UNESCO World Heritage Sites - Selection Criteria and List

2023-09-20 | Priyanka Chaudhary


World Heritage Sites are the places/monuments/areas that are included in the World Heritage List by UNESCO due to their cultural, historical, natural, or any other significance. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meets minimum once a year in June or July. It identifies the property of Outstanding Universal Value for inclusion in the World Heritage List on the basis of following ten criteria.

  1. The property must represent a masterpiece of human creative genius.
  2. The property must exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a period of time or within a cultural area of the world. The important interchange of human values shown by the property must be on developments in
    1. Architecture or technology
    2. Monumental arts
    3. Town-planning 
    4. Landscape design
  3. The property must carry either a unique or at minimum, an unusually good testimony to a cultural tradition or a living or disappeared civilization.
  4. The property must be an exceptionally good example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates one significant stage or more than one significant stages in human history.
  5. The property must be an exceptionally good example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use that is representative of a culture (or cultures) or interaction between human and the environment and has become vulnerable due to irreversible change.
  6. The property must be directly or tangibly associated with
    1. Events or living traditions of outstanding universal significance.
    2. Ideas or beliefs of outstanding universal significance
    3. Artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.
  7. The property must have natural phenomena of the highest quality or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance.
  8. The property must be an exceptionally good example representing major stages of earth's history such as
    1. Record of life
    2. Significant continuing geological processes in the development of landforms
    3. Significant geomorphic or physiographic features
  9. The property must be an outstanding example representing significant continuing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of
    1. Terrestrial ecosystems and communities of plants and animals
    2. Freshwater ecosystems and communities of plants and animals
    3. Coastal ecosystems and communities of plants and animals
    4. Marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals
  10. The property must have the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity. This criteria includes the natural habitats having threatened species of Outstanding Universal Value from the point of view of science or conservation.


As of September 2023, there are a total 1,194 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. These sites belong to 168 countries. Italy and China have the maximum number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are 42 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. Santiniketan (West Bengal) and Three Hoysalas Temples of Karnataka are the 41st and 42nd World Heritages sites of India to be included in the list. The Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles, Mumbai was declared a World Heritage Sites in 2018. Jaipur city, Rajasthan was declared a World Heritage Sites in July 2019. In 2021, Kakatiya Rudreswar Temple (Ramappa Temple), Telangana and Dholavira were added to the list. Trans-Iranian Railway was also added to the World Heritage Site list in 2021.   



UNESCO World Heritage Sites In India


Recognition Year

Special Features



Agra Fort 

Uttar Pradesh


  • A Mughal monument made in 16th century comprising Jahangir Palace, Khas Mahal (constructed by Shah Jahan) and Diwan-i-Khas.



Ajanta Caves 

Aurangabad, Maharashtra


  • Rock-cut caves having paintings and sculptures that are masterpieces of Buddhist art.
  • Although they existed since 2nd and 1st Centuries B.C, many of them were added during the Gupta period (5th and 6th centuries A.D).


Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara

Nalanda, Bihar


  • The Nalanda Mahavihara site has archaeological remains (stupas, shrines, and viharas) of the most ancient university that have existed from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE.


Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi

Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh


  • Sanchi remained an important Buddhist centre in India up to 12th century.
  • It is the oldest Buddhist sanctuary existing now.
  • Most of the Buddhist Monuments (monolithic pillars, temples, palaces and monasteries) at Sanchi have existed since 2nd and 1st centuries B.C.


Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park 



  • Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park includes prehistoric (chalcolithic) sites, remains belonging to the 16th century capital of Gujarat and Kalikamata Temple (Pavagadh Hill).
  • It is the only Islamic pre-Mughal city that remains unchanged.


Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) 



  • British architect F. W. Stevens designed it.
  • It is an example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India.
  • It also represents the meeting of British and Indian architectural tradition.


Churches and Convents



  • The churches and convents of Goa, especially the Church of Bom Jesus, are an example of evangelization (spreading Christian religious beliefs) in Asia.
  • They have greatly influenced the spreading of Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art forms.


Elephanta Caves 






  • Elephanta caves contain a group of rock art connected with the Shiva cult of Hindus and a few Buddhist stupa mounds.
  • They have images of Ardhanarisvara, Kalyana-sundara Shiva, Ravana lifting Kailasa and Nataraja Shiva.


Ellora Caves



  • Ellora Caves contain 34 monasteries and temples belonging to Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
  • They also contain monuments that have existed since A.D. 600 to 1000.
  • It also contains the Kailasha temple, which is the world's largest single monolithic rock excavation.


