosy and after twelve years of penance he was cured by Surya, the Sun God, in whose honour he built this temple.
The Taj Mahal, an immense mausoleum of white marble, built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, is the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage. It no doubt partially owes its renown to the moving circumstances of its construction. Shah Jahan, in order to perpetuate the memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died in 1631, had this funerary mosque built. The monument, begun in 1632, was finished in 1648; unverified but nonetheless, tenacious, legends attribute its construction to an international team of several thousands of masons, marble workers, mosaicists and decorators working under the orders of the architect of the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahori.
Situated on the right bank of the Yamuna in a vast Mogul garden of some 17 ha, this funerary monument, bounded by four isolated minarets, reigns with its octagonal structure capped by a bulbous dome through the criss-cross of open perspectives offered by alleys or basins of water. The rigour of a perfect elevation of astonishing graphic purity is disguised and almost contradicted by the scintillation of a fairy-like decor where the white marble, the main building material, brings out and scintillates the floral arabesques, the decorative bands, and the calligraphic inscriptions which are incrusted in polychromatic pietra dura. The materials were brought in from all over India and central Asia and white Makrana marble from Jodhpur. Precious stones for the inlay came from Baghdad, Punjab, Egypt, Russia, Golconda, China, Afghanistan, Ceylon, Indian Ocean and Persia. The unique Mughal style combines elements and styles of Persian, Central Asian and Islamic architecture.
The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur, is an astronomical observation site built in the early 18th century. It includes a set of some twenty main fixed instruments. They are monumental examples in masonry of known instruments but which in many cases have specific characteristics of their own. The Jantar Mantar is an expression of the astronomical skills and cosmological concepts of the court of a scholarly prince at the end of the Mughal period.
The Jantar Mantar observatory in Jaipur constitutes the most significant and best preserved set of fixed monumental instruments built in India in the first half of the 18th century; some of them are the largest ever built in their categories. Designed for the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye, they embody several architectural and instrumental innovations. The observatory forms part of a tradition of Ptolemaic positional astronomy which was shared by many civilizations. It contributed by this type of observation to the completion of the astronomical tables of Zij. It is a late and ultimate monumental culmination of this tradition.
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. It was also a symbol of royal authority, through its urban dimensions, its control of time, and its rational and astrological forecasting capacities. The observatory is the monumental embodiment of the coming together of needs which were at the same time political, scientific, and religious.
Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area
This National Park in the western part of the Himalayan Mountains in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh is characterized by high alpine peaks, alpine meadows and riverine forests. The 90,540 ha property includes the upper mountain glacial and snow meltwater sources of several rivers, and the catchments of water supplies that are vital to millions of downstream users. The GHNPCA protects the monsoon-affected forests and alpine meadows of the Himalayan front ranges. It is part of the Himalaya biodiversity hotspot and includes twenty-five forest types along with a rich assemblage of fauna species, several of which are threatened. This gives the site outstanding significance for biodiversity conservation.
Kaziranga National Park
In the heart of Assam, this park is one of the last areas in eastern India undisturbed by a human presence. It is inhabited by the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinoceroses, as well as many mammals, including tigers, elephants, panthers and bears, and thousands of birds.
The site is on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra River at the foot of the Mikir Hills. The park lies in the flood plains of the Brahmaputra. The riverine habitat consists primarily of tall, dense grasslands interspersed with open forests, interconnecting streams and numerous small lakes (bheels ). Three-quarters or more of the area is submerged annually by the flood waters of the Brahmaputra. Soils are alluvial deposits of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries.
There are three main types of vegetation: alluvial inundated grasslands, tropical wet evergreen forests and tropical semi-evergreen forests. Grasslands predominate in the west, with tall ‘elephant’ grasses on the higher ground and short grasses on the lower ground surrounding the bheels . They have been maintained by annual flooding and burning over thousands of years. Tropical wet evergreen forests, near Kanchanjhuri, Panbari and Tamulipathar blocks, are dominated by trees. Tropical semi-evergreen forests occur near Baguri, Bimali and Haldibari.
Keoladeo National Park
The site is situated in eastern Rajasthan, the park is 2 km south-east of Bharatpur and 50 km west of Agra. The area consists of a flat patchwork of marshes in the Gangetic plain, artificially created in the 1850s and maintained ever since by a system of canals, sluices and dykes. Normally, water is fed into the marshes twice a year from inundations of the Gambira and Banganga rivers, which are impounded on arable land by means of an artificial dam called Ajan Bund, to the south of the park. The first time, usually in mid-July, is soon after the onset of the monsoon and the second time is in late September or October when Ajan Bund is drained ready for cultivation in winter. Thus, the area is flooded to a depth of 1-2 m throughout the monsoon (July-September), after which the water level drops. From February onwards the land begins to dry out and by June only some water remains. For much of the year the area of wetland is only 1,000 ha. Soils are predominantly alluvial – some clay has formed as a result of the periodic inundations.
