Read on to find the 10 beautiful World Heritage Sites in India you should visit on your next trip.
A nation may have several architectural geniuses, but only a few are of universal significance. These are exceptional cultural heritages, to the point where the entire human race is concerned about their preservation. UNESCO has designated these historical relics as World Heritage Sites, and these international organizations place a high priority on their conservation
This resolution currently includes 137 nations, including India. The country has 32 of these kinds of properties, and UNESCO has declared them to be World Heritage Sites. 7 of them are natural, while 25 of them are cultural heritages.
The World Heritage Site designation of these locations demonstrates their universal significance. However, there are a few of them that, due to their widespread appeal and significance in history, merit inclusion in the top ten.
So today, I’m going to write about ten of these places that I think are deserving of being among the best!
Here is where the count begins:
A. 10 World Heritage Sites in India
1. Taj Mahal
Indeed, the Taj Mahal is India’s most significant world heritage site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. There is no need to explain this monument’s spellbinding beauty.
Despite its massive height and width of more than 73 meters, this structure appears to be a “white weightless cloud rising above the ground.”
The Taj Mahal complex is regarded as the most significant Indo-Islamic architectural achievement. It was built by Shah Jahan for Mumtaz Mahal, his wife who died after having her 14th child.
From 1631 to 1648, the Taj Mahal was built. On the Yamuna River’s banks in Agra, approximately 20,000 stone carvers, masons, and artists from all over India worked on its construction.
There are five sections to the Taj Mahal complex: a riverfront terrace with a mausoleum, mosque, and jawab (guest house), pavilions in the Charbagh gardens, and a Jilauhanu (forecourt) with two additional tombs.
The Moonlight Garden is across the Yamuna River, and Taj Ganji, which was once a bazaar, can be found in front of the forecourt.
The fake decorated tombs of Mumtaz and Shah Jahan can be found in the main room. The bodies of Jahan-shah and Mumtaz are placed in a relatively ordinary chamber below the room with cenotaphs because Muslim tradition forbids decorating graves.
The Taj Mahal is India’s most well-known heritage site because of its massive, perfectly symmetrical complex and fascinating marble walls decorated with semi-precious stones and other objects.
1.1 Facts About the Taj Mahal
- The construction of the Taj Mahal began in 1632 and was completed in 1653. This monument’s construction took 22 years to complete.
- The Taj Mahal’s design incorporates Islamic, Persian, and Indian architectural styles.
- Ahmed Lahauri was the architect of the Taj Mahal.
- Shah Jahan’s vision of Mumtaz’s paradise home was the Taj Mahal.
- Approximately 20,000 workers built the Taj Mahal over twenty-two years.
- The Taj Mahal’s construction took about 320 million rupees to complete.
- The finest marble from China, Tibet, Afghanistan, and Rajasthan was used to build the Taj Mahal.
- The Taj Mahal appears to change color at different times of the day. Some accept that these changing tones portray the changing temperaments of a lady.
- One of the world’s wonders, the Taj Mahal is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Contrary to popular belief, Shah Jahan did not intend to build a black Taj Mahal across the Yamuna.
- Another common myth about the Taj Mahal is that Shah Jahan cut off all of the workers’ hands after it was built to prevent the future construction of such a structure. Thankfully, this is not the case.
- The Taj Mahal has a mosque on its premises, which is the reason the Taj Mahal is shut on Fridays, and just those going for standard petitions to God are allowed inside the Taj Mahal.
- On a boat that would travel down the Yamuna River, which ran behind the Taj Mahal, Shah Jahan made his way up to it.
- By the end of the 19th century, British soldiers had removed precious stones from the Taj Mahal’s walls and defaced them. At the end of the 19th century, Lord Curzon, the British Viceroy, ordered the Taj Mahal to be restored and gave it a large lamp that now hangs in its inner rooms.
- P.N. Oak, an Indian writer, claimed in 2000 that the Taj Mahal was a Shiv Temple. He then petitioned the Supreme Court of India to excavate Taj’s location in search of evidence. The Supreme Court denied his petition.
