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Jun 19, 2014

There are 30 world heritage sites in India. Out of these 24 are cultural site and rest are Natural sites.


1. Agra Fort:

  • It was constructed by the third Mughal emperor Akbar on the remains of an ancient site known as Badalgarh.

  • It comprises many fairy-tale palaces, such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, built by Shah Jahan; audience halls, such as the Diwan-i-Khas; and two very beautiful mosques.

  • Built in red sandstone, covering a length of 2.5 kilometres

  • Monuments in Agra fort are remarkable for the fusion of Persianart of the Timurid and the Indian art form.

  • There are four gates on its four sides, one of the gates was called “khizri-gate” (the water gate) which opens to the river front, where ghats (quays) were provided. 

  • It is very close to the famous Taj Mahal with a buffer zone separating the two monuments.

2. Ajanta caves:

  • Buddhist caves date from the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C. 

  • During the Gupta period (5th and 6th centuries A.D.), many more richly decorated caves were added to the original group. 

  • These caves were discovered by an Army Officer in the Madras Regiment of the British Army in 1819. 

  • Caves are excavated in horse–shoe shaped bend of rock surface nearly 76 m in height overlooking a narrow stream known as Waghora.

  • They are cut into the volcanic lava of the Deccan in the forest ravines of the Sahyadri.

  • Caves contain carvings that depict the life of Buddha, and their carvings and sculptures are considered to be the beginning of classical Indian art.

  • Total 30 excavations were hewn out of rock which also includes an unfinished one. 

  • Out of these, five (cave no. 9, 10, 19, 26, and 29) are chaitya grihas and the rest are viharas.

  • The earliest excavations belong to the Hinayana phase of Buddhism of which similar examples could also be seen at Bhaja, Kondane, Pitalkhora, Nasik, etc. In total, 5 caves at Ajanta belong to this phase.

  • World famous paintings at Ajanta also fall into two broad phases:

The earliest is noticed in the form of fragmentary specimens in cave nos. 9 & 10, which are datable to second century B.C. 

The second phase of paintings started around 5th – 6th centuries A.D. and continued for the next two centuries. 

3. Ellora Caves:

  • The Ellora caves, locally known as ‘Verul Leni’ is located in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra.

  • These 34 monasteries and temples, extending over more than 2 km.

  • It represents one of the largest rock-hewn monastic-temple complexes in the entire world.

  • Ellora is also world famous for the largest single monolithic excavation in the world, the great Kailasa.

  • Ellora  built between 600 to 1000 AD.

  • Ellora has sanctuaries devoted to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism which  illustrates the spirit of tolerance that was characteristic of ancient India.

  • Caves 1 to 12 are Buddhist; Caves 13 to 29 are Brahmanical and Caves 30 to 34 are Jaina.

     Buddhist Caves were excavated between the 5th and the 7th centuries AD which appear to be the oldest.

     Brahmin caves are mostly Saivite  and excavated between  600 to 900 BC.

     The Jain Caves are massive, well-proportioned, decorated and mark the last phase of the activity at Ellora.

  • The Ellora caves, unlike Ajanta, have a distinction that they were never lost to oblivion, due to their close proximity to the trade route. 

  • They are excavated in sloping sides of a hill and nit in perpendicular cliff, as a result most of temple have courtyards and some times an outer wall. 

4. Taj mahal : 

  • Taj mahal, the pinnacle of Mughal architecture was Built in Agra between 1631 and 1648.

  • By order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Arjumand Bano Begum, entitled ‘Mumtaz Mahal’. 

  • 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. 

  • Its recognised architectonic beauty has a rhythmic combination of solids and voids, concave and convex and light shadow; such as arches and domes further increases the aesthetic aspect.

  • Taj Mahal is a perfect symmetrical planned building, with an emphasis of bilateral symmetry along a central axis on which the main features are placed.

5. Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram:

  • Founded by the Pallava kings.

  • Monuments were carved out of rock along the Coromandel coast in the 7th and 8th centuries.

  • Of the nine monolithic temples found in Mahabalipuram, the most important are Five Rathas known after the famous five Pandava brothers of the Mahabharata fame.

