Our heritage is our legacy from the past, what we enjoy today and what we pass on to our future generations. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) encourages the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world which are considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.
There are 38 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India, of which 7 are natural properties such as the Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan. Each of these is a potential hub for economic activity. The impact of the creative and cultural industries on development is essential for the country’s economy. The prevalence of cultural sites, services and art forms tends to boost tourism, sustain livelihoods, and attract investment. The non-economic benefits of culture include the preservation of history, the generation of knowledge, and the nurturing of creativity.
The rich natural and cultural heritage in India comprises of heritage monuments as well as natural heritage sites found in every corner of the country. Starting from the Himalayas in the north, these UNESCO sites in India are spread in all four directions.
12 UNESCO Sites in North India
(1) The Pink City, Jaipur: At the 43rd session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 2019, Jaipur, popularly known as the Pink City, was declared India’s 38th UNESCO World Heritage Site. This walled city is known for its iconic architectural legacy and vibrant culture.
(2) Agra Fort: Traditionally known as Badalgarh, this fort of red sandstone has been home to nearly all the early Mughal rulers. Within a circumference of 2.5 km long walls, it comprises of many palaces, such as the Jahangir Palace and the Khas Mahal, audience halls such as the Diwan-i-khas and two outstandingly lovely mosques.
(3) Fatehpur Sikri: Founded in 1571 as the capital of the Mughal Empire by Emperor Akbar, this is a small town in the district of Agra. Built in both Mughal and Hindu architectural styles, it is home to one of the largest mosques in India, the Jama Masjid. One can also find the Buland Darwaza, Birbal’s House, Panch Mahal, and other such monuments of significant historical value here.
(4) Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi: Built in 1570, this architectural wonder was the first garden-tomb in India. It inspired several major architectural innovations, which ultimately led to the construction design of the Taj Mahal.
(5) Qutub Minar, Delhi: Built in the early 13th century in Delhi and constructed of red sandstone, the tower of Qutub Minar is 72.5 metres high and 2.75 metres in diameter at its peak and 14.32 metres at its base. It displays the scientific acumen of its designers and workers.
(6) Red Fort Complex: It was built as the palace fort of Shahjahanabad in 16th century AD. It is said to represent the zenith of Mughal creativity. The Red Fort’s innovative planning and architectural style have significantly influenced the construction and design of many buildings and gardens in Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra, among others.
(7) Taj Mahal: An immense mausoleum built of white marble between 1631-48, the Taj Mahal is the jewel of Mughal architecture in India and a universally admired masterpiece of the world’s heritage.
(8) The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur: It is an astronomical observation site built in the early 18th century. It is a collection of about twenty astronomical instruments built by Raja Jai Singh II. Embodying several architectural and instrumental innovations, this is the most comprehensive and the best preserved of India’s historic observatories.
(9) Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area: The National Park in the western part of the Himalayan Mountains, Himachal Pradesh, boasts of high alpine peaks, alpine meadows and riverine forests. This national park is home to a variety of fauna species, living in 25 types of forests.
(10) Keoladeo National Park, Rajasthan: Formerly known as Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, this is one of the major watering areas for a large number of aquatic birds from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia, housing 364 species of birds, including the rare Siberian crane.
(11) Manas Wildlife Sanctuary: Located at the gentle foothills of the Himalayas, Manas Sanctuary is home to a large variety of wildlife, including many endangered species.
(12) Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks: Located in the West Himalayan region, India’s Valley of Flowers National Park is known for its alpine flowers and magnificent natural beauty. It is also home to rare and endangered animals, like the Asiatic black bear, musk deer, snow leopard, red fox, brown bear and blue sheep.
India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world and the 7th largest country. It boasts of a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage with its mountains and seas, which give the country a distinct geographical entity. Its heritage is one of the reasons this civilization is held in such high esteem all over the world, making it one of the most sought-after tourist destinations.