More than two million people visited the Taj Mahal in 2001, according to UNESCO.
- Rabindranath Tagore, an Indian Nobel laureate, described the Taj Mahal as a “teardrop on the cheek of time.”
On Mumtaz’s tomb, her name and praise are written in calligraphy.
- The Taj Mahal’s four minarets have been constructed slightly outside of the plinth so that if they fell, they would fall away from the main structure instead of hitting it.
- Shah Jahan was buried in the Taj Mahal alongside his wife Mumtaz after his death.
2. Qutub Minar
Location: New Delhi
The tall architectural wonder known as Qutub Minar, which can be found in the capital city, adds a touch of magnificence to Delhi. It is the country’s second-tallest minaret.
The Qutub Minar is India’s tallest minaret, standing 72.5 meters tall. The landmark is a significant personality of the city of Delhi and, surprisingly, the Delhi metro card has its picture. The Qutub Minar, constructed of red sandstone and marble, was begun in 1192 by Qutub-ud-din Aibak and completed by Iltutmish.
Due to a series of accidents, admission to this five-story Minaret, which has 379 stairs, is prohibited. Each floor of the Qutub Minar has its distinctive pattern due to its intricate design. The first floor has an alternate angular made of circularly fluted sandstone, the second floor has round fluting, and the third floor only has an angular fluting.
The base, or first story, is made of circularly fluted sandstone. Sandstone and marble are used to construct the upper floors. The Qutub Minar’s walls are inscribed with Quranic verses. The Minaret is surrounded by lush green gardens.
In the Qutub Minar, the complex is a mosque called Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque. Additionally, it was India’s first mosque. In the mosque’s courtyard, the seven-meter-tall Iron Pillar is impossible to miss. It is believed that your wish will come true if you can encircle it with your back against the pillar.
2.1 Facts About the Qutub Minar
1. The Qutub Minar is the world’s tallest brick minaret at 73 meters. Additionally, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2. It is regarded as the Tower of Victory, which Qutubuddin Aibak constructed in the 12th century to commemorate the end of the last Hindu kingdom’s rule.
3. The Qutub Minar was constructed in three stages by three Delhi rulers (Qutab-ud-din Aibak built one story, Shams-ud-din Iltutmish built three more stories, and finally Firoze Shah Tughlak made the final and fifth story). It was completed in the 14th century, which may explain why it tilts a little.
4. The mosque is known as Quwwat-Ul-Islam was constructed within the same compound as the minaret. Despite being in ruins, it is believed to have been India’s first mosque.
5. To reach the top of the minaret, there are 379 steps inside.
6. Additionally, it is the first Indian monument to offer an E-ticket option. Ten rupees are required to view this magnificent minaret.
7. This minaret is unquestionably one of India’s assets because it has escaped damage from an earthquake from the 16th century and lightning strikes twice in the 14th century.
8. The Minar was supposed to have a cupola on its sixth floor in the 19th century, but it was taken down because it didn’t look good. The cupola is open to visitors.
9. The complex contains a 2,000-year-old iron pillar that has not rusted in more than two centuries.
10. The Qutub Minar Complex contains more than a half-dozen additional minor monuments, including mosques, tombs, and pillars.
11. Alauddin Khilji commissioned a second, taller, and more beautiful minaret in the 14th century. However, shortly after his death, construction ceased.
3. Chola Temple
Location: Tamil Nadu
The great living Chola temples of Thanjavur, constructed under Chola rule, were a source of inspiration for the entire region of Southeast Asia. It has been said that these temples were the first in South India to build art.
In 1987, Thanjavur’s Temple Complex was recognized. In 2004, the Airavatesvara Temple Complex and the Temple Complex at Gangaikonda Cholapuram were added as extensions to the site.
The “Great Living Chola Temples” website must meet the following criteria for inclusion:
- Criteria(i): The architectural conception of the pure form of the Dravidian type of temple by the three Chola temples in Southern India is an outstanding creative achievement.