Fatehpur Sikri 

Agra, Uttar Pradesh


  • Fatehpur Sikri was founded by Akbar as the capital of the Mughal Empire in 1571.
  • Buland Darwaza,Tomb of Salim Chishti, Diwan-i-Aam, Diwan-i-Khas, Ibadat Khana and Panch Mahal are some important buildings in Fatehpur Sikri.


Great Living Chola Temples 

Tamil Nadu

1987, 2004

  • The Great Living Chola Temples include Brihadisvara Temple of Thanjavur (recognized in1987), Brihadisvara Temple of Gangaikondacholisvaram (added in 2004) and Airavatesvara Temple of Darasuram (added in 2004).
  • They were built by Rajaraja I, Rajendra I and Rajaraja II, respectively.


Group of Monuments at Hampi



  • Hampi was the last capital of the last Hindu Vijayanagar Kingdom.
  • It is located near the Tungabhadra river.


Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram

Tamil Nadu


  • These 7th and 8th centuries CE monuments were founded by Pallava kings and are famous for rathas, mandapas and large open-air reliefs like Descent of the Ganges or Arjuna's Penance.


Group of Monuments at Pattadakal 



  • Group of Monuments at Pattadakal includes nine Hindu temples and a Jain sanctuary.
  • They have existed since the Chalukya dynasty (c. 543-757).
  • The Temple of Virupaksha (c. 740) built by Queen Lokamahadevi attracts attention among other Monuments at Pattadakal.


Hill Forts  



  • Hill Forts include six forts in Chittorgarh, Kumbhalgarh, Sawai Madhopur, Jhalawar, Jaipur and Jaisalmer.
  • These forts have water harvesting structures that are still in use.


Historic City of Ahmadabad 



  • Sultan Ahmad Shah founded the city of Ahmadabad in 15th century on the eastern side of the Sabarmati river.
  • It has traditional houses that are densely-packed (pols) and traditional streets that are gated (puras).


Humayun's Tomb



  • In the 1560s and under the patronage of Emperor Akbar, Persian and Indian craftsmen jointly built Humayun's Tomb.
  • It was the first garden-tomb on the Indian subcontinent.
  • It is also called dormitory of the Mughals


Jaipur City 



  • Jaipur city was founded in 1727 by Sawai Jai Singh II.
  • Its urban design uses ideas from ancient Hindu (Vedic architecture) as well as from modern Mughal and modern Western cultures.


Khajuraho Group of Monuments 

Madhya Pradesh


  • Khajuraho Group of Monuments was made during the rule of the Chandella dynasty.
  • Presently, only two temples belonging to Hinduism and Jainism are left.
  • The sculptures at the temple of Kandariya are among greatest masterpieces of Indian art.


Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya 



  • Mahabodhi Temple Complex is a holy site related to the attainment of enlightenment by Lord Buddha.
  • In the 3rd century B.C., emperor Asoka built first temple of Mahabodhi Temple Complex.


Mountain Railways of India 

West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh

1999, 2005, 2008

  • Mountain Railways of India include 88.48 -km long Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (1999), 46-km long Nilgiri Mountain Railway (2005) and 96-km long Kalka Shimla Railway (2008).


Qutb Minar and its Monuments



  • Qutb Minar and its Monuments were built in the early 13th century.
  • They include 72.5 m high Qutb Minar, Alai-Darwaza Gate and   Quwwatul-Islam mosque.


Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell)

Patan, Gujarat


  • Rani-ki-Vav was built in the 11th century AD, on the banks of river Saraswati.
  • It is divided into seven levels of stairs and designed as an inverted temple.


Red Fort Complex 



  • The Red Fort Complex includes Red Fort and an older adjacent fort, the Salimgarh. Fifth Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built Red Fort in 1639.
  • Islam Shah Suri built Salimgarh in 1546.
  • The Red Fort represents a fusion of Islamic, Persian, Timurid and Hindu traditions.


Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka 

Madhya Pradesh


  • The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka are located in the Vindhyan Mountains.
  • They are five clusters of natural rock shelters, having paintings from the prehistoric Mesolithic period.
  • These provide evidence of the stone age.


Sun Temple, Konarak



  • Sun Temple, Konarak is a 13th-century monument representing sun god Surya's chariot, which has 24 decorated wheels and is led by six horses.


Taj Mahal 

Agra, Uttar Pradesh


  • In the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal between 1631 and 1648.
  • It is on the right side of the Yamuna river.
  • The main architect of the Taj Mahal was Ustad-Ahmad Lahori.