  • It is also known for its mandapas (cave sanctuaries), and giant open-air reliefs apart from Rathas ( temples in the form of chariots).

  • These monuments are carved out of a single rock with choice of all known forms of plan and elevations. While the Dharmaraja, Arjuna and Draupadi rathas are square on plan, the Bhima and Ganesa rathas are rectangular and Sahadeva ratha apsidal.

  • The notable cave temples here are the Varaha mandapa, Mahisamardini mandapa, Paramesvara Mahavaraha Vishnugriha (Adivaraha cave).

  • Another piece of architectural beauty is the Shore temple, standing against the background of the deep blue waters of the ocean. It belongs to a period when the constructional style of the Pallavas was at its peak in its decorative beauty and intrinsic quality.

  • The influence of the sculptures of Mahabalipuram, characterized by the softness and supple mass of their modeling, spread widely (Cambodia, Annam, Java).

6. Konarak (Sun Temple): 

  • Built in the thirteenth century, it was conceived as a gigantic solar chariot with twelve pairs of exquisitely-ornamented wheels dragged by seven rearing horses. It is directly and materially linked to Brahmanism and tantric belief systems.

  • It is also known as the "Black Pagoda".

  • The Sun Temple is the culmination of Kalingan temple architecture, with all its defining elements in complete and perfect form.

  • It was constructed from oxidizing weathered ferruginous sandstone by King Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty to celebrate his victory over the Muslims.

7. Churches and Convents of Goa: 

  • These monuments owe their existence to the Portuguese rule in this part of the western coast of India.

  • Constructed between 16th and 18th  centuries.

  • These monuments known as the “Rome of the Orient”, were established by different Catholic religious orders.

  • Of the 60 churches inventoried in the 18th century before the city was abandoned, seven major examples survive.

  • These monuments were influential in spreading forms of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art in all the countries of Asia where missions were established.

  • 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.

  • Local laterite was used in the construction of the churches.

8. Fatehpur Sikri: 

  • Built by the Emperor Akbar  during the second half of the 16th century, Fatehpur Sikri (the City of Victory) was the capital of the Mughal Empire. Akbar abandoned Fatehpur Sikri in 1685 to fight against the Afghan tribes and choose a new capital, Lahore. 

  • It was the first planned city of the Mughals.

  • At Sikri practically, all Mughal institutions such as the ‘Ibadat-Khanah’, ‘Din-i-Ilahi’, ‘Tarikh-i-Ilahi’ , Jharokha-Darshan, the doctrine of Sulh-i-Kul and policy of liberal patronage to indigenous arts and literatures, were founded. It was also here that workshops of various handicrafts were established. 

  • All palaces at Sikri were built of red sandstone in the trabeate beam-and-post order, and composed of pillars, ornamental arches, brackets-and-chhajjas, jharokhas, chhatris, chhaparkhats, chaukhandis and so on. 

  • Domes have been used sparingly. 

  • Owing to the piety of Akbar, many religious and monuments were constructed at Fatehpur Sikri

  • The complex of monuments and temples, all are in a uniform architectural style.

  • Its form and layout strongly influenced the evolution of Indian town planning.

9. Group of Monuments: Hampi:

  • Situated on southern bank of river Tungbhadra, in the state of Karnataka and was the last capital of Hindu Kingdom of Vijaynagar.

  • Monuments were in honour of the sage Vidyaranya, built between 1336-1570 AD, from the times of Harihara-I to Sadasiva Raya. 

  • Many of royal buildings were raised by Krishnadeva Raya (AD 1509-30), the greatest ruler of the dynasty.

  • Temple architecture style is Dravidian.

  • Vijayanagara architecture is also known for its adoption of elements of Indo Islamic Architecture in secular buildings like the Queen’s Bath and the Elephant Stables.

  • Temples of this city are noted for their large dimensions, florid ornamentation, bold and delicate carvings, stately pillars, magnificent pavilions and a great wealth of iconographic and traditional depictions which include subjects from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

  • Jaina temples are also there.

10. Khajuraho Group Monuments: 

  • These were built by Chandellas and architecture reached its apogee between 950 and 1050 AD.

  • Temples belong to Jaina and Hinduism.