- Criteria(ii): The first great example of a Chola temple was the Brihadisvara Temple in Thanjavur. This was followed by a development that can be seen in the other two properties as well.
- Criteria (iii): The three Great Chola Temples in Southern India are the most remarkable and exceptional examples of the architecture of the Chola Empire and the Tamil civilization.
- Criteria (iv): The Incomparable Chola sanctuaries at Thanjavur, Gangaikondacholapuram, and Kumbakonam are exceptional instances of the engineering and the portrayal of the Chola philosophy.
3.1 Facts About the Chola Temple
1. In their purest form, the three Chola Temples are a remarkable example of architectural achievement.
2. The first of the Chola temples to undergo development was the Brihadiswara Temple, which was followed by the other two.
3. The extraordinary architecture of the Chola empire and the Tamil civilization can be seen in the three temples.
4. It is also believed that the three temples at Thanjavur—Darasuram, and Gangaikondacholapuram—are the physical manifestations of Chola ideology.
4. Ajanta Caves
31 rock-cut caves in the state of Maharashtra have been designated a world heritage site because they are unique representations of the Buddhist religion. The magnificent Buddhist caves in question date back to the second century B.C.
One of India’s oldest UNESCO World Heritage sites, the caves at Ajanta are situated on a horseshoe-shaped hill in the Waghora River belt in the state of Maharashtra. In Ajanta, thirty caves have been sculpted and painted.
These caves are a collection of works that have a lot of religious and artistic value. In the Ajanta Caves, the first Buddhist temples were built in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC, while the others were built during the Gupta period (5th-6th centuries AD).
They have a lot of amazing illustrations from the sacred Jataka, which is about Buddha’s life in his many incarnations on his way to enlightenment.
From the second to the sixth century AD, a community of monks lived in the Caves. Chaitya caves were temples, while Vihara caves were monasteries. The paintings’ iconographic combination is just as important as the architectural details and sculptures that go with them.
The paintings in Ajanta rank among the greatest achievements of the Gupta period and the post-Gupta style due to the delicate lightness of the decorations, the balance of the composition, and the beauty of the female figures.
4.1 Facts About the Ajanta Caves
1. Because they were forbidden from traveling during that particular time of the year, it is believed that several Buddhist monks spent a significant amount of time at the Ajanta caves during the monsoons. This was the point at which the priests put their innovativeness and time to utilize and paint the walls of the caverns.
2. The horseshoe-shaped rock was discovered by accident by 28th Cavalryman Jon Smith in 1819 while he was hunting tigers in and around the Deccan Plateau. The entry to the cavern-like designs charmed the English authority enough to make them cross the Waghora Stream nearby and arrive at the caverns. Soon after, archaeologists began excavating the locations, and word of the caves’ discovery spread like wildfire, making it an instant hit with European tourists.
3. The Ajanta caves were given the status of a heritage site due to the massive pillars and intricately detailed carvings on the ceilings and walls, in addition to the stunning paintings and sculptures.
5. Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya
The Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, is one of the most sacred places associated with Lord Buddha’s life and where he attained enlightenment. The Mauryan emperor Ashoka constructed the temple in the third century BC, but the current structure dates from the fifth and sixth centuries AD.
One of India’s oldest brick temples, the structure is mostly made of bricks covered in stucco. The complex also includes the sacred Bodhi tree, Lotus Pond, or the meditation garden, the Vajrayana, or diamond throne of Buddha, and other sacred sites that are surrounded by ancient votive stupas and shrines.
Even though Bodh Gaya is a small village, it has Buddhist temples and monasteries from places like Japan, Thailand, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and others. One of the most significant Indian heritage sites, the Mahabodhi Temple Complex in Bodh Gaya is now one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage destinations.
5.1 Facts About the Mahabodhi Temple Complex
1. It is generally accepted that this is the location where Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment. After three days and three nights of meditation, the young prince Siddhartha—who would later become Gautam Buddha—attained all of the answers he sought here, under a peepul tree.
