Famous World Heritage Sites in India

Posted On : 15-3-2018
Famous World Heritage Sites in India

India is home to an impressive array of World Heritage Sites recognized by UNESCO for their cultural, historical, and natural significance. These sites offer a glimpse into India's rich heritage and are must-visit destinations for travelers.

Want to explore popular world heritage sites of India. Here is the list of sites. These sites are living statements of the wonder that is India.

Brihadisvara Temple

Brihadisvara Temple or the Great Temple at Thanjavur (Tanjore) would stand as a masterpiece even if size alone as a criterion for art. The size and grandeur of the temple is an eloquent expression of the extent of the power of the Chola King, Rajaraja I, under whom it was built. Built between 1003 A.D. and 1010 AD., it is here that the gopura (gateway) a dominant feature of southern temple architecture, came into its own. Thanjavur, the then capital of the Cholas, is today the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu. It is connected by rail and road with Thiruchirappalli, Madurai, Nagore, Tirupati, Rameshwaram, and Madras. Trichy is the nearest airport.


Once feudatories of the Gurjara Prathiharas, the Chandela family rose to power in the 10th and 11th centuries and established their own principality around the site of Khajuraho, in the region of Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh. Within the Chandela capital, culture flourished as the kings patronized poets and dramatists. They also paid equal attention to civil works, fortresses, palaces, dams, tanks, et al. The greatest testimony to the Chandela line is the numerous temples erected at the site of Khajuraho. Believed to be over 80 at one time, only 25 survive today. Regardless of whether they are Shaivaite, Vaishnavaite, or Jain, these temples form a homogeneous group sharing the northern Indian temple architecture style, and yet being distinguished in themselves.

The Lakshmana temple here can be considered the epitome of the developed face of architecture at Khajuraho as well as the northern Indian style architecture. Inscriptions at the base of the temple state Yashovarman or Lakshvarman erected it in 954 A.D. as a splendid home for Vishnu which rivals the peaks of the mountains. In fact, this temple is likened to Mount Meru. the celestial mountain in Hindu mythology. The temple has pillars in the mandapas (halls) and lavishly sculpted interiors and exteriors. On the external walls the sculptures are so arranged that with every circumambulation, the visitor is exposed to different facets of everyday life, wartime, and love.

Another temple in this complex is the Khandariya Mahadeva Temple erected by Vidhyadhara who ruled from 1017 to 1029 A.D. This temple too is like the Lakshmana temple having the most exquisite and perfect sculptures now famous the world over.

How to reach Khajuraho?

Khajuraho is well connected by flight from Delhi via Agra, while the nearest rail point is Mahoba, approximately 65 kilometers from the temple site. The other convenient point is Jhansi, where one can catch a regular bus service for the temple town.

Sun Temple Konark

This temple is probably one of the most ambitious and well-thought-out monuments of India. Dedicated to Surya, the Sun God, it is in the form of a gigantic chariot, pulled by seven horses. Built-in the 13th century A.D., it marks the high point in the achievement of Orissan architects, as well as reflects the advanced astronomical and religious views held at that time. Today the temple is in ruins. Contemporary textual evidence tells us that Raja Narsimha Deva I of the Ganga Dynasty initiated the construction of this temple, at the suggestion of his mother, even while he was just a Prince of 18 years of age. From its initiation, the project became Narasimha Deva’s preoccupation for nearly 20 long years. Records reveal that it took six years and three months to plan, and 12 years and ten months to build.

The image was installed on Maghasukla Samptami (the birthday of the Sun God) which occurred on a Sunday, in the Saka year 1179, equivalent to 1258 A.D.

The fame of the temple spread far and wide for several centuries after its completion. Chaitanya, the Saint from Bengal (1486-1533) visited it. Abul Fazal, Akbar’s chronicler, visited and remarked: “even those whose judgment is critical and who are difficult to please stand astonished at its site”. Even as far as the 19th century the temple stood in its full glory.

Like other Orissan temples, the Sun Temple is situated in the center of a large quadrangular compound. The temple sits on a high plinth and consisted of a sanctum with the shikar (superstructure), the mandapa (hall) orjagmohana, and the Natya Mandir. At present, the sanctum with the shikar or superstructure is totally lost. The jagmohana with its pyramidical superstructure is still standing. But the interior has been filled in and blocked off. The Natya mandir has also lost its roof, but its heavy piers still stand as mute testimony of the temples original glory. The concept of the temple as a chariot may be related to the rath yatras in which the images of the deities were paraded through the city streets in chariots, popular in Orissa even today. The twelve pairs of wheels carved on the plinth represent the twelve months or the signs of the zodiac. The rim spokes and other elements are carved in detail with decorative and foliate motifs and figures. Beneath the wheels and running as a frieze around the plinth is a band of elephants in procession, reminding one of the bigger elephants carved out in the Ellora Kailashnath temple.

The important sculptures of this temple were carved in chloritic stone by the finest craftsmen in crisp detail. An intriguing aspect of the sculptures of this temple is the profusion of mithunas and erotic sculptures on the walls of the building. The mithunas may have meant to represent the union, transformation, and sublimation of the self in search of the truth.

How to reach Konark Sun Temple?

Konark is connected by regular bus services and conducted coach tours from Bhuvaneshwar and Puri. Bhuvaneshwar is the nearest air link point.

