November 19 to November 25 is recognized as World Heritage Week. Keeping to the theme, I decided to find out about the world heritage sites in India. Imagine my surprise when I realized that there are not 5 or 10 but 32 sites, with 46 more in the tentative list! Wow! As if we need more reasons to be proud of this nation, here we have 32 more!
I will present to you, these 32 world heritage sites in brief. I have divided them zone wise and today, we begin with the east zone. With two sites in Assam, and one each in Bihar, Orissa & West Bengal, this is an ideal route to embark on our ride through India’s world heritage sites:
Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam
Back in 1908, the Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary was built as a reserved forest to protect the dying species of rhinoceros. It went through several changes until it was renamed as Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary in 1950. It was declared a national park in the year 1974. Located in the flood plains of the Brahmaputra, Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the year 1985. Jorhat is the nearest city and it spans an area of 430 sq kms. The Indian rhinoceros, wild boar family, barasingha, hog deer, rose-ringed parakeets, etc are found here. The sanctuary is famous for the one-horned rhinoceros of which it is the refuge. Of all the protected tiger reserves in the world, Kaziranga has the highest density of tigers. One interesting story about Kaziranga is that to its east is the oil town of Digboi. Over here, the rail routes remain closed at night since several years now. Legend has it that one night a pregnant female elephant had got hit by a speeding train and died. Since then troops of elephants would arrive at the spot every night to pay homage. This started causing more casualties and since the elephants cannot be stopped, the rail route remains closed at night.
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam
Yet another national park which holds the world heritage status, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is a UNESCO Natural World Heritage site, a Project Tiger Reserve, an Elephant Reserve and a Biosphere Reserve. Famous for its wild water buffalos, the sanctuary is also home to endangered wildlife like Assam Roofed Turtle, Hispid Hare, Golden Langur and Pygmy Hog. It is situated on the banks of the river Manas which happens to be a tributary of the river Brahmaputra. The nearest city is Barpeta road and the sanctuary covers an area of 950 kms. It got the world heritage status in 1985.
Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya, Bihar
Referred to as a unique property of cultural and archaeological importance in the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya is spread over 12 hectares of land. This is the place where prince Siddharth is known to have attained enlightment as Buddha, in 589 BC. Legends say that Buddha was meditating under a peepal tree and it is this tree that later came to be known as Bodhi tree.
Sun Temple, Konârak, Puri, Orissa
Built by king Narasimhadeva I of Eastern Ganga Dynasty around 1250 CE, Konark Sun Temple is majorly in ruins though restoration of the parts that can be salvaged is under process. The European sailors have called it the Black Pagoda. The river Chandrabhaga used to flow from outside the temple but now the waterline has receded and there is no water body absolutely around the temple. The structure of whatever remains of the temple is large and commands respect. The temple is built in the form of a sun chariot and the wheels can be used to tell time correctly, even now.
Sundarbans National Park, West Bengal
The Sundarban National Park is a Bio Reserve, a National Park and a Tiger Reserve in West Bengal. It has a dense cover of mangroves and happens to be one of India’s largest reserves for the Royal Bengal tiger. Covering an area of 3,28,680 acres, the Sundarban National Park got the UNESCO World Heritage Site status in the year 1987. The mangroves which make the Sundarbans happen to be India’s largest in area. In 2009, cyclone Aila had struck the region and done considerable damage to the park.
I’ll be back next week with the World Heritage sites in another region of this vast nation.