List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites of India – Part VI - Kaleidoscope of My Life
India is a land of diverse cultures. The variations in physical, climatic conditions and the extent of exposure to other cultures have greatly influenced the traditions and culture of the different regions. There is an underlying basic factor common to the whole of India, with variations in the practices based on their local needs and influences. Further, the greatness of India has been in accepting the best from all the invaders and intermingling the new customs and styles with the existing – this is visible in all aspects – music, dance, painting, sculptures, and architecture. Let’s continue our tour and look at the other heritage sites of India. Rani Ki Vav: (2014) Built on the banks of the Saraswati River, Rani Ki Vav or Queen’s Step-well was initially built as a memorial to a king Bhimdeva I in the 11th century AD by his wife Udayamati. Stepwells are a distinctive form of subterranean water resource and storage systems on the Indian subcontinent, and have been constructed since the 3rd millennium BC. They evolved over time from what was basically a pit in sandy soil towards elaborate multi-storey works of art and architecture. Rani-ki-Vav was built at the height of craftsmens’ ability in stepwell construction and the Maru-Gurjara architectural style, reflecting mastery of this complex technique and great beauty of detail and proportions. Designed as an inverted temple highlighting the sanctity of water, it is divided into seven levels of stairs with sculptural panels of high artistic quality; more than 500 principle sculptures and over a thousand minor ones combine religious, mythological and secular imagery, often referencing literary works. Most of the sculptures in the well are devoted to Lord Vishnu in the form of his ten avatars, which signify his return to the world. Apart from being a place for storage of water, this vav also has a spiritual meaning attested to it. It is designed as an inverted temple and is divided into seven levels of wells, each having its own importance as per the religious and mythological works mentioned in the canonical literature. Great Himalayan National Park: (2014) Among the recently inscribed sites to the list, this alpine and riverine forest was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list of India. The Great Himalayan National Park was founded in 1984 and consists of alpine meadows, alpine peaks, and riverine forests. The glacial and snow melt-water is an important source for the water supply catchments below it. In addition, the park plays host to many species of mammals, birds, reptiles, mollusks, amphibians, and insects. It is part of the Himalaya biodiversity hotspot and includes 25 forest types along with a rich assemblage of fauna species, several of which are threatened. This gives the site outstanding significance for biodiversity conservation. Nalanda Mahavihar: (2016) Nalanda was an ancient Mahavihara, a large and revered Buddhist monastery, in the ancient kingdom of Magadha in India. The site was an important centre of learning from the fifth century CE to c. 1200 CE. Within the site, you will find artworks, stuccoes, stupas, shrines and viharas. The site is believed to be an important example of the development of Buddhism as a religion and how it was used for educational and monastic purposes. Nalanda flourished under the patronage of the Gupta Empire in the 5th and 6th centuries, and later under Harsha, the emperor of Kannauj. The liberal cultural traditions inherited from the Gupta age resulted in a period of growth and prosperity until the ninth century CE. The subsequent centuries were a time of gradual decline. The university was ransacked and destroyed by an army of the Mamluk Dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate under Bakhtiyar Khalji in c. 1200 CE. Khangchendzonga National Park: (2016) Located in the Himalayan Ranges of North and West districts of the beautiful state of Sikkim in India’s North-East region, Khangchendzonga National Park has been declared a world heritage site in 2016. Also known as Kanchenjunga National Park (and Kanchenjunga Biosphere Reserve) is a vast area spreading over 850 sq. Km and has an elevation of 1,829 m to 8,500 m above sea level. Kangchendzonga National Park also includes the Kanchenjunga Peak, which is the 3rd highest peak in the world. The national park is famous for its fauna and flora, with snow leopard being occasionally sighted. We are four more sites to discover, so stay tuned for the last part of the series coming up tomorrow. Till then enjoy the previous parts here: Parts one, two, three, four and five. 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