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UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India List From 1985 to 2023, Importance

UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India 2023

Art and Culture are unique expressions of any human civilization. Closely observing them gives us knowledge about them. These cultural expressions are also a source of joy for those observing them. These are reasons enough to preserve their uniqueness and showcase their glory to all. UNESCO has tasked itself with this endeavour and prepares a List of World Heritage Sites and updates it every year. Here are the details as to how the List of World Heritage Sites complies and details of World Heritage Sites in India.

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World Heritage Sites of India 2023

The List of World Heritage Sites is maintained by the International World Heritage Programme, which is administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. This committee is composed of 21 UNESCO member states elected by the General Assembly. This programme aims to conserve and promote sites of unique cultural or natural importance.

The programme also provides funds from the World Heritage Fund for this purpose. The programme was adopted at the General Conference of UNESCO in 1972 founded with the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage.

UNESCO World Heritage Santiniketan

Santiniketan, the town in West Bengal, has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage list during the 45th Session of the World Heritage Committee that was held in Saudi Arabia. India had been striving for a long to get the tag of UNESCO for this cultural site which is located in the district of Birbhum in West Bengal.

World Heritage Sites of India Included in UNESCO Sites in 2023

Site  Added on Year Importance 
Santiniketan 2023
  • Santiniketan, the town in West Bengal at Birbhum District
  • Rabindranath Tagore established it in 1901.
  • It was a residential school based on ancient Indian Tradition
  • Its vision of the unity of humanity transcends religious and cultural boundaries.
  • A ‘world university’ was established at Santiniketan in 1921, recognising the unity of humanity or “Visva Bharati”.
  • Santiniketan represents approaches toward pan-Asian modernity, drawing on ancient, medieval and folk traditions from across the region.
  • “Santiniketan, popularly known today as a university town, in the north of Kolkata, was originally an ashram built by Debendranath Tagore, where anyone, irrespective of caste and creed, could come and spend time meditating on the one Supreme God,”
  • In 2010 the Centre had first tried to get the World Heritage tag for Santiniketan.
  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 was inspired by the model of education the Nobel laureate had introduced at Santiniketan.

World Heritage Sites of India Included in UNESCO Sites in 2022

Two following heritage sites of India were added to the UNESCO List in 2022:

Site  Added on Year Importance 
Dholavira  2022
  • It is located in the Kutch district of Gujrat.
  • Historically, it was a commercially important city of the Indus Valley Civilization.
  • Now, there are a total of four sites from Gujrat on the World Heritage List.
Ramappa temple  2021
  • Built by Kakatiya rulers in the 13th century
  • Located in Palampet village of Telangana state
  • It is a Shiva temple 
  • Unique features of the temple
    • Multi-storyed pyramidal structure
    • Sculptures depict regional dance forms
    • Pillars and beams are decorated
    • Lightweight bricks used in construction

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India Map

Here is the Map of World Heritage Sites of India for a better understanding of the location of the sites.

World Heritage Sites in India

List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India From 1985 to 2023

India is known for its diverse culture and physical geography. As a result, today we have 41 World Heritage Sites in India on this list, which include both natural and cultural sites. Read about in detail each of India’s World Heritage Sites here. 

