Context: Gujarat’s Vadnagar town, the Modhera Sun Temple, and the rock cut sculptures of Unakoti in Tripura have been added to the tentative list of UNCESO World Heritage Sites.
Tentative List of World Heritage Sites News
- With the addition of the three new sites, India now has 52 sites on UNESCO Tentative List, which captures the diverse cultural and natural wealth of India.
- A specialized agency of the United Nations (UN), UNESCO aims at promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, sciences and culture.
- It was founded in 1945 as the successor to the League of Nations’ International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.
- UNESCO aims to create the conditions for dialogue among civilizations, cultures and peoples, based upon respect for commonly shared values.
UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage Sites
- UNESCO tentative list is an inventory of those properties or sites which each State Party intends to consider for nomination in future.
- Even though adding a site on the tentative list is a necessary prerequisite for any site to make it to the UNESCO World Heritage List, it does not guarantee place on the final list.
- International experts review the nomination and determine whether inclusion is necessary. The World Heritage Committee meets once a year to finally cast a vote to select nominees.
The Sites on UNESCO’s Tentative List
- Vadnagar in Mehsana district of Gujarat is a historic town that has been continuously inhabited for more than 2,700 years.
- The multi-layered town stretches back to nearly the 8th Century BCE. It still retains a large number of historic buildings that are primarily religious & residential in nature.
- Historic significance: The town was a Buddhist location visited by Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang) in 640 C.E. The mention of the town is found in various inscriptions.
- Vadnagar is also the birthplace of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- Architecture: Vadnagar Kirti Toran, ruins of Buddhist monastery and Hatkeshwar mandir are some of the famous historic structures.
Unakoti Rock-Cut Sculptures:
- Unakoti is known as the ‘Angkor Wat of the North-East’ for its Shaivite rock carvings figures and images of gods and goddesses.
- These structures of the rock-cut sculptures are gigantic and have distinct mongoloid features, similar to the Angkor Wat temple of Cambodia.
- It became a major Hindu Shaivite pilgrimage site during the reign of the Pala Empire in Bengal. It also has some Buddhist influence.
- Nomenclature: Unakoti means ‘one less one crore’ in Hindi and Bengali and it is believed that ninety-nine lakh ninety-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine rock carvings are present here.
- In the local Kokborok language, it is called Subrai Khung.
- The images found at Unakoti are of two types: rock-carved figures and stone images. The central Shiva head (Unakotiswara Kal Bhairava) and gigantic Ganesha figures are special among all.
- Annual fair, known as ‘Ashokastami Mela’, is held every year at Unakoti.
Modhera Sun Temple:
- Modhera Sun temple is located on the river Pushpavati. It was built during the reign of King Bhima-I of the Chaulukya dynasty in 1026-27.
- Architecture: The temple complex is constructed in Māru-Gurjara style (Chaulukya style). The temple complex has three components: the shrine (garbhagriha) in a hall (gudhamandapa), the assembly hall (sabhamandapa) and a sacred reservoir (kunda).
- Unique features: The temple is constructed in such a way that during every equinox, the first ray of the rising sun would fall on a diamond placed on the head of the Sun God. The shrine would be lit up with a golden glow.
- Historical evidence: Modhera is mentioned in the ancient scriptures like Skanda Purana and Brahma Purana. Modhera and its surrounding regions are referred as Dharmaranya.