10 UNESCO Heritage Sites in India

10 UNESCO Heritage Sites in India
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India has a very rich cultural heritage and thousands of years deep-seated history, there are a lot of sites in India, which give us quite an insight into how the people of the country evolved as such a great civilization. Many of these sites have been recognized by UNESCO as UNESCO heritage sites, India has total 39 sites recognized by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites, through this their image and importance worldwide has been elevated, which in turn makes them world renowned destinations to visit and important places for conservation.

These sites are scattered all over the subcontinent but if you are planning a vacation in India, you will find many of these sites within a day’s journey from many important cities. They have beautiful architecture and you can learn a lot from a simple visit to these sites, This Travel Experience will give you lot of insight into the history of the place, and the kind of life that the people used to be living during those times that they were built. Here are some of the most famous UNESCO Heritage Sites in India.

  • Hampi – Karnataka


This UNESCO Heritage Site is dated back to 1343 to 1565 AD (Vijayanagara Empire), located in the Ballari district in Karnataka, the ruins of Hampi are located on the banks of river Tungabhadra. The city of Hampi was built in the Vijayanagara era and it is one of the most important Hindu towns of the time, which is dotted with many ruined temple complexes. Even today, the ruins serve as a major religious place for the Hindus since there are many temples built from the that period for ex. Virupaksha Temple (Temple dedicated to Lord Siva as a consort the local goddess Pampadevi). The temples of Hampi are monolithic structures and monuments attract every avid traveller/tourist, solo travellers from across globe for their excellent craftsman ship. However, the glorious Hampi succumbed to the attacks carried by the five Deccan Sultans from Bidar, Bijapur, Golconda, Ahmednagar and Berar. This site was discovered by an English Engineer Colonel Colin Mackienze employee of East India Company.

  •  Pattadakal – Bagalkot Dis, Karnataka, India


This UNESCO Heritage Site is also called as Pattadakallu or Raktapura, which can be dated between 7th to 8th Century CE which comprise of Hindu and Jain Temples. The temples and monuments in Pattadakal are all dedicated to Lord Shiva and they were built during the Chalukya Dynasty. UNESCO deemed it as a heritage site back in 1987 and the fusion of the architectural designs from the Nagra (north) and the Dravida (south) India make it a perfect haven for its preservation. Hindus consider the city to be holy and it is a part of the trinity which contains other cities like Aihole and Badami (known as cradle of Indian Architecture). The oldest temple here is a massive Sanagameshwar temple (Dedicated to Lord Shiva) built by Vijayaditya Satyasraya (697 – 733 AD).

  • Chola Temples – Tamil Nadu

Chola Temple

This UNESCO Heritage Site is also popularly known as the “The Great Living Chola Temples”. The Cholas were the longest dynasty in southern India and over the years, they built quite a lot of magnificent temples. Three temples stand out from the rest and all of them became a part of the UNESCO heritage sites list in 1987. These are the Brihadeeswara at Thanjavur, (1010 CE, almost 1010 years old), which was built by the Rajaj Raja I, as legend goes by the king got a dream wherein he got a divine command to build this temple the Brihadeeswara Temple at Gangaikondacholisvaram (its believed that the Rajendra Chola filled the temple tank with Ganga Water entirely), these temples are known for this architectural splendor and magnificent design, one amazing fact of this temple it has no shadow and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram, Thanjavur, which depicts Dravidian architecture built by Rajaraja Chola II during 12th Century CE by the renowned architect Sama Varma, this temple is one among the famous temples built during the Chol Dynasty.

  •  Nilgiri Mountain Railway – Tamil Nadu

Nilgiri Mountain Railway

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway was originally constructed by the British in 1908, and it became a member of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005. Even today, the railway uses a traditional steam engine for a stretch of 46 kilometres. It is also the steepest climb in the entire continent of Asia. This railway is operated by Sothern Railway, in a Meter Gauge i.e. 1000 mm {3ft 3 3/8 in} and is the only rack railway in India. This train runs from Coimbatore to Udhagamandalam (Ooty). The Uphill journey takes approximately 290 minutes (approx. 5 hrs.) it has the steepest track in Asia.

Daily a train starts from Mettuplayam at 7.10 am and reaches Udhagamandalam (Ooty) at noon. And again, the train starts from Udhagamandalam (Ooty) at 14.00 and reaches mettupalayam at 17.35 pm. Till date tickets issued Edmonson Style Manual Tickets (i.e. to preserve the heritage status). Tickets can be booked online through IRCTC website (www.irctc.co.in)

  • Konark Sun Temple – Odisha

Konark Sun Temple

The Konark Sun Temple is built in the form of a chariot of the Sun God Surya and it is complete with 24 wheels and symbolism carved in stone. Built in the 13th century, which is situated 36 kms northeast from Puri, it was enlisted in the UNESCO Heritage sites in 1984. This temple is built by the King Narasinga Deva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty dedicated to the Lord Surya (sun). The temple depicts the marvels of the Kalinga Architecture, the European sailors named it the Black Pagoda due to its dark color and its magnetic power that drew the ships into the shore and caused shipwrecks.