In a semi-arid biotype, the park is the only area with much vegetation, hence the term ‘Ghana’ meaning ‘thicket’. The principal vegetation types are tropical dry deciduous forest, intermixed with dry grassland in areas where forest has been degraded. Apart form the artificially managed marshes, much of the area is covered by medium-sized trees and shrubs. Forests, mostly in the north-east of the park, are dominated by kalam or kadam, jamun and babul. The open woodland is mostly babul with a small amount of kandi and ber. Scrublands are dominated by ber and kair. The aquatic vegetation is rich in species and is a valuable source of food for waterfowl.
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary
Manas takes its name from the Goddess Manasa. The site is noted for its spectacular scenery, with a variety of habitat types that support a diverse fauna, making it the richest of all Indian wildlife areas. The park represents the core of an extensive tiger reserve that protects an important migratory wildlife resource along the West Bengal to Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan borders. Its wetlands are of international importance. It is also the single most important site for the survival of pygmy hog, hispid hare and golden langur.
The park, which includes part of Manas Reserve Forest and all of North Kamrup Reserve Forest, constitutes the core of Manas Tiger Reserve located in the forest divisions of Kachugaon, Haltugaon, Western Assam Wildlife and North Kamrup.
Lying in the foothills of the Outer Himalaya, the area is low-lying and flat. The Manas River flows through the western portion of the park, where it splits into three separate rivers, and joins the Brahmaputra some 64 km further south. These and other rivers running through the tiger reserve carry an enormous amount of silt and rock debris from the foothills, resulting from the heavy rainfall, fragile nature of the rock and steep-gradients of the catchments. This leads to the formation of alluvial terraces, comprising deep layers of deposited rock and detritus overlain with sand and soil of varying depth, shifting river channels and swamps. The area of the Boki basin, in the west of the park, is sometimes inundated during the monsoon. The three main types of vegetation are: tropical semi-evergreen forests in the northern part of the park; tropical moist and dry deciduous forests (the most common type); and extensive alluvial grasslands in the western part of the park.
Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks
The Nanda Devi National Park is one of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the Himalayas. It is dominated by the peak of Nanda Devi, which rises to over 7,800 m. No people live in the park, which has remained more or less intact because of its inaccessibility. It is the habitat of several endangered mammals, especially the snow leopard, Himalayan musk deer and bharal.
The park lies in Chamoli district, within the Garhwal Himalaya. It comprises the catchment area of the Rishi Ganga, an eastern tributary of Dhauli Ganga which flows into the Alaknanda River at Joshimath. The area is a vast glacial basin, divided by a series of parallel, north-south oriented ridges. These rise up to the encircling mountain rim along which are about a dozen peaks, the better known including Dunagiri, Changbang and Nanda Devi East.
Nanda Devi West, India’s second-highest mountain, lies on a short ridge projecting into the basin and rises up from Nanda Devi East on the eastern rim. Trisul, in the south-west, also lies inside the basin. The upper Rishi Valley, often referred to as the ‘Inner Sanctuary’, is fed by Changbang, North Rishi and North Nanda Devi glaciers to the north and by South Nanda Devi and South Rishi glaciers to the south of the Nanda Devi massif. There is an impressive gorge cutting through the Devistan-Rishikot ridge below the confluence of the North and South Rishi rivers. The Trisuli and Ramani glaciers are features of the lower Rishi Valley or ‘Outer Sanctuary’, below which the Rishi Ganga enters the narrow, steep-sided lower gorge.
Sundarbans National Park
The site lies south-east of Calcutta in the District of West Bengal and forms part of the Gangetic Delta, which borders on the Bay of Bengal. The Sundarbans, covering some 10,000 km2 of mangrove forest and water, is part of the world’s largest delta formed from sediments deposited by three great rivers, the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna, which converge on the Bengal Basin.
The whole Sundarbans area is intersected by an intricate network of interconnecting waterways, of which the larger channels are often a kilometre or two in width and run in a north-south direction. These waterways now carry little freshwater as they are mostly cut off from the Ganges, the outflow of which has shifted from the Hooghly-Bhagirathi channels progressively eastwards since the 17th century. This is due to subsidence of the Bengal Basin and a gradual eastward tilting of the overlying crust. In the Indian Sundarbans, the western portion receives some freshwater through the Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system but that portion designated as the tiger reserve is essentially land-locked, its rivers having become almost completely cut off from the main freshwater sources over the last 600 years. Thus, waterways in the tiger reserve are maintained largely by the diurnal tidal flow, the average rise and fall being about 2.15 m on the coast and up to 5.68 m on Sagar Island.
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.