UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India - Part 2

 India stands in the world's 7th position in the number of UNESCO World heritage site. UNESCO has recognized 32 Indian locations as world heritage sites. In a country of rich and diverse culture, it is not surprising. This is the part 2 of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India series. I urge you to start with the first part by clicking here


Konark Sun Temple


Konark Sun Temple in Odisha is one of the oldest UNESCO World Heritage sites in India. Konark sun temple architecture follows the Kalinga style. Konark Sun Temple is built in the form of a huge chariot of the Sun God "Surya". The temple has 12 pairs of chariot wheels at both sides. An amazing fact is that each of the chariot wheel is a sun dial in itself.  According to history, Konark temple was built by Narasimhadeva I of eastern Ganga dynasty.  Konark sun temple was popularly called as the "Black Pagoda" by the European sailors. The Jagannath Temple in Puri was called the White Pagoda.

Konark Sun Temple Complex - UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
Konark Sun Temple Complex
Amitavamarine007 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons



The original architecture of Konark Sun Temple  consists of  a huge Vimana (Sanctum Sanatorium) which was 229feet in height. However it was collapsed around 1837. Still standing structures of the Konark Sun Temple are - the audience hall, which is also known as Jagamohana, dance hall (Nata Mandira) and dining hall (Bhoga Mandapa). There are many stories behind how the Vimana of Konark temple was fallen. One of the interesting theory is related to the Konark Sun Temple magnet. It is believed that there was a strong magnetic rod placed in Konark temple, and the Portuguese sailors removed it.

 Konark Sun Temple Chariot Wheel - UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
Konark Sun Temple Chariot Wheel
By Abhishek Ghosh (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
According to folklore, the magnetic rod of Konark kept the temple stable. Once it was gone, the Vinama of Kornark Temple collapsed. There is also an strange story about how the magnetic rod placed inside the temple. It is the story of Dharmapada - son of the chief architect of Konark Temple - Bisu Maharana. Konark temple took 12 years to complete, but the architects of Konark temple failed to place the crown stone on top of the structure. Kings was annoyed and threatened to kill all artisans if they did not find a solution. The 12 year old Dharmapada suggested to place a magnetic rod inside the temple, which would hold the iron laden stones of the temple.

Konark Sun Temple - Front View- UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
Konark Sun Temple - Front View
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Best time to visit Konark Sun Temple:
The best time to visit Konark Sun Temple is from October to March. The summers are too hot and humid in Odisha and the rainy season is so hard, there are chances of floods. So it is best to stick to the spring and winter seasons to visit Konark Sun Temple

Opening Hou
rs:
 6AM -8PM every day

How to get there:
From Bhubaneswar to Konark, the distance is 66km . There are trains connection Bhubaneswar and all major cities in India From Puri to Konark, the distance is 38km.


Red Fort Complex


Red Fort Complex in Delhi was the center of Mughal dynasty from the time of Akbar. Red fort's construction was started by Shah Jahan in AD 1648. Red Fort complex is one of largest heritage sites in India. There are many important historical constructions in the Red Fort complex. They include the Diwan-I-Am ( The hall of public audience), Diwan-I-Khas (The hall of private audience), Rang Mahal, Hira Mahal and Rang Mahal to name a few. The Red Fort was the seat of the Mughal emperor till 1857. Until the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah II (Zafar) was expelled from power by the British following the 1857, Red Fort was the dwelling place of Mughal Kings, their consorts, concubines, and numerous relatives(known as Salatin).

 The Majestic Red Fort- UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
The Majestic Red Fort
By A.Savin (Own work) [FAL], via Wikimedia Commons

In the days it was constructed, Red Fort was an epitome of Mughal architecture. It was luxurious with silver and gold roofed palaces, walls fitted with mirrors and jewels. The fort also contained artifacts of immense value like the peacock throne and the famous diamond Ko-I-Noor.

Diwan-I-Khas (Hall of private audience) Red Fort - UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
Diwan-I-Khas (Hall of private audience) Red Fort
By mike matthews [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately, the Red Fort had to face continuous looting and plunder from the enemies. The first such invasion was from the Persian emperor Nadir Shah, who defeated the Mughal and plundered the Red Fort so badly. Later during the first Indian Independence struggle, Red Fort was badly plundered and almost all valuable items were removed from it. Even though all it's riches gone, red fort stands as an invaluable historical monument for India.