  • Of the 85 temples which were constructed at Khajuraho during the Chandella period (and which were still splendid: when the great traveller Ibn Battuta noted them in 1335), 22 still exist.

  • The temples of Khajuraho are 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 largest and grandest temple of Khajuraho is the immortal Kandariya Mahadeva which is attributed to king Ganda.

  • Greatly influenced by the Tantric school of thought, the Chandela kings promoted various Tantric doctrines through royal monuments, including temples. Sculptors of Khajuraho depicted all aspects of life.

  • Finest is savite temples and others are dedicated to Vishnu and Jainism.

  • They stand on high terraces –Each temple is divided into three components :

    The Cella/Gribh Griha

    An assembly hall or Mandapa and

    An entrance Porticoor ArdhMandapa

These entities were treated as whole.

11. Elephanta Caves :

  • Off the Bombay harbor, datable from 6th – 7th centuries A.D. 

  • These consists of two groups of caves — 

    first is a large group of five Hindu caves.

    the second, a smaller group of two Buddhist caves.

  • Cave is also famous for the exquisite and vibrant sculptures. Some famous one are 3 faced image of Shiva; others are marriage of Shiva & Parvati, Bhirav shiva in tandav dance

  • Ganesh Gumpa is one of earliest example of Brahmanical temple in these caves  and has been excavated in a rocky terrace 

  • The interior is divided up into smaller areas by rows of supports. The whole shape carefully imitates a building; false profiled beams have been carved in the roof of the cave and the supports, which are complex structures, combine, from bottom to top, the shapes of the pillars, columns and capitals found in bonded stone architecture. 

12. Great Living Chola Temple: 

  • Built by kings of the Chola Empire, which stretched over all of south India and the neighboring islands. Pallava heritage passed to Cholas.

  • The site includes three great 11th- and 12th-century Temples: the Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur (dedicated to lord Shiva) , the Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikondacholisvaram ( built by Rajendra I) and the Airavatesvara Temple at Darasuram (built by Rajaraja II).

  • Vimana/ tall pyramidal tower dominates the  whole structure of the shrine.

  • These architecture has considerable influence on the architecture of the Hindu temple of Ceylone & South East Asia.

13. Group of Monuments at Pattadakal:

  • Both Hindu and Jaina temples.

  • Constructed under the patronage of Chaulukya empire.

  • Temples constructed here mark the blending of the Rekha, Nagara, Prasada and the Dravida Vimana styles of temple building.

  • Under the Chalukya dynasty, a harmonious blend of architectural forms from northern and southern India can be seen.

  • Oldest temple at Pattadakal is Sangamesvara built by Vijayaditya Satyasraya.

  • The Kasivisvesvara temple was the last to be built in early Chalukyan style. 

  • Last addition at Pattadakal was made during the reign of Rashtrakuta ruler Krishna II of the 9th century A.D. in form of a Jaina temple, locally famous as Jaina Narayana, with its two lower storeys functional.

14. Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi:

  • Sanchi is famous in the world for stupas, monolithic Asokan pillar, temples, monasteries and sculptural wealth, most of which date back to the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.

  • It is the oldest Buddhist sanctuary in existence and was a major Buddhist centre in India until the 12th century A.D.

  • Emperor Asoka who laid the foundations of a religious centre at Sanchi. 

  • Buddha never visited the site during any of his former lives or during his earthly existence.

  • There is famous ‘Sanchi Stupa’, Its nucleus is a simple hemispherical brick structure built over the relics of the Buddha.

15. Humayun's Tomb: 

  • It is garden - tomb and built in 1570 A. D. First garden-tomb was Sikandar Lodi's tomb but Humayun's tomb which set up a new vogue, the crowning achievement of which is the Taj Mahel at Agra

  • Humayun’s widow Hamida Banu Begam, also known as Haji Begam, commenced the construction of his tomb in 1569, fourteen years after his death.

  • Mirak Mirza Ghiyath was the architect of this tomb

  • This tomb is a well-developed specimen of the double-domed elevation with kiosks on a grand scale and this building tradition culminated in the Taj Mahal, constructed a century later.

  • In plan, it is an irregular octagon with four long and four short sides.