Name of the Site  Added on Year Importance 
Kaziranga National Park 1985
  • It has the world’s largest number of one-horned rhinos.
  • Other animals include Elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer.
  • It is also an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International, Elephant Reserve under Project Elephant.
  • It has the highest density of tigers among protected areas in the world and was made a Tiger Reserve in 2006.
  • The vegetation here includes a vast expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland and dense tropical moist broadleaf forest
Manas National Park 1985
  • It is a Wildlife sanctuary, Tiger Reserve, Elephant Reserve and Biosphere Reserve.
  • Situated close to Himalayan foothills, near to Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan.
  • It is known for its rare endemic species, 
    • Critically endangered – pigmy hog
    • Endangered – Assam roofed turtle, hispid hare and golden langur
Mahabodhi Temple Comple at Bodh Gaya 2002
  • Emperor Ashoka built the first temple around the Bodhi tree.
  • The present temple is dated between the 5th and 6th centuries AD.
  • It is built of bricks.
  • It is the oldest temple in the Indian subcontinent, built during the Gupta Period.
  • Some parts of the structure are preserved in the museum.
Humayun’s Tomb 1993
  • Considered a precursor monument to the Taj Mahal.
  • It was built in 1569-70 by Humayun’s widow Biga Begum.
  • Its architecture was created by Mirza Ghiyath and its Mughal architectural style has been acclaimed as a “necropolis of the Mughal dynasty”, for its double domed elevation provided with Chhatris.
  • The tomb is set on an irregular octagonal plinth.
  • The tomb is built with a char-bagh layout with two gates, one on the south and the other on the west, a pavilion and a bath.
Qutub Minar Complex 1993
  • Red sandstone tower of 72.5 m in height.
  • Built at the beginning of the 13th century.
  • The complex structure comprises
    • Alai Darwaza 
    • Alai Minar 
    • Qubbat-ul-Islam mosque 
    • Tomb of Iltumish
    • Iron Pillar
  • Structures have been made from the remains of Hindu and Jain temples.
  • Iron pillar has inscriptions in Sanskrit belonging to Chandra Gupta II’s period.
  • Work started by Qutubuddin Aibak in 1192, completed by Iltutmish and again by Alauddin Khalji.
Red Fort  2007
  • Built by emperor Shah Jahan as part of his new capital city of Shahjahanabad.
  • A prominent example of Indo-Islamic architecture
  • Planning and design of this complex in a geometrical grid plan with pavilion structures was the precursor of several monuments which were built later in Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra
  • It is adjacent to Salimgarh fort on its north, built by Islam Shah Suri in 1546 and is now a part of the Red Fort complex
  • Other important constructions in this complex include Diwan-i-Am, Diwan-i-khas, Nehr-i-Behishit, Moti Masjid (built by emperor Aurangzeb)
Churches of Goa 1986
  • They were built between the 16th and 18th centuries by the Portuguese who ruled Goa during this time.
  • Monuments are mainly in the former capital of Velha Goa or Old Goa
  • Basilica of Bom Jesus – known for housing the remains of St. Francis Xavier
  • Only some of the original monuments have survived, which include : 
    • Saint Catherine’s Chapel – where one of the first, Latin rite masses in Asia was held on Saint Catherine’s feast day i.e. 25 Nov 1510.
    • Saint Francis of Assisi Church
    • Basilica of Bom Jesus
    • Church of Saint Cajetan and its seminary
    • Church of Our Lady of Rosary
    • Church of Saint Augustine
  • Structures are built using laterite rocks and lime plaster
  • For this reason they need constant maintenance and protection
Champaner-Pavagarh   2004
  • Situated in the Panchmahal district of Gujrat.
  • It is a late Stone Age site. It also has a hill fortress which belongs to ancient Hindu rulers.
  • Kalikamata Temple on top of Pavagarh Hill attracts a large number of devotees 
  • This site is the only complete Islamic pre-Mughal city.
Monuments of Hampi 1986
  • Hampi town is located on the bank of river Tungabhadra in Karnataka.
  • The site consists of remains of Vijayanagara times.
  • Many travellers between the 14th and 16th centuries have mentioned it in their travelogues.
  • Virupaksha Temple and several other monuments.
  • Vittala Temple is known for its musical pillars.
Pattadakal Monuments  1987
  • The complex consists of Hindu and Jain temples. It is located in northern Karnataka.
  • Virupaksha Temple
    • Built-in 740 by Queen Lokamahadevi 
    • To mark the victory of king Vikramaditya II (her husband) victory over the Pallava ruler.
  • Combination of temples built by the Chalukya Dynasty in the 6th and 8th centuries at Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal.
  • Temples represent the fusion of Nagara and Dravida style
  • Within the heritage complex
    • Eight temples dedicated to Shiva
    • Ninth Shaivite sanctuary called Papanath Temple
    • A Jaina temple
Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh 1989
  • Monuments dated around the 2nd century BC
  • Built during the time of emperor Ashoka
  • Historically it was a Buddhist religious site and remained active till about the 12th century.
  • The complex has a number of monolithic pillars, temples and monasteries in different states of preservation
Bhimbetka Rock Shelter  2003
  • Located at the foothills of the Vindhyan range
  • They are sandstone shelters extending over an area of over 25,000 acres
  • Shelters have paintings dated from palaeolithic to neolithic times. 
  • Villages surrounding them reflect tradition displayed in rock paintings
Khajuraho Temples 1986
  • Built by rulers of the Chandela dynasty.
  • Monuments belong to the Hindu and Jain religions.
  • Of the 85 temples built, only 22 have survived, including Khandariya Temple.
  • Temples are famous for their nagara-style of architecture and their erotic sculptures.
Ajanta Caves 1983
  • Buddhist caves 
  • Built-in two phases
    • The first phase from the 2nd century BC
    • Second phase between the 5th and 6th centuries AD of the Gupta period