Rang Mahal - A white marble palace within Red Fort -  -  UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
Rang Mahal - A white marble palace within Red Fort 
By Hans A. Rosbach (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Great Himalayan National Park(GHNP)


Great Himalayan National Park(GHNP) is located in the Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh. It is a biodiversity hot spot as Great Himalayan National park have a wide range of flora and fauna.
Himalayan National Park also include some of the rare birds and animals like  Western Tragopan bird, Cheer Pheasant bird, Snow Leopard, Himalayan Musk Deer, Asiatic Black Bear, Himalayan Brown Bear, Himalayan Tahr, Blue Sheep and Serow. Some of these species are endangered .

Verditer Flycatcher in Great Himalayan National Park -  UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
Verditer Flycatcher in Great Himalayan National Park
By Aji floyd (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
 There are multiple trekking routes inside the Great Himalayan National Park. The trekking programs include a five day trekking through the Sainj River Valley covering 30km, and eight day trekking program including the Sainj-Tirthan Valleys. The Great Himalayan National Park also offers a moderate 3 day hike program from Gushaini to Shilt Hut. Please see this page to get the complete list of trekking programs by Great Himalayan National Park.  There are four main valleys of Great Himalayan National Park they are Tirthan Valley, JiwaNal Valley, Parvati Valley and Sainj Valley.
 Himalayan Landscape of springs and mountains - UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
Himalayan Landscape of springs and mountains
By Maahmaah (Own work) [Public domain or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Great Himalayan National Park was declared as a UNESCO would heritage site in india in 2014 considering the bio diversity and the delicate Eco system of the region.

How to reach Great Himalayan National Park:
The Great Himalayan National Park can be reached by road from Delhi(500km) or Chandigarh(296km).Chandigarh is the closest main railway station to Great Himalayan National Park.
Air Port at Bhuntar (Kullu) is located  63 kilometers from the park.

Accomodation:
There is limited facility for accommodation near the  Great Himalayan National Park. There are some modest accommodations in Shakti village near the park. Also there is the  Forest Rest House Sairopa   1 (3 rooms) and a Community Training & Tourist Center, Sairopa with a dormitory of 40 beds. However one should keep in mind that the facilities might be modest. 


Humayun's Tomb


Humayun's Tomb located on Mathura Road near Nizaamuddin in New Delhi. It is a colossal tomb built for the second Mughal emperor Humayun. Humayun's son, Akbar built this tomb for his father under the supervision of Humayuns wife Bega Begum. The Architecture of Humayun's tomb is a fine example of Islamic architecture with a characteristic domes and arches.

Front view of the Humayun's Tomb - UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
Front view of the Humayun's Tomb
By http://www.flickr.com/photos/posk/ [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
 It is quite interesting to know that Humayun's tomb is the first structure in India which uses a Persian double dome architecture. The major building material of Humayun's tomb is red sand stone and white marble. The architecture of Humayun's tomb incorporates these two building materials in a beautiful way. From the exterior, the tomb is symmetrical on both sides and pretty simple appearance. However the interior of Humayun's tomb has rich architectural features like eight two storied vaulted chambers and intricately stone carved windows known as jaalis. One of the Jaali of Humayun's tomb is veryspecial as it has a carving shows the Mihrab or a semi-circular niche, which denotes the direction of Mecca. Usually the Mihrab is placed in Islamic mosques so that devotees can use this direction to pray.

Interior of Humayun's tomb showing the cenotaph of Humayun -  UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
Interior of Humayun's tomb showing the cenotaph of Humayun
By Ekabhishek (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Humayun's tomb also has the specialty that it is the first "Garden Tomb in India". Originally, it was located in the center of a beautiful garden known as Char Bhag. Apparently, Humayun's tomb is the inspiration for Taj Mahal! However if the Taj Mahal was built by a man in memory of his wife, Humayun's tomb was built by his beloved wife, Bega Begum in memory of her husband. After Humayun's death, Bega Begum's sole ambition in life was to create a magnificent monument for her husband. The complex around Humayun's tomb also houses the tombs of so many Mughals that it is called the "Mughal Dormitory" (of course of the dead!).