2. Worked by head Ashoka in 260 BC, the Mahabodhi sanctuary complex is quite possibly the earliest Buddhist sanctuary to be assembled entirely of the block. Because it is one of the oldest brick structures in eastern India, its architecture has been widely admired.
4. The Mahabodhi temple’s central tower is approximately 55 meters tall. Through the 19th century, it underwent multiple renovations and is surrounded by four smaller towers.
6. Sun Temple at Konârak
The Sun Temple at Konârak, also known as the Black Pagoda, is a Hindu temple that was built in Konârak, an area in the Indian state of Odisha, on the east coast of India, during the kingdom of Orissa, from 1238 to 1250. It was constructed during King Narasingha Deva’s reign (1238-1264).
According to Hindu mythology, the sun god Surya travels through the sky in a seven-horse-drawn chariot, which the temple depicts.
On the north and south sides, there are 24 wheels with engraved symbolic motifs measuring 3 meters in diameter. These wheels, in addition to the number of horses, represent the seasons, months, and days of the week. The entire temple is divided into various organized spatial units and aligned east-west along the sun’s path across the sky.
It is a one-of-a-kind temple in Odisha and one of India’s cultural heritage sites due to the harmonious integration of its architecture and the decorative reliefs of naturally carved animal and human figures.
As per the Service of New and Sustainable Power, Konark will run on sunlight-based energy in the approaching times. The novel plan is in line with the government’s plan to turn Odisha’s ancient Sun Temple and Konark Town into Surya Nagri, or a solar city.
6.1 Facts About the Sun Temple
1. Wheel of the chariot fills in as sundial
2. Incredible view at sunrise or dawn
3. The stone that was used to build this temple could not be found in India.
4. 12 sets of wheels characterize the year of the Hindu schedule.
5. A landmark for sailors is the Konark Sun Temple.
7. Khajuraho Group of Monuments
Location: Madhya Pradesh
One of India’s heritage sites is Khajuraho, which is in the northern state of Madhya Pradesh. It has over twenty temples built in the Nagara style and dates back to the 10th and 11th centuries.
Only 23 of the many Chandella-era temples built in Khajurah have survived and cover an area of approximately 6 km2.
Sandstone is used to build the temples, and each one has three main parts: the sanctuary (Garbhagriha), the ceremonial room (mandapa), and the entrance (Ardhamandapa). The main groups of temples on the UNESCO World Heritage site of Khajuraho are divided into two areas: the western area, which has Hindu temples, and the eastern area, which has Jain temples.
Rich reliefs inspired by the Tantric School of Thought fill the temples as well. They depict all aspects of life, including erotica, which receive the most attention, because Hindu and Tantric philosophy holds that there is no existence without a balance between the feminine and masculine principles.
7.1 Facts About the Khajuraho Group of Monuments
1. Sandstone-built temple
2. The Best Ancient Monuments Still Standing
3. The Temples’ Interiors The East-West line connects the rooms inside the temples. Every one of the rooms has an entry, a corridor, a sanctum, and a vestibule.
8. Churches and Convents of Goa
Alfonso de Albuquerque, a Portuguese explorer, conquered Goa, an Indian federal state on the west coast of the Indian subcontinent, in 1510. Up until 1961, the Portuguese ruled Goa.
When Francis Xavier became the patron saint of Goa in 1542, the Jesuits arrived and began baptizing locals and building churches. Seven major monuments from the 60 churches that were built still stand.
Some of the most beautiful examples include the chapel of St. Catherine (1510), the church and monastery of St. Francis of Assisi (1517), and the church of Bom Jesus (1605), where Francis Xavier’s remains are kept.
The monuments in this former Portuguese capital demonstrate the evangelization of Asia by spreading the Manueline style, mannerisms, and baroque to all Asian nations where missions were established. One of India’s fascinating heritage sites is the unique Indo-Portuguese style of the Churches and Convents of Goa.
