5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India to visit in 2020

There are one hundred and ninety five countries in this world, today. This total includes one hundred and ninety three countries which are member states of the United Nations and two countries that are non-member observer states – they are the Holy See and the State of Palestine. In these countries, whenever UNESCO spots a place of cultural, historic or architectural significance, it declares that place a ‘world heritage site’. With so many tourists interested in exploring these sites in India; we at ‘You & I’ compile the five must-see heritage places, out of thirty-eight selected, in 2020:-

Taj Mahal – Agra - Uttar Pradesh

This gem of an architectural masterpiece is situated on the banks of River Yamuna in Agra. The Taj has always been a part of the New Seven Wonders of the World in a list compiled in 2007. Taj Mahal was built by Persian architects under the supervision of the Moghal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It also houses the tomb of Shah Jahan, himself. This ivory-white marble mausoleum was built in 1632. It took almost twenty-four thousand workers to complete this masterpiece. Many architects around the world are in unison in declaring this glorious monument, the `Jewel of Muslim Art’ in India.

Timings:  Daytime - sunrise to sunset every day (0600 hours to 1830 hours) except Friday. Every Friday, Taj Mahal is closed and accessible only in the afternoon for Muslims to attend prayers. Nighttime – 2030 hours to 0030 hours.

Access: The Taj Mahal is about one hundred and sixty five kilometres from New Delhi; two hundred and thirty five kilometres from Jaipur and one hundred and twenty five kilometres from Gwalior. It is well connected by road. The railway station and bus stand are around five kilometres from the monument and are well connected to all major cities.

Qutb Minar – New Delhi

This beautiful monument is an awesome structure made out of red sandstone. It is a towering monument with a tapering structure that spans a diameter of 2.75 metres at its top and with a diameter of 14.30 metres at its base.  Its height is 72.5 metres. It was built by Qutbuddin Aibak, the founder of Delhi Sultanat. There is an influence of both Jain and Hindu temples in the completion of this architectural masterpiece. The entire history revolving around the building of this architecture has been inscribed in various sections of this tower in Nagari and Persian-Arabic characters.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site at Mehrauli, Delhi had five levels, originally. Feroz Shah Tughlaq built a cupola on the top but it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1803. It was accessible to people prior to 1981 as they could climb up to the top and see it from within; a lighting failure resulted in a stampede that caused the death of forty seven people. The tower was closed for the public since then in terms of entering it and going up to its top. Visitors are not allowed within the tower, anymore.

Timings: 0700 hours to 1700 hours. It is open all days of the week.

Access: As New Delhi is the capital of India, it has connections internationally to major countries of the world. It is also well accessible both by rail and by road to all major cities in India.

Jantar Mantar – Jaipur - Rajasthan

Jantar Mantar gets its enigmatic name from the magical calculating instrument housed by it. This place was constructed by Sawai Jai Singh II, a Rajput King. He also founded the city of Jaipur in the eighteenth century. The calculating instrument that it houses is the famous Sundial. The monument was completed in 1734 and it features the largest stone Sundial in the world. This instrument helps calculate the time of the day by the trajectory of the sun. Jantar Mantar is also one of the five major observatories in the country. It has nineteen astronomical instruments besides the Sundial. They are all designed to study astronomical positions with our naked eye and they are all made out of stone. Sawai Jai Singh was extremely fascinated by the movement and the trajectory of celestial objects. Jantar Mantar is located close to other marvellous pieces of architecture in Jaipur, the Hawa Mahal and the City Palace. UNESCO included Jantar Mantar in its World Heritage Sites in this country, in 2010.

Timings: 0900 hours to 1630 hours.

Access: Jaipur is linked with an international airport. It is now connected to most major cities in India by rail, air and road. The observatory is situated about 5.2 kilometres from Jaipur Railway Station.

Ajanta Caves - Maharashtra

These historic caves are found in the Aurangabad District of Maharashtra in India. Ajanta and Ellora caves date back to the second century Anno Domini. Ajanta caves are a compilation of twenty-nine rock-cut Buddhist monuments and they form a horseshoe around the famous Waghora River. The caves vary in their elevation, ranging from thirty five feet to one hundred and ten feet above this river stream. Not many people are aware that they were rediscovered by few British Officers of the Madras Army in the year 1819. The caves are all about paintings that depict the life of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) with pictorial narratives of Jatakamala by Arya Surya.

Timings: 0900 hours to 1730 hours. Entry to the caves is closed on all Mondays, but they are open to public on all national holidays.

Access: The nearest airport to the caves is Aurangabad and it is almost a hundred kilometres away. The nearest railway station is Jalgaon; it is about sixty kilometres away. Ajanta Caves are well linked by road to major cities such as Aurangabad, Mumbai, Jalgaon, Pune, Ahmadnagar, Bijapur and Hyderabad.


Chola Temples – Cholapuram – Tamil Nadu

The Great Living Chola Temples get a World Heritage Site tag by UNESCO as a designation for a collection of Hindu temples dating back from the Chola Dynasty in Tamil Nadu. These temples were built in the early twelfth century Anno Domini. These ancient monuments include the famous Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur, the Temple of Airavatesvara and Gangaikonda, Cholapuram. They were built by various kings of the Chola Dynasty; which is also the longest ruling dynasty in the southern part of the country. The temple of Gangaikonda stands out for its fifty-three metre sanctum tower. It also has an upward curving graceful movement in comparison with the straight towers of Thanjavur and other neighbouring temples. The Airavatesvara Temple was constructed by Rajaraja II and it houses Lord Shiva’s stone image. Its sanctum tower is twenty-four metre high. These temples are a specimen of the architectural concepts of the Dravidian style of construction that excels in paintings, sculptures and bronze casting.

Timings: Thanjavur – 0600 hours to 1230 hours and 1600 hours to 2030 hours, Brihadisvara – 0900 hours to 2000 hours and Airavatesvara – 0630 hours to 2030 hours.

Access: The nearest airports to the Chola Temples are at Pondicherry and Tiruchirapalli. Thanjavur is well connected by both road and rail to other major cities in the country.

As per an updated count, there are one thousand and ninety two UNESCO heritage sites in the world and not many people know that thirty-eight of them are in India, alone.

                             - Tahseen Nakavi