  • Depict richly decorated paintings, and frescoes similar to Sigiriya paintings in Sri Lanka 
Ellora Caves 1983
  • Located in the Aurangabad district of Maharashtra
  • The cultural mix of three religions Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism can be seen here.
  • Structures have been carved in basalt rocks 
  • Kailash temple is the most admired among them, which was built by Krishna-I of the Rashtrakuta dynasty.
  • Structures are dated from 600 to 1000 AD
Elephanta Caves 1987
  • Group of caves located on Elephanta Island or Gharapuri
  • The islands are located near the western coast of India in the Arabian Sea
  • It consists of two groups of caves 
    • The first group consist of Hindu caves
    • The second group consist of Buddhist caves
  • Hindu caves have sculptures of Shiva 
  • Caves are cut in basalt formations
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus  2004
  • At present, Central Railways’ headquarter is located here.
  • The station was designed in Gothic style in 1887-1888 by Frederick William Stevens and was built as the headquarters of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway.
Sun Temple, Konark 1984
  • 13th-century temple 
  • Also known as “Black Pagoda”
  • Located on the east coast of the Bay of Bengal in Mahanadi delta, Puri district, Odisha
  • Built in the form of the chariot of Surya, with 24 wheels, heavily decorated with stone carvings. Six horses are shown pulling the chariot
  • Constructed using sandstone by king Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty.
Keoladeo National Park 1985
  • It is located in western Rajasthan in the Bharatpur district.
  • It is a National Park, bird sanctuary and Ramsar Wetland site.
  • It is a human-made lake.
  • It is famous for 364 species of wintering birds that arrive from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, China and Siberia.
Jantar Mantar, Jaipur 2010
  • It is an astronomical observatory built during the time of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh.
  • He built a total of five such structures at Delhi, Jaipur, Ujjain, Mathura and Varanasi.
  • Jaipur observatory is best preserved. It has a number of astronomical observation instruments built in masonry.
Great Living Chola Temples  1987
  • Built by Chola rulers of Tamil Nadu
  • It is known for three great temples of the 11th and 12th centuries 
  • Brihadisvara Temple at Gangaikondacholapuram
    • Built by Rajendra I
    • Completed in 1035
    • It is similar to the Brihasdisvara temple at Thanjavur in architecture and design
    • 53 m high vimana, which is pointed upward
    • It is in contrast with straight vimana at Thanjavur
  • Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur
    • It is a temple where Lord Shiva is worshipped
    • Built by Raja Raja Chola I
    • Completed in 1010
    • Vimana rises to a height of  100ft 
    • Monolithic Nandi, having a height of about 13ft sits at its entrance
    • The entire temple structure is made out of granite 
    • Temple has Chola paintings on walls around the sanctum
  • Airavateshwara Temple at Darasuram
    • The construction of this temple is credited to Rajaraja Chola II.
    • Nearly 80 ft high vimana.
    • Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is worshipped as Airavateshwara
Group of Monumments, Mahaballipuram 1984
  • Built during the time of Pallava rulers
  • Most of the monuments were built during the time of Mahendravarman also known as Mamalla
  • The town has approximately forty monuments, including the largest open-air relief panel in the world
  • The monuments inscribed are 
    • Ratha Temples
    • Mandapas – Varaha cave temple
    • Open air panel, Descent of the Ganges also known as Arjuna’s Penance
    • Shore temple with thousands of sculptures praising lord Shiva
    • Thirukadalmallai which is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu
Agra Fort 1983
  • Also known as Red Fort of Agra
  • Fort has located on the bank of river Yamuna, built using red sandstone
  • It is surrounded by palaces, towers and mosques that were built from the 16th century onwards till the early 18th century
  • The most important structures within the fort complex are
    • Khas Mahal
    • Shish Mahal
    • Musamman Burj (an octagonal tower)
    • Diwan-i-Khas
    • Diwan-i-Am
    • Mosque made of white marble
  • Structures are examples of Indo-Islamic architecture 
Fatehpur Sikri  1986
  • Mughal emperor Akbar built it during the 16th century as his new capital city
  • For nearly a decade it served as the capital of the empire
    • It was abandoned due to a water crisis and unrest in north-west India
    • Emperor shifted the capital to Lahore
  • Akbar decided to construct it in 1571 on the same site where the birth of his son, Jahangir was predicted by saint Shaikh Salim Chisti
  • Structures are built in the Mughal architectural style. Important ones include : 
    • Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India
    • Buland Darwaza
    • Panch Mahal 
    • Tomb of Salim Chisti
  • English traveller Ralph Fitch considered the city in 1585 as more populous and larger than London
  • Its planning style became the inspiration for the design of Shahjahanabad.
Taj Mahal 1983
  • It is a mausoleum and is considered one of the seven wonders of the world. 
  • In memory of his wife Begum Mumtaz Mahal, emperor Shahjahan built this structure
  • Construction is done using white marble in the Mughal architectural style 
  • The architect was Ustad Ahmad Lahauri
  • The tomb has an octagonal layout.
  • Calligraphic inscriptions, pietra dura and arabesques add to its beauty
Mountain Railways of India 1999
  • Consist of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway and Kalka-Shimla railway
  • They were built during colonial times by the British government
  • Other two mountain rails of India which are not in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list include
    • Nilgiri Mountain Railway in South India
    • Matheran Hill Railway in Maharashtra
Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Park 1988
  • Both of them are part of the Western Himalayas