  • The mausoleum is a synthesis of Persian architecture and Indian traditions-the former exemplified by the arched alcoves, corridors and the high double dome, and the latter by the kiosks, which give it a pyramidal outline from distance. 

16. Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi :

  • It is the highest tower in India built from red and buff sandstone 

  • Qutbu'd-Din Aibak laid the foundation of Minar in AD 1199 for the use of the mu'azzin (crier) to give calls for prayer and raised the first storey, to which were added three more storeys by his successor and son-in-law, Shamsu'd-Din Iltutmish (AD 1211-36). 

  • Built in the beginning of the 13th  century, the complex of structures comprises itineraries, the Alai Darwaza Gate (constructed by Alau'd-Din Khalji ) , the Alai Minar  (commenced by Alau'd-Din Khalji, with the intention of making it twice the size of earlier Mina), the Qubbat-ul-Islam Mosque the tomb of Iltumish, and an Iron Pillar

  • Numerous inscriptions in Arabic and Nagari characters in different places of the minar reveal the history of Qutb.

  • The Iron Pillar in the courtyard bears an inscription in Sanskrit in Brahmi script of fourth century AD, according to which the pillar was set up as a Vishnudhvaja (standard of god Vishnu) on the hill known as Vishnupada in memory of a mighty king named Chandra. 

17. Mountain Railway of India (1999,2005) West Bengal & Tamil Nadu:

This includes three Railways:

  • Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (Opened in 1881)

  • Nilgiri Mountain Railway ( Completed in 1908)

  • Kalka Shimla Railway ( Built in the mid-19th century)

18. Champaner-Pavagarh Archaeological Park :

  • There is a concentration of largely unexcavated archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage properties cradled in an impressive landscape which includes prehistoric (chalcolithic) sites, 

  • 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.

19.  Mahabodhi Temple Complex, Bodhgaya: 

  • Site is associated with the enlightenment of Lord Buddha (566-486 B.C.).

  • The first temple was built by Emperor Asoka in the 3rd century B.C., and the present temple dates from the 5th or 6th centuries.

  • It is one of the earliest Buddhist temples built entirely in brick, still standing in India, from the late Gupta period.

20. Prehistoric Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka:

  • A magnificent repository of rock paintings within natural rock shelters is located in the foothills of the Vindhya range of hills. 

  • Have largest and oldest collection of rock paintings belonging to Neolithic age and painting depict everyday lives of people—hunting, dancing, decorating bodies, etc.

  • It is spread in sandstone formations.

  • It is an archaeological site of the Paleolithic, exhibiting the earliest traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent, and thus the beginning of the South Asian Stone Age.

  • It has  more than 700 rock shelters, of which over 400 have paintings.

  • Cave also has a small inscription of the Maurya/Sunga period. 

21. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Mumbai):

  • Formerly known as Victoria Terminus Station.

  • It is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India, blended with themes deriving from Indian traditional architecture.

  • The building, designed by the British architect F. W. Stevens.

  • The terminal was built over 10 years, starting in 1878.

  • Building is the expression of the British, Italian and Indian architectural planning.

22. Red Fort, Delhi :

  • Built as the palace fort of Shahjahanabad – the new capital of the fifth Mughal Emperor of India, Shah Jahan.

  • The Red Fort is different from the Agra fort and is better planned, because at its back lies the experience gained by Shahjahan at Agra, and because it was the work of one hand. 

  • The architectural design of the structures built within the fort represents fusion of Islamic, Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions.

  • The Red Fort Complex is a layered expression of both Mughal architecture and planning, and the later British military use of the forts.

23. Jantar mantar, Jaipur:

  • An astronomical observation site built in the early 18th century and the site was included in world heritage list in 2010.

  • 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.

  • Built by Jaipur king Jai Singh II.

  • Five such sites were built at different locations. Jaipur observatory is the largest among them.

24. Hill Forts of Rajasthan:

  • It includes six majestic forts in :
     Chittorgarh
     Kumbhalgarh
     Sawai Madhopur
     Jhalawar
     Jaipur
     Jaisalmer.

  • These forts flourished in the region from the 8th to the 18th centuries

  • They represent a typology of Rajput military hill architecture, a style characterized by its mountain peak settings, utilizing the defensive properties of the terrain

  • 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. 


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