India has 30 world heritage sites and some of them are extremely popular. Sites like the Taj Mahal, Ajanta and Ellora caves are known the world over for their splendour and are visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. However, there are some equally outstanding examples of heritage in our country, which are designated as world heritage sites by UNESCO but are hardly known. Many are off the tourist trail, in spite of being quite accessible. Some, like the Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus, are visited by thousands of people everyday, but hardly anyone knows its significance or value to the whole of humanity. From 10,000 year old cave paintings which provide a glimpse into the early man's life, to an extraordinary fort with more than 300 temples inside its walls, these world heritage sites deserve better attention.
Pattadkal is a great center for Chalukya art. It was an important center under the Rashtrakuta dynasty too. The art at the monuments which are part of the world heritage site display a harmonious blend of architectural forms of northern and southern India. Unfortunately, the nearby temples at Badami usually overshadow the fancy of tourists and the bad state of approach roads doesn't help either. Known as the City of the Crown Rubies, Nine of the temples are Hindu temples and the remaining one is a Jain temple.
Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka
Bhimbetka, a world heritage site about 50km away from the bustling city of Bhopal, are home to rock paintings dated 10000 years old. On any given day however, you would be lucky if you see even a few tourists here. It may not be as grand as the Taj Mahal, but they are still the most famous in academic circles.
They are situated some 28 miles (45 km) south of Bhopal, in west-central Madhya Pradesh state. Discovered in 1957, the complex consists of some 700 shelters and is one of the largest repositories of prehistoric art in India. The shelters were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. The complex is surrounded by the Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Bhimbetka region is riddled with massively sculpted formations in the sandstone rock. On the Bhimbetka site’s hill alone, where the bulk of the archaeological research has been concentrated since 1971, 243 shelters have been investigated, of which 133 contain rock paintings. In addition to the cave paintings, archaeologists have unearthed large numbers of artifacts in the caves and in the dense teak forests and cultivated fields around Bhimbetka, the oldest of which are Acheulean stone tool assemblages.
The paintings, which display great vitality and narrative skill, are categorized into different prehistoric periods. The oldest are dated to the Late Paleolithic period (Old Stone Age) and consist of large linear representations of rhinoceroses and bears. Paintings from Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age) times are smaller and portray, in addition to animals, human activities. Drawings from the Chalcolithic Period (early Bronze Age) showcase the early humans’ conceptions of agriculture. Finally, the decorative paintings dating to early historical times depict religious motifs, including tree gods and magical sky chariots.
The caves provide a rare glimpse at a sequence of cultural development from early nomadic hunter-gatherers to settled cultivators to expressions of spirituality. It has been observed that the present-day cultural traditions of agrarian peoples inhabiting the villages surrounding Bhimbetka resemble those represented in the paintings.
It has seen a bloody massacre, over 1,000 trains and three million passengers pass through it daily. Hardly anyone pauses to consider the significance of this beautiful monument originally built to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is an outstanding example of the meeting of two cultures, as British architects worked with Indian craftsmen to include Indian architectural tradition and idioms.
The main architecture of the building reflects the Victorian Gothic styles and designs of the late 19th century. The style and the ornamentation of the edifice were acceptable to both Indian and European culture. Complete with turrets, pointed arches and an eccentric ground plan, the CST was a novel achievement during that period. To date, the building retains most of the architectural designs with probably, an addition of two or more headquarters. The CST was built in accordance to a C-shaped plan, symmetrical on both, the east and the west axis. Crowned by a high dome, which is the focal point of the structure, the CST building is adjoined with well-proportioned rows of arched structures, rows and windows, closely resembling Indian palace architectures.
The entrance of the Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus is flanked by figures of a lion and a tiger representing the two countries-great Britain and India. The main structure is made of sandstone and limestone, and the interiors of the station are lined with high-quality Italian marble. Apart from the 18 railway lines, the CST also houses the main headquarters, the Star Chamber, grotesques and the North Wing.
The temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, took more than 25 years to build. A fine example of Dravidian culture and heritage, it is much smaller and less famous compared to the Brihadisvara temple at Tanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram. The gopuram of this temple is 85 feet high. You are bound to be mesmerised by the first sight of this temple's exquisite architecture, sculptures and paintings. The entire temple is said to been built with Nithya-Vinoda (perpetual entertainment) in mind.
The south side of the front mandapam(Muha mandapam) is in the form of large chariot with large stone wheels drawn by horses. Some of the pillars tell stories of Thiruvilaiyadal of lord Shiva, wedding scenes of Shiva and Parvathi, Kanthapuranam stories and more dancing poses of Shiva. The 100 pillars mandapam leads to Periyanayagi Shrine and Airavateeswara Shrine.
The west side of the temple has panels of socio-cultural aspects of Chola period, which are revealed in these small panels—ranging from Periyapuranam, punishments, dance etc., Airavateeswara temple corridor around the temple has plenty of sculptures and paintings.
With a 36km wall second only to the Great Wall in China, the Kumbhalgarh fort is one of those rare forts which was never attacked. Located about 85km from Udaipur, this fort is usually off the tourist trail. Kumbhalgarh bears testimony to the power of the Rajput princely states that flourished in the region from the 8th to the 18th centuries. A testimony to the ingenuity of the legendary Maha rana Kumbha, it draws as much accolades as the formidable fortress of Chittorgarh. You can troop to this inviolable piece of architecture by opting for a drive, from Kelwara, through the seven magnificent 'pols' or entrances. The last of these entry points called the 'Nimboo Pol', has the legends of history associated with it. The fort went through a complete overhaul during the reign of King Fateh Singh in the nineteenth century.
You can also make a dash for the numerous( about three hundred and sixty) elegant mansions, dilapidated shrines, 'baoris', and verdant parks that dots the length and breadth of this breathtaking beauty. Head towards the 'Badal Mahal' and catch a spellbinding panoramic view of the surroundings
Darasuram - Madhumita Gopalan
CST - Madhumita Gopalan
Pattadakal - Ajay Reddy
Bhimbetka - Ajay Reddy
Kumbhalgarh Fort- Shripal Gandhi
Coordinated by Rama Sreekant