Fatehpur Sikri

Akbar did not have an heir till 1569. His son, Jahangir was born in the village of Sikri, 38 kilometers east of Agra. To commemorate the event, Akbar built a compound in the village for his spiritual adviser Salim Chisti, who had predicted the birth of the heir. After Jahangir’s second birthday, Akbar commenced the construction of Sikri, a walled city and an imperial palace. He shifted his capital from Agra to Sikri and renamed it Fatehpur Sikri. Fatehpur Sikri was much more than a Royal Residence. It had baths, serais (inns), bazaars, schools, workshops, and gardens. The city was inhabited by Akbar for about 15 years.

The site’s focal point is Chisti’s religious compound, which consists of the enormous Jami Mosque, and his tomb. The Bulund Darwaza is another important site, a towering south entrance gate to this complex. Its surface is covered with marble slabs inscribed with Quranic verses promising paradise to true believers.

The Taj Mahal

The Taj is a unique tomb designed to give the ultimate vision of Paradise on Earth. Built as the tomb of Shah Jahan’s favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, in 1636, it also has Shah Jahan interred here. This domed white marble structure situated on a high plinth, of a four-quartered garden, (evoking the gardens of paradise) is one of the world’s best-known monuments. In Mughal chronicles, this tomb is referred to as Rauzai-i-Munavvara or the illuminated tomb.

The entire complex was proportionally designed according to a series of geometrically related grids, explaining not only the tomb’s perfect balance but also the entire complex itself. It has a red sandstone forecourt and a magnificent red sandstone gateway leading into the walled gardens. The garden is divided into quadrants by wide waterways that are supposed to resemble the streams of paradise, which find mention in the Quran. At the garden’s northern end, not in the center, is the splendid tomb, flanked on the west by a red sandstone mosque and on the east by an identical structure known in contemporary texts as the Mehman Khana (Guest House). Mumtaz Mahal’s mausoleum is seated on the center of a high square marbled plinth that elevates the tomb above the garden. At each corner of the plinth is a four-storeyed marble minaret, like the ones seen at Samarkand. The exterior of the mausoleum is primarily white marble, inlaid color stones being used abundantly, much more than in Shah Jahan’s palaces. Rectangular panels with black calligraphy rendering verses from the Quran are inlaid into the tomb's white surface. The play of light on the marble surface is used as a decorative device. Light also plays a metaphoric role in its association with the presence of God.

How to reach Agra

Agra is well connected to Delhi by flight. One can also visit the Taj Mahal in Agra by train - the Taj Express or the Shatabdi. The road connection is also a viable proposition with tourist buses, taxis and private cars doing the journey in less than 7 hours.

Churches of Goa

The Christian Portuguese and the followers of Islam were at loggerheads in the Iberian Peninsula. Goaded by this Portuguese navigators ventured into the distant seas, to attack the Muslims in their homelands. Hence Vasco da Gama came to Goa with the twin objective of spreading the faith, and fostering trade, undermining the influence of the Arabs and the Turks in the region. The Hindu Raja of Calicut welcomed Gama and this led the Portuguese armed forces to establish a base in India, after routing the Muslims. The year was 1510. The Portuguese occupied themselves with the task of colonizing their newly acquired territory, with great religious fervor. Many a Hindu temple and Muslim mosque were razed to the ground, in the Adil Shahi’s capital city of Old Goa.

In their place, sumptuous Chapels, Churches, and Cathedrals of great architectural beauty were erected. Some of them still stand, bearing witness to the bygone glory of monumental Goa. Here Western art and native craftsmanship synthesized and found expression. Going up the Mandovi river, one would enter the ancient capital through a gateway entitled the Arch of the Viceroys or Arco da Vice-Reis; to the left are seen the remnants of the Court of the Inquisition (Tribunal da Inquisicao); a little behind it one notices the imposing Church of Our Lady of Divine Providence (Nossa Senhora da Divina Providencia) with its lantern dome, which one notices is a true replica of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Another imposing structure, a little further away, is the Cathedral of Goa (Se Cathedral da Goa) dedicated to St. Catherine, the Patroness of Goa, on whose feast day (25th November 1510) Albuquerque completely wrested Goa from Muslim sovereignty. Proceeding further we come to the Church of Good Jesus (Bom Jesus) now raised to the status of a Minor Basilica. It is at this church that the interred remains of St. Francis are also to be found. Towards the west, a short distance away is the Convent of St. Monica (Santa Monica) now partly in ruins. Another interesting site is the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary (Nossa Senhora da Rosario) built predominantly in Manueline style. an architectural style that was much in vogue in Portugal of those times.

Golden Goa of yore had steadily been suffering from the ravages of time, political prejudice and decline in trade and commerce. Many of the cathedrals and monuments of earlier times were demolished while time took care of the rest and negligence resulted in many of the churches and cathedrals falling into ruin. The final blow came with the Decree issued by the Marquess of Pombal in 1759 banning religious congregations in Portugal and its overseas possessions. This was the death knell for the religious monuments in the city of Old Goa as the religious deserted their convents, monasteries, and churches and left no one behind who was really interested to take care of them. And yet there is much to see. As Thevenot, a 17th-century traveler says, “The city is great and full of beautiful churches and convents and well adorned with palaces.” A true calendar of the glory of Goa and its people.

How to reach Goa?

Goa’s international airport, Dabolim, is 29 kilometers from Panaji. Most of India’s domestic airlines operate services here. There are frequent buses to Old Goa from the bus stand at Panaji. The trip takes 25 minutes.