What does the UNESCO Heritage tentative list mean for these 6 places in India? | Condé Nast Traveller India | IndiaMay 21, 2021
The next time you visit Varanasi’s ghats, they might just hold the status of a UNESCO World Heritage site. The organisation has included the ghats and five other sites in India on its tentative list of heritage sites.
The places make it to the tentative list before they are considered for the final nomination. The submissions were made by the Archaeological Survey of India. Satpura Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, the megalithic site of Hire Benkal in Karnataka, Maratha military architecture in Maharashtra, Bhedaghat-Lametaghat in Madhya Pradesh’s Narmada Valley, the riverfront of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, and the temples of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu are the sites on the list.
Delighted and proud that @ASIGoI had submitted a proposal for India’s 9 places for inclusion in tentative list of UNESCO, where six sites have selected in Tentative Lists of @UNESCO World Heritage Site. pic.twitter.com/CImxnYozR3
— Ministry of Culture (@MinOfCultureGoI) May 19, 2021
What does it mean to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
World Heritage is the designation for places on Earth that are considered to have outstanding universal value to humanity. The designation marks the places as sites to be preserved and protected for future generations to enjoy. Currently, there are 1,121 Heritage Sites across the world, including the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and Galápagos Islands in Ecuador. Of these, 38 World Heritage Sites are in India, like the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, the Ajanta and Ellora caves in Maharashtra, Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi and the Sun Temple in Konark.
Once a site is inscribed on the World Heritage list, its prestige increases, in turn increasing awareness about the site and the need to preserve it. A country may also receive financial assistance and expert advice from the World Heritage Committee to support activities for the preservation of its sites.
Here’s why these 6 sites have made it to the list:
Iconic riverfront of the historic city of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
The city of Varanasi has 84 ghats, built in different historical periods. Of these, five ghats, known as the Panchatirthis, are considered most sacred. They are named Assi, Dashashvamedha, Manikarnika, Panchaganga and Adi Keshava.
Criteria for inclusion: “Its Outstanding Universal Value lies in the fact that it is one of the most ancient continuously inhabited cities of the world since at least 1200 BCE. The juxtaposition of the sacred and the mundane, life and death, spiritual and material facets associated with the River Ganga on the Varanasi ghats, embodies a wholly significant interaction between the natural and urban elements of the city.”
Temples of Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu
Kanchipuram, an ancient city in Tamil Nadu, is a Hindu pilgrimage site home to several temples dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu. Eleven temples, including the Kailasanatha and Mukteswara Temple, are part of the nomination.
Criteria for inclusion: “The temples of Kanchipuram exhibit the creative genius of the Pallava architects in design and scale of construction. The fact that the sculptors did not have any model to follow to create this array of divine imagery makes the temples of Kanchipuram an outstanding example of a first-of-its-kind experimentation in temple architecture.”
Megalithic site of Hire Benkal, Karnataka
A megalith is a prehistoric stone used to build a structure or monument. The megalithic tradition refers to the practice of erecting stone structures for the dead. In Hire Benkal, Karnataka, three clusters of megaliths have stood tall on a castellated granite hillock for over 2,500 years. Studies suggest that over 1,000 megalithic structures lie in the three clusters.
Criteria for inclusion: “Hire Benkal does not just represent a mortuary landscape but represents a masterpiece of human creative genius of the Iron Age- Megalithic period. (It) illustrates a significant stage of human history when the first large ceremonial monuments were built in India.”
Bhedaghat-Lametaghat in Narmada Valley, Madhya Pradesh
Bhedaghat, situated on the Narmada riverside close to Jabalpur, is home to glittering marble rock formations that take on different colours as the light changes through the day. The magnesium limestone rocks on both sides of the Narmada reflect in the clear waters, forming a spectacle of natural light and colour in the area.
Criteria for inclusion: “No such example exists where a river flows freely splitting an enormous mountain of marble. Bhedaghat is exceptionally blessed where the colourful & divine Narmada river flows in her own strange styles. Somewhere its flow is turbulent and in other places as calm as Yogi (Saint).”
Satpura Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh
Located in Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh, Satpura Tiger Reserve is one of the oldest forest reserves in the country. The forest is home to leopards, black bucks, Malabar giant squirrels and sloth bears, among many species. It also houses over 50 rock shelters with paintings that are said to be 10,000 years old.
Criteria for inclusion: “It is the part of the largest contiguous forest and tiger habitat in India. It also supports 17 percent of India’s tiger population and 12 percent of Its tiger habitat.”
Maratha military architecture in Maharashtra
The forts of West India, many of which were built by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, cover hundreds of acres of land in the area and are known to have been used for guerilla warfare tactics. Maharashtra is one of the few states that has almost all types of fort architecture, including land, sea and hill forts. The nomination lists 14 such forts, including Raigad Fort, Shivneri Fort, Kulaba Fort and Lohagad.
Criteria for inclusion: “The forts of Maharashtra represent Maratha ideology in architectural planning based upon best utilization of hilly terrain and sea. The fortifications and their distinguishing Maratha style of architecture synthesizing Sultanate and Rajput architectural traditions are an exceptional testimony to the cultural traditions governed by the landscape in Maharashtra.”