Our Heritage, Our Pride
In 1983, UNESCO decided that the International Day for Monuments and Sites would be marked on April 18. This day is popularly called World Heritage Day. The theme for this year is “Complex Pasts- Diverse Futures”.
Presently, there are more than 1100 sites globally that have been identified by UNESCO as world heritage sites. Approx. 38 of these are present in India- 30 cultural, 7 natural, and 1 mixed site.
North India Sites
Mountain Railways of India
Three railways in the lofty mountains captured history as we know it within them- the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, Nilgiri Mountain Railway, and Kalka Shimla Railway.
The Darjeeling railway was opened in 1881 and established a rail link across the beautiful mountainous terrain in northern West Bengal. Often called the “Darjeeling Toy Train”, this railway line ensures that you witness beauty and amusement in equal amounts. It runs slow enough that passengers can get down, buy fruits and vegetables from the hawkers, and get back on the train. The Nilgiri railway line in Tamil Nadu was quite difficult to construct, taking 17 long years to be completed from 1891 to 1908. Many movies have featured this railway system. The popular song Chhaiya Chhaiya was picturized here. Sridevi and Kamal Haasan’s Sadma shot the last scene on this railway line. David Lean’s Passage to India features this railway too.
The Kalka Shimla line was yet another representation of the technical marvels employed in the hills. Opened in 1903, you can view this railway line running parallel to the highway when you visit Shimla. It intersects the highway too, so at lucky times, you can look at the train passing through tunnels and on the track on the highway.
- The Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area, Himachal Pradesh
Nestled in the mighty Himalayas, the Great Himalayan National Park is home to 25 types of forests and rich fauna diversity. It is a part of the Himalayan biodiversity hotspot and includes the sources of many rivers that supply water to plains.
Meadows, rivers, valleys, snow, and mighty slopes housing animals and birds- GNHP is surely going to be a trip that you will remember. It covers several other natural reserves such as the Pin Valley National Park and Kanwar Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Uttarakhand
Nanda Devi National Park has a rugged mountain wilderness and the Valley of Flowers National Park has gentle landscapes. Perfectly complementing each other, together they represent the transition between Zanskar and Greater Himalayas. Rare and endangered flora and fauna species are found in this richly diverse area. Located within the Western Himalayas Endemic Bird Area, significant populations of birds are found here.
- Khangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim
The only mixed site in India, this national park is home to a unique diversity of plains, glaciers, valleys, lakes, mountains, and forests. The world’s third highest peak, Mount Khangchendzonga, is located here.It is sacred to both Buddhists and Lepchas, depicting co-existence and exchange between different ethnicities and traditions.It also forms the foundation on which the Sikkimese culture is built. The national park covers 25% of the state.
- Kaziranga National Park, Assam
Undisturbed by humans, the Kaziranga National Park houses the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinoceroses. It is the single largest undisturbed area in the Brahmaputra Valley floodplain. The fluctuations in the Brahmaputra river give birth to mesmerising riverine and fluvial processes here.
The park is present at the junction of the Australasian and Indo-Asian flyway, ensuring that many migratory birds are conserved here.
- Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam
A biodiversity hotspot, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is part of the core zone of the Manas Tiger Reserve. There are forested hills, grasslands, and evergreen forests in the area. Many rare and endangered species are found here. The northern border of the park is contiguous to the international border with Bhutan.
Manas-Beki river system flows through the park, joining the Brahmaputra downstream. Tourists can enjoy river rafting, elephant safari, and jeep safari here. You can visit it from November to April for pleasant weather conditions and animal sightings.
- The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement, Chandigarh
Chandigarh, the beautiful city and the shared capital of Haryana and Punjab, was planned by the renowned French architect Le Corbusier. His work, completed over a period of 50 years in four continents, depicts his fresh perspective and the modernisation of architecture.
The Complexe du Capitole in Chandigarh is the focal point of the city. The Capitol Complex represents the idea of Radiant City to the maximum. When in Chandigarh, you can visit Sukhna Lake and enjoy a boat ride after a drive across one of the most beautifully designed cities in India. Do not forget the shopping!
- Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi
The mausoleum built for the second Mughal ruler Humayun is a grand architectural marvel in the national capital. It derives its inspiration from the Holy Quran by utilising the char-bagh design. This garden tomb went on to encourage many other tombs, including the enchanting Taj Mahal.
When you visit Humayun’s Tomb complex, you would also be witness to the history precedingwhen this tomb was built. NilaGumbad, Isa Khan’s tomb, and Barber’s tomb are present here among other monuments. The building craft traditions used by the Mughal builders in Humayun’s tomb are an absolute delight to the eyes and the mind.
- QutbMinar and its Monuments, Delhi
Said to be visible when you land in Delhi, QutbMinar is a beautiful red sandstone minaret that has witnessed Delhi’s history being written before it.It was built in 1199 by Qutb-ud-din Aibak.It was the “victory tower” built in Islamic architectural styles and was completed as we see today by many more rulers following Aibak.
QutbMinar complex houses the magnificent Alai Darwaza, Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque, tombs of Iltutmish, Imam Zamin, and Ala-ud-din Khilji, as well as the Alai Minar of Khilji. The iron pillar, originally erected by Chandragupta II at Udayagiri, was shifted in this complex by Anangpal. The Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque is one of the oldest mosques present in India.
- Red Fort Complex, Delhi
Shah Jahan built the new capital at Shahjahanabad. The capital needed a fort, so a red sandstone architectural marvel was built. On the banks of Yamuna, Red Fort brought together Islamic, Persian, Timurid, and Hindu traditions in architecture.T he palace later influenced the development of buildings and gardens in Rajasthan, Delhi, and Agra.
Red Fort has been a symbol of power since the times of Shah Jahan. It has witnessed the power transition from Mughals to British to democracy today. It was here that the first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru gave his speech on Independence Day.
A sound and light show is held here to inform the public about the history that this monument holds deep within its heart. It oversees Chandni Chowk at its front, with the Gauri Shankar temple and Jain temple across the road from it.
By Srishti Verma