This temple is known for its exquisite stone carvings which cover the entire temple structure and the entire temple is shaped like giant chariot. This temple was originally around 227 feet the present structure is only 127 feet. The main idol of the sun god was an alloy made of 8 metals and suspended in mid air by placing large magnet on the top. This temple was engineering master piece where the entire structure was built by stone and they were interlocked by metal structure, this metal structure was held together by large magnet which was more than 5 tons in weight. The Konark temple what we see now is only the entrance of the temple. This famous temple was never worshipped because the chief architect Bisu Maharana killed himself by jumping into the Chandrabhaga river from the top of the temple. Since temple become unholy the by this death the sun god at this temple was never worshipped. This famous temple was destroyed by a Muslim Governor Sultan Suleiman Karrani of Bengal also known as Kalaphad in 1508 (approx). The main temple porch is filled with sand done during the British to prevent it from collapsing. The Sun temple is an enigma which is filled with solved, unsolved mysteries, myths and folklore.

  • Western Ghats – Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu

Western Ghats


The natural brilliance of the Western Ghats is just one of the reasons why it was enlisted in the UNESCO Heritage sites in 2012. As per UNSECO Western Ghats are much older than Himalayas, the rolling hills provide quite a relaxing view and you can be guaranteed with a serene time if you are planning a visit to the Western Ghats. You will see a lot of green color here since there are many tea and coffee plantations that are the main sources of income for the locals apart from the tourism. A total 39 sites in Western Ghats are designated as heritage sites in 2012. Western Ghats cover around 1,60,000 Km2 . Western Ghats are also called as Sahyadri Mountains in some places.

Unlike the Eastern Ghats, Western Ghats are a chain of continuous mountains running parallel to India’s west coast approximately 30 to 50 kms inland, which run through Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat approximately around 1600 kms long. These mountains act as barrier to the rain laden monsoon winds that sweep through the south west. These mountains have unusually high level of Bio Diversity, these mountains are considered as the worlds eight hottest hotspot of bio diversity. Source ( www.unesco.org)

  • Churches & Convents – Goa

Churches & Convents – Goa
St Xavier’s Church, Old Goa, By Nakuldubey0601 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62489881

In 1986, UNESCO brought in the churches and convents in Goa to its list of the heritage sites and also the name given by UNESCO to set of religious monuments located in Goa. These churches and convents were built by the Portuguese between the 16th and 18th century. Of the original 60 monuments, only a few remain today and they are protected by the UNESCO so that the future generations are able to gain a perspective on history. This site is located in Old Goa, which was a Portuguese Capital (1565 – 1760) it is believed that many sites were abandoned because of a malaria outbreak during that time.

The main buildings which include are St Catherine’s Chapel, Church and Convent of Francis Assisi, Se Cathedral, Basilica of Bom Jesus, Church of our lady of the Rosary, Church of the Saint Cajetan including the seminary.

  • Ajanta Caves – Maharashtra

Ajantha Caves

The famous Ajanta caves were first built in the 2nd century BC during the reign of Emperor Ashoka. These Buddhist caves had additions to them done during the rule of the Gupta dynasty in the 6th century AD. There are many paintings inside the caves which depict the religious art of Buddhism and they are reminiscent of the paintings and sculptures found in Sri Lanka as well and are considered as a masterpieces of Buddhist religious art. The Ajanta caves were inscribed in the UNESCO heritage sites in 1983.

As legend goes, these caves were discovered by a British officer named John Smith (1819) while hunting for tigers in that region, he stumbled upon the Cave no 10 when guided by a local shepherd boy. These caves were well known by the locals by then. There are total of 30 caves of these Cave no 9,10,19,26 & 29 are prayer halls with a stupa at a far end and rest are monasteries for the monks.

  •  Ellora Caves – Maharashtra

It is one of the largest rock cut monasteries temple cave complexes in the world, built from the 7th century AD to the 11th century AD, the Ellora caves portray paintings from a mixture of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Many temples and monasteries were sculpted into the walls of the Ellora caves, running up to a length of 2 kilometres. These can be classified as monolithic architecture as theses caves are all carved out one single basalt rock mountain.

These caves were also designated as a UNESCO heritage site during the 7th session in 1983.There a total of 34 monasteries and temples. These caves were carved out of solid basalt cliffs in the Chandragiri hills. There are over 100 caves but only 34 are opened to public. A part of the Hindu Buddhist caves was built during Rashtrakuta dynasty and the Jain caves were built during the Yadav dynasty.

  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus – Maharashtra
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
By Ajit A. Kenjale – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72256569

Formerly known as Victoria Terminus (VT) even today many of them refer to the station as VT station and was earlier known as Bori Bunder Railway Station, which was redesigned and built in 1888, which is a stark reminder of British Raj in India and landmark within the Central Business Districts of Mumbai. the site was finally named after the great Maratha ruler Shivaji and was brought into the fold of the UNESCO heritage sites in 2004 during its 28th session. The terminal has an Indo-Saracenic Victorian Gothic Revival architectural blended with the theme deriving Indian traditional architecture and was built to cater to the needs of a terminal for import and export. This terminal was designed by a renowned British Architect FW. Stevens. Even today, the station remains one of the busiest railway stations in India.

The complete construction took approximately 10 years and this the most expensive project of that time. The entrance gates of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus which carry two columns which are crowned one with head of lion (Representing British/Great Britain) and the other one with a tiger ((Representing India). The main structure is built with a combination of sandstone and limestone. One should see in the evening when it fully lit up, its beauty beholds one to stand and admire the beauty of the structure even today.

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As said above, India has total 39 sites have only described 10 of them we will discussing many in the coming posts.

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