  • Valley of Flowers NP 
    • It is known for its endemic alpine flower meadows
    • Located in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand along Garhwal Himalayas
    • It is also home to important fauna including
      • Asian Black Bear (vulnerable)
      • snow leopard (endangered)
      • Himalayan brown bear (critically endangered)
      • Blue sheep (least concern)
  • Nanda Devi NP
    • Mountains here have rugged terrain
    • It is also a Biosphere Reserve
    • It attracts a large number of bird-watchers every year
    • Fauna is the same as in Valley of Flowers National Park
  • They are located between Zaskar and Great Himalayan ranges
Sunderbans National Park 1987
  • The largest mangrove forest in the world is located in an estuary.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site, Tiger Reserve, National Park and Biosphere Reserve
  • Important species found here 
    • Bengal Tiger
    • Saltwater crocodile (least concern)
Western Ghats  2012
  • Also known as Sahyadri Mountains
  • Among the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots
  • It includes many National Parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests in states of 
    • Kerala
    • Karnataka
    • Tamil Nadu
    • Maharashtra
  • It includes the following subclusters
    • Agasthyamalai
    • Periyar
    • Anamalai
    • Nilgiri
    • Talakaveri
    • Kudremukh
    • Sahyadri
Hill Forts of Rajasthan  2013
  • They are a group of forts located on Aravallis mountain
  • Represent the Rajput military hill architecture typology, a style that makes use of terrain’s defensive properties. 
  • They enclose large areas and often complete villages within them
  • Consists of 
    • Chittorgarh fort 
      • Served as the capital of Mewar
      • Captured by Mughal emperor Akbar in 1568
      • The largest fort in Rajasthan
    • Kumbhalgarh fort
      • Built by Rana Kumbha during the 15th century 
      • Maharana Pratap was born here 
      • The total wall length is over 38 km, which is the second-largest after the Great Wall of China
    • Ranthambore fort
      • Lies within Ranthambore National Park
      • Known for the valour and glory of Hammer Dev of the Chauhan dynasty
    • Gagron fort 
      • Jhalawar district of Rajasthan
      • It is situated on a hill and has a water conservation structure 
    • Amber fort
      • Example of Hindu architectural style 
      • Constructed using red sandstone and marble
      • It is a four-story building with a courtyard at each level 
      • It consists of Amber Palace and Jaigarh fort, which is connected by an underground passage.
    • Jaisalmer fort
      • The fort was built in 1156 by Rawal Jaisal, a Rajput king
      • Fort is located in the Thar Desert on a hill called Trikuta 
Rani Ki Vav 2014
  • Located in Patan, Gujrat. It is a famous step well.
  • It is known for its detailed sculptures and its large size.
  • It consists of more than 500 sculptures of gods and goddesses.
  • Most sculptures are in devotion to Vishnu in form of Dus-Avatars.
  • Sculptures also include Nagkanya who is considered an Apsara, showcasing 16 different styles of makeup to look more attractive called solah-shringar.
Great Himalayan National Park  1987
  • Located in the Kullu region of Himachal Pradesh
  • Characterized by high alpine peaks, high meadows and riverine forests
  • Many rivers originated from this National Park due to the melting of glaciers
Nalanda 2016
  • This site consists of archaeological remains of an ancient educational institution.
  • Nalanda university is said to flourish from the 3rd century BC to the 13th century CE
  • Different structures found in this site include viharas, stupas, shrines and important artworks in clay, metal and stone.
  • Bakhtiyar Khilji destroyed it in the 13th century
Kanchenjunga National Park 2016
  • Located at the centre of Sikkim state
  • It is also a Biosphere Reserve
  • It has been listed by UNESCO in the Mixed Heritage category
  • It has a rich diversity of physical landscapes which include plains, mountains, river valleys and a variety of forest types.
  • It is home to Buddhist monasteries 
  • Zemu glacier is located here 
  • Flora
    • Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests consisting of trees like fir, oaks, willow etc
    • Shrubs and grassland vegetation are also found 
    • Many medicinal plants and herbs
  • Fauna
    • Musk deer, civet, red panda
    • Snow leopard, Himalayan black bear
    • Himalayan tahr, Himalayan blue sheep
    • Wild dog, Tibetan wild-ass
    • Sloth bear, goral, takin
  • Third-highest mountain peak in the world, Kanchenjunga is located here 
The Architectural Sites of Le Corbusier 2016
  • Consists of different works of Le Corbusier 
  • It includes 17 transnational sites located across seven countries
Ahmedabad, the Historic City 2017
  • The city was founded in the 15th century by Sultan Ahmad Shah
  • Important structures that contribute to the cultural heritage of this city include mosques, temples, traditional houses, streets, water harvesting structures etc. 
  • The city has religious institutions belonging to Hinduism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Islam, Jainism and Buddhism which makes it a multi-religious city.
Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai  2018
  • They are part of what is popularly known as the Churchgate area of Mumbai
  • Most of these structures were built in the 1800s either by Indians or Britishers
  • Some of the important structures include
    • Bombay High Court 
    • Mahatma Jyotibai Phule Mandai also known as Crawford market
    • Municipal Corporation Building 
    • Rajabai Clock Tower
Jaipur City, Rajasthan  2019
  • The city was built in the 1700s by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh 
  • The planning and architecture of the city are unique in the sense that it has Islamic, Hindu and Western elements
  • Iconic places and structures include 
    • Amber Fort and Palace
    • Bazaars of Jaipur which include Johari Bazaar and Bapu Bazaar
    • Hawa Mahal 
    • Govind Dev ji temple 
    • Nahargarh fort 
    • City Palace

UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites Tentative List

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 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. With the addition of the three new sites, India now has 52 sites on the UNESCO Tentative List, which captures the diverse cultural and natural wealth of India. Check all the details about the Tentative List of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites here.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites Nomination Process

The nomination process for inclusion in the World Heritage Site list is as follows : 

  • The country prepares a tentative list of its natural and cultural sites. 
  • Next, it forwards important characteristics of these sites into a Nomination File.
  • Evaluation of this file is done by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICMS) and the World Conservation Union (WCU).
  • WCU and ICMS make their recommendations to the World Heritage Committee.
  • The World Heritage Committee meeting is held once every year, which determines whether to include a particular site in the World Heritage List. 
  • The site which fulfils any one of the ten selection criteria is included in the list. These criteria are related to the cultural and natural characteristics of the site, the state of their preservation, the date of their origin and the cultural importance of the site etc.

World Heritage Sites of India UPSC

The World Heritage Sites list is prepared by UNESCO. Its primary objective is to preserve, protect, and showcase the rich cultural and natural heritage across the world. India has a diverse cultural and natural landscape. It is no surprise that India’s 41 sites are on this list. The selection of sites is based on nominations by respective governments, and then shortlisting is done by a selection committee. Most recently, the ancient Santiniketan has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India list as the 41st site of India. 

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UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India FAQs

Which is the 40th World Heritage Site in India?

Dholavira, a city in the ancient Harappan civilization, became the 40th World Heritage Site in India.

How many Unesco sites are there in India in 2022?

As of today, India has 41 World Heritage Sites.

Which state has the largest number of World Heritage Sites in India?

Maharashtra has the largest number of World Heritage Sites at present.

Which is the most famous heritage in India?

This is very subjective, as all sites see the arrival of tourists and web searches from across the world.

Is the Golden Temple a World Heritage Site?

The Golden Temple is not a World Heritage Site.

Which country has most heritage sites?

As per 2022 data, Italy has the most World Heritage Sites.

Which is the 41st World heritage sites of India?

Santiniketan is the 41st World heritage sites of India.

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I, Sakshi Gupta, am a content writer to empower students aiming for UPSC, PSC, and other competitive exams. My objective is to provide clear, concise, and informative content that caters to your exam preparation needs. I strive to make my content not only informative but also engaging, keeping you motivated throughout your journey!

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