360 degree view of Humayun's tomb -  UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
360 degree view of Humayun's tomb
By Join2manish (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 Historically the Humayun's tomb is a tragic place for the Mughals. It was at this spot, the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah 2 (Zafar) was arrested following the mutiny of 1857. It literally marked the end of Mughal dynasty in India!

The unfortunate last Emperor of Mughal dynasty Bahadur Shah II
The unfortunate last Emperor of Mughal dynasty Bahadur Shah II taken by British
Robert Montgomery Martin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Archaeological survey of India carried out extensive conservation works at Humayun's tomb recently. It also includes covering the finial of Humayun's tomb with Gold! Also, in near feature India's first sunken museum would be constructed near the Humayun's tomb complex. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) is taking up the construction activities of the sunken museum at Humayun's tomb. The museum will be at 6-7 meters below the ground level. The sunken museum at Humayun's tomb takes inspiration from the famous step wells of India, known as Baolis.

The Great Stupa of Sanchi 



The great Stupa of Sanchi is one of the oldest existing heritage monument in India located near Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh state. Sanchi Stupa was built by emperor Ashoka the great. Architecture of Sanchi Stupa include two Dom shaped brick structures built on top of the relics of Shree Buddha. The construction of Sanchi Stupa happened during the 3rd century BC. It is indeed a wonder that Sanchi Stupa which is more than 2000 years old still stands intact with out any damage.

 The Great Stupa of Sanchi - UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
The Great Stupa of Sanchi
Via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sanchi Stupa is also an indicator of the influence of Buddhism in ancient India. Construction of the great Sanchi Stupa and the gateways and balustrades were done in three time periods. During the Maurya rule, the construction started n in 3 Rd BC. Initially there was only a brick Stupa and a sandstone pillar built by Ashoka the Great.

 Remnisent of the original sand stone pillar by Ashoka at Sanchi - UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
Remnisent of the original sand stone pillar by Ashoka at Sanchi
By Nandanupadhyay (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Later during the Sangha period the brick Stupa was covered by stone slabs.  Another interesting construction around the Sanchi Stupa is the gateways on four sides. These gateways of Sanchi are elaborately carved and they depict the Jataka tales. The rich sculptures of the gateways also have many symbols denoting Shree Buddha. One is of the main sculptural symbol is the Maha Bodhi tree. The gateways of Sanchi Stupa was built during the Satavahana period. There are also many invaluable historical inscriptions on the Stupas.
 Eastern decorated gate way to Sanchi Stupa - UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
Eastern decorated gate way to Sanchi Stupa
Biswarup Ganguly [GFDL, CC BY 3.0, GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

One amazing fact about the Sanchi Stupa is that, it is located at the heart of India. If one see the google map of Sanchi Stupa location, it is very clear! Check this out

How to reach Sanchi Stupa:
Sanchi Stupa is located at 46km from Bhopal. Bhopal is directly connected with every Indian city by train
Sanchi railway station is also very close to the Sanchi Stupa location.
Nearest airport to Sanchi Stupa monument is Bhopal(BHO)

Best Time to Visit Sanchi Stupa:
The best time to visit Sanchi Stupa is from November to April. However, avoid peak summer season as it would be very hot.

Opening Hours for Sanchi Stupa & Museum
Sanchi stupa is open from sunrise to sun set all days, however the Sanchi Archeological Museum is open only from 10:00am to 5:00pm. The Sanchi Museum is closed on Fridays.