8.1 Facts About the Churches and Convents of Goa
- One of India’s finest examples of baroque architecture is this church.
- The layout is simple and follows the rules of the Renaissance, but the detailing and decoration are all Baroque.
- It is a magnificent structure made of white marble with exquisitely gilded altars adorned with frescoes and inlay work.
- The holy remains of St. Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Goa who passed away in 1552, are housed in the Basilica. The saint’s ashes were given to the church by Cosimo de Medici III, Grand Duke of Tuscany.
- The embalmed body is now resting in a silver casket made by the Florentine sculptor Giovanni Batista Foggini in an airtight glass coffin.
9. Group of Monuments at Hampi
Hampi is a village in Karnataka, an Indian state. Hampi is one of India’s most important heritage sites because it was the Vijayanagar Empire’s capital from the 14th to the 16th centuries and a hub for religion, commerce, and culture.
Hampi was looted, partially destroyed, and abandoned following the Muslim conquest in 1565, but some of its great architectural achievements are still intact.
A collection of public buildings (forts, royal architecture, pillared halls, memorial structures, stables, water structures, etc.) in addition to temples and shrines was also a part of the massively fortified capital, which shows that the society was highly developed and multiethnic.
The boulders that were once a part of huge granite monoliths reveal fascinating details about Hampi’s landscape. The monuments in Hampi are thought to have been built by Hindus in southern India at the time, but they also have a lot of Islamic architecture from the north.
The Archaeological Society of India is still digging in the area, uncovering new artifacts and temples regularly. While I visited the site in 2017 the specialists chose to at long last place control on the casual travel industry area which likewise brought about a critical number of occupants being expelled.
The archaeological sites are currently in danger from sand mining, road construction, increased vehicle traffic, illegal construction, and floods.
9.1 Facts About the Group of Monuments at Hampi
- The City of Hampi is tracked down in Karnataka, India. It is made up of a collection of 14th-century historical landmarks. The Vijayanagara Empire’s capital was once located in this city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Hampi was one of the world’s most developed cities. In this city, several tourists from Europe and beyond trade. The city’s position on the Tungabhadra River was advantageous.
- This city was surrounded by numerous farms, trading markets, and temples. The town was once larger than Beijing, making it the second-largest medieval city.
- It was the wealthiest city in India and was home to traders from Portugal and Persia. By the middle of the 16th century, Muslim sultans had conquered the Vijayanagara Empire, plundering it and leaving it in ruins.
10. Red Fort Complex
The Red Fort Complex is 2.5 kilometers away from the Taj Mahal in the Indian city of Agra in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The impressive fort, constructed of sturdy red sandstone, encompasses the entire Old City, which served as the Mughal Empire’s capital in the 16th century.
The majority of the fort was built by Emperor Akbar when he made Agra his capital. When Shahan Jahan, Akbar’s grandson, built the Taj Mahal for his wife at the time, the fort took on its current appearance. It took eight years to build and was finished in 1573.
Red sandstone was used to build the fort, which has a surface area of more than 380,000 m2. This fortress, like the one in Delhi, is one of the most iconic representations of the Mughal Empire. There are also structures from the British period and their military use of the forts, in addition to Mughal architecture and planning, a fusion of Timurid, Hindu, and Persian traditions.
In 2007, the fort was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, only a portion of it is used for military purposes, while the remaining portion is used as a tourist attraction.
10.1 Facts About the Red Fort Complex
1) In the year 1648, Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan constructed the Red Fort in New Delhi, India.
2) India’s Red Fort is a well-known historical landmark.
3) Red Fort is commonly referred to as Lal Quila in Hindi.
4) Red sandstones and marble with a height of 30 meters are used to construct the walls of Red Fort.
5) Red Stronghold has a complete length of around 912 meters and an all-out expansiveness of 510 meters approx.
In the End
A country’s cultural heritage is a stunning record of its glorious past. That priceless inheritance ought to be preserved so it can be handed down through the generations. Do visit these beautiful heritage sites when in India and dive into its glorious past.
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