World Heritage Day is celebrated on the 18th of April every year. The day aims to spread awareness about the importance of preserving historical monuments in India that are a reflection of our rich cultural history and heritage. It also seeks to bring attention to the consistent initiatives taken by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) throughout the year in preserving these heritage monuments. This year, the theme for the day is “Heritage and Climate”.
The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) proposed in 1982 that the 18th of April of every year be observed as World Heritage Day. The day was approved by UNESCO the next year at the 22nd General Conference. The objective of the day is to spread knowledge about cultural heritage sites that are worth preserving and also sensitise people to conserve them.
World Heritage Day History & Significance
UNESCO has been deliberating over cultural monuments that should be preserved because of their universal cultural value from countries around the globe since 1972. Not just dynamic historical sites with a cultural past, but also natural reserves that celebrate the vibrance of the world of flora and fauna. Cultural heritage includes monumental sculptures, inscriptions, and architecture, archaeological sites, and groups of buildings. This list pays special attention to cultural sites that are rooted in history and craftsmanship, and are home to threatened species of plants and animals. There lies the significance of UNESCO World Heritage Day.
How Is World Heritage Day Celebrated?
According to ICOSMOS, UNESCO World Heritage Day is celebrated in the following ways:
1. Youth Leadership
ICOSMOS works with professionals who volunteer to participate in the initiative of organising events that focus on reaching out to the youth across the UN member nations through social media.
2. Spreading Awareness
ICOSMOS organises campaigns to promote its objectives related to the protection and conservation of culture and heritage.
7 Interesting Facts About World Heritage Sites
On UNESCO World Heritage Day, here are 7 facts that you may want to stay updated on.
- There are 40 World Heritage Sites listed in India, out of which 32 are cultural, 7 are natural, and the remaining one – Khangchendzonga National Park – is a mix of both.
- India boasts of having the 6th largest number of sites across the globe.
- The Taj Mahal, Ajanta Caves, Ellora Caves, and Agra Fort were the first sites to have made it to the list, as per the World Heritage Committee in 1983.
- The most recently listed site is Dholavira in 2021.
- There are 2 sites that are referred to as endangered – Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (due to widespread poaching activities) and the Hampi monuments as a result of new constructions in the vicinity and increased traffic.
- There are 52 sites in India that are on the tentative list.
- The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier is the only transnational site that India shares with 6 other nations.
6 UNESCO World Heritage Sites In India
Let’s take a look at 6 of the 40 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India to understand the significance of Heritage Day.
1. Taj Mahal, Agra
One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj Mahal is a name to reckon with among all and sundry across the world. Crafted with white marble with Mughal-inspired patterns in black and red, it is a sight to behold. Located on the banks of the River Yamuna in Agra, the monument was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, Mumtaj Mahal. No wonder, it is referred to as the “Jewel of Muslim Art in India”.
2. Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Built 175 km from Jhansi, the 20 temples that are a part of Khajuraho are well revered among Hindus and Jains, and are spread over 20 km. It is known for its Nagara-style architecture that depicts erotic figurines and sculptures of humans and animals carved out of stone. This sensuous architecture was crafted between 950 and 1050 CE under the reign of the Chandella dynasty.
3. Hampi, Karnataka
Located in northern Karnataka, this UNESCO World Heritage Site stands tall among the ruins of the once-prosperous kingdom of Vijayanagar. The collection of this heritage site represents the dynamism and distinctiveness of the Dravidian style of architecture. There are quite a few temples that are an attraction here like Krishna temple complex, Hemakuta group of temples, Achyutaraya temple complex, Narasimha, Ganesa, and Vitthala temple complex, although Virupaksha Temple records the most footfalls among the Hindus for religious purposes.
4. Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra
Dating back to the ages between the 2nd century to 650 CE, this boasts 31 Buddhist caves cut out of rocks, which serve as the canvas for paintings and murals. These give a peek into the lives and lifestyles of the ancient cavemen. The interesting fact is that the caves were built in two separate phases, which explains their dynamic distinctiveness. While the caves were constructed under the tutelage of the Satavahana Dynasty between 230 BCE and 220 CE in the first phase, the second phase of the caves was built under the patronage of Emperor Harishena of the Vakataka Dynasty. What’s more, the sculptures and carvings here mark the beginning of Indian Classical Art.
5. Ellora Caves, Maharashtra
The caves off the city of Aurangabad are another one of the most celebrated world heritage sites in India that are known for its exquisite Indian rock-cut architecture. Built between 600 and 1000 AD, there are 34 rock-cut temples and caves that stand testimony to the lifestyle of the people of that age. There are Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist temples all under the same roof, which is proof of their secular culture and beliefs. That apart, the excavated sites include Charanandri hills, Viharas, and maths belonging to the 5th and 10th centuries.
6. Bodh Gaya, Bihar
About 100 km from Patna, the capital city of Bihar, it holds great historical significance among the Buddhists because it is here that Lord Buddha achieved enlightenment under the ancient holy Bodhi tree. The renowned Mahabodhi temple was built during the reign of King Ashoka in around 250 BCE. Presently, the site also includes the Vajrasana and several ancient Votive stupas.
3 Measures Undertaken To Preserve The Historical & Cultural Sites Under The UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Here are 3 initiatives that UNESCO undertakes to protect the historical and cultural sites on UNESCO World Heritage Day.
- Organising heritage walks and conversations about the protected cultural and historical sites to spread awareness about them.
- Organising workshops, seminars, exhibitions, and plays (on the stage and on the street) in the neighbourhood of these sites to communicate to the neighbours about the role that they play in protecting these sites.
- Organising community sensitisation programmes among teachers and students to encourage them to contribute towards the protection and upkeep of these historical and cultural sites.
Although World Heritage Day is celebrated on just one day every year, UNESCO and ICOSMOS undertake continuous efforts and initiatives throughout the year to conserve and protect the UN World Heritage Sites. However, the responsibility to preserve them also rests upon us through simple measures like not littering these sites and participating in campaigns organised by them. So let’s do our bit in assisting the UN in taking care of world heritage sites in India so that these sites are protected in the best way possible, for our future generations to enjoy them too.
Open up like never before and participate in conversations about beauty, entrepreneurship, mental health, menstrual & sexual health, and more. Desi women, join our community NOW!