Sundarbans National Park


Sundarbans is one of world's largest mangrove forest spread across India and Bangladesh. Majority of Sundarbans is in Bangladesh. The small portion of Sundarbans in India is converted into the Sundarbans National Park.Together in India and Bangladesh, total area of Sundarbans is 10,000 square kilometers.
 The mangroves of Sundarbans National Park - UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
The mangroves of Sundarbans National Park
By Fabian Lambeck (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sundarbans in India constitutes, 1330 square Kilometers. The name "Sundarbans" has come from the large population of the "Sundari" trees. Sundarbans is also a biosphere reserve and a tiger reserve. Sundarbans is the home for  largest population of Royal Bengal tigers. The ecosystem in Sundarbans is rich and diverse. Sundarbans has endangered animal species like the Royal Bengal tiger, Salt water crocodile, river terrapin turtle, Olive ridley sea turtle,Ganges river dolphin etc. Considering the rich ecosystem of Sundarbans, it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site in India in the year 1984

 An aler deer in  Sundarbans National Park -UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
An aler deer in  Sundarbans National Park
By Swaroop Singha Roy (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In India, Sundarbans tour is by the means of boats operated by West Bengal Tourism department. These boats take the tourist through the small springs and canals that runs inside the mangrove forest. There are also multiple package tours conducted for Sundarbans.
 A local fisher man in the Pasur river passing through  Sundarbans - UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
A local fisher man in the Pasur river passing through  Sundarbans
By Fabian Lambeck (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons


There are multiple options for accommodation at Sundarbans. You can check it here:

Best season to visit Sundarbans National Park: October to February


Elephanta caves


The Elephanta caves are located on a small island named Gharapuri near the Mumbai port. The name Gharapuri literally means the city of caves. There are several rock cult cave temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. They follow the Shaiva cult of Hinduism. It is not clearly known who built these massive temples in Elephenta Caves. Mostly the construction of Elephanta caves are credited to Konkan Mayuras or early Chalukyas of Badami.

The six feet tall Thrimurti sculpture of Elephanta cave -  UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
The six feet tall Thrimurti sculpture of Elephanta cave
Photo Paul Morrison [ Paul Morrison][ From Filckr ] [CC BY-SA 2.0]

The construction period of Elephanta caves is said to be between 6th and 8th century AD. The main attraction of the elephanta caves is the 6meter tall sculpture of "Thrimurthi" - The holy trinity of Hinduism. This is a massive rock cut sculpture located in the cave number 1 of Elephanta.

It is quite curious to know how Elelphanta caves got it's strange name. It is believed that the Portuguese after seeing a huge elephant sculpture near the caves named them as "Elephanta Caves". However the very elephant sculpture which gave it's name to Elephanta caves is no longer there. It is present in the Jijamata Udyaan in Byculla, Mumbai.
 The "elephant" of Elephanta caves - UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
The "elephant" of Elephanta caves
Photo Paul Morrison [ Elroy Serrao][ From Filckr ] [CC BY-SA 2.0]

Hence there is quite divided opinion about the architects of Elephanta caves. There is no historical inscription on the rocks or it was destroyed by the Portuguese.  The locals believe that none other than Gods created and sculptured the caves! There is also another set of small caves which are attributed to Buddhism. The Elephanta caves were severely damaged during the Portuguese invasion in India which started in 1534. The Portuguese soldiers said do have practices their aim by shooting arrows at the sculpted there by defacing many of the sculptures and destroying the inscriptions.

 Gangadhara statue in the Elephanta caves- UNESCO World  Heritage site in India
Gangadhara statue in the Elephanta caves
By Ricardo Martins (originally posted to Flickr as Elephanta Caves) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


UNESCO declared Elephanta caves as a world heritage site in 1987.  The main deity in the Hindu caves is Lord Shiva. Some of the famous sculptures are ,Kalyanasundaramurti, Shiva-Parvati on Kailash, Ardhanarishvara, Trimurti Gangadhara, Wedding of Shiva, Shiva slaying Andhaka etc..

 How to reach Elephanta caves?
 There are regular ferry from the Appolo pier to Elephanta caves. Also there are boats going from the gateway of insight India.
  
Visiting days :
 Elephanta caves are open on all days except Mondays.




 

9 comments:

  1. India is blessed with so many awesome heritage sites. I have always wanted to go to the Red Fort, and Konark Sun Temple looks amazing. In fact it all looks really amazing. Might have to go back some day.

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  2. I want to see all of these sites now. I love the history you've included. Such great pics too!

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  3. Great Pics and info. India has lot of historical place to see. Loved reading the post !!

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