The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier



  • 17 sites (spread over seven countries) selected from the architectural work of Le Corbusier provide exceptionally good response to some fundamental architectural and social challenges of the 20th century.
  • Complexe du Capitole in Chandigarh (India) is one of these 17 sites.


The Jantar Mantar

Jaipur, Rajasthan


  • Built in the early 18th century by the prince Jai Singh II, Jantar Mantar has 20 main instruments for making an astronomical observation with naked eye.


Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai 



  • Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai are assemblages of 19th and 20th century buildings in Victorian Gothic style and Art Deco (Indo-Deco) style.


Kakatiya Rudreshwara Temple (Ramappa Temple) 



  • It is a 13th century engineering marvel named after its architect, Ramappa.
  • Constructed in 1213 AD during the reign of the Kakatiya Empire by Recharla Rudra, a general of Kakatiya king Ganapati Deva.
  • The presiding deity in the temple is Ramalingeswara Swamy.
  • The temple stands on a 6 feet high star-shaped platform with walls, pillars and ceilings adorned with intricate carvings.
  • A European traveler had remarked that the temple was the "brightest star in the galaxy of medieval temples of the Deccan".


Dholavira- A Harappan City



  • Dholavira was discovered by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) in 1968.
  • It is famous for its water management system, multi-layered defensive mechanisms, and special burial structures.
  • It is one of the two largest Harappan sites in India and the fifth-largest in the subcontinent.
  • Dholavira was a planned city. It comprises two parts: a walled city and a cemetery to the west of the city.
  • This city flourished between the 3rd to mid-2nd millennium BCE. 
33 Santiniketan West Bengal 2023
  • It was established in rural West Bengal in 1901 by the renowned poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore.
  • A ‘world university’ was established at Santiniketan in 1921, recognizing the unity of humanity or “Visva Bharati”.
34 Hoysalas Temples of Karnataka Karnataka 2023
  • 12th century Hoysala era temples of Belur, Halebidu and Somanathapura in Hassan and Mysuru districts have been included in the list.
  • The Sacred Ensembles of Hoysals are often described as Poetry carved in stone at the global level. 



Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area 

Himachal Pradesh


  • High alpine peaks, alpine meadows and riverine forests are characteristics of Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (GHNPCA).
  • The tributaries to the river Beas like Jiwa Nal, Sainj and Tirthan rivers and Parvati river have origins from GHNPCA.


Kaziranga National Park 



  • World's largest population of one-horned rhinoceroses is found in Kaziranga National Park.
  • It is also a Tiger Reserve since 2007 and an important area for threatened migratory birds.


Keoladeo National Park 



  • It is a wetland of international importance for migratory waterfowl and a wintering ground for critically endangered Siberian Crane as well as for globally threatened Greater Spotted Eagle and Imperial Eagle.


Manas Wildlife Sanctuary 



  • It is a tiger reserve, an elephant reserve and a biosphere reserve.
  • It is famous for Assam roofed turtle, hispid hare, golden langur, pygmy hog and wild water buffalo.


Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks 


1988, 2005

  • It is known for endemic alpine flowers as well as for rare and endangered animals such as Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, brown bear and blue sheep. 
  • Nanda Devi National Park got inscribed in 1988 while the Valley of Flowers National Park was added in 2005.


Sundarbans National Park

West Bengal


  • It has the largest area of mangrove forests in the world.
  • It is famous for tigers, aquatic mammals, birds and reptiles.
  • It is a national park, tiger reserve and biosphere reserve.


Western Ghats 

Tamil Nadu and


  • It is one of the eight "hottest hotspots" of biodiversity in world.
  • It is characterized by a large number of endemic species that are not found anywhere else.



Khangchendzonga National Park 



  • It includes Mount Khangchendzonga, which is the world’s third-highest peak.
  • Zemu Glacier, largest glacier in the Eastern Himalaya is also part of this park.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about UNSECO World Heritage Sites in India

Which was the first site of India to be inscribed in the UNESCO WHS list?

The first sites to be listed were the Ajanta Caves, Ellora Caves, Agra Fort, and Taj Mahal, all of which were inscribed in 1983.

Which was the first India city to get inscribed on the UNESCO WHS list?

Ahmedabad, Gujarat was the first Indian city to get inscribed on the UNESCO WHS list.

Which sites are the latest addition to the UNESCO WHS?

Santiniketan and Hoysalas temples of Karnataka are the latest additions from India to the UNESCO WHS.

As of September 2023, which country has the maximum number of sites inscribed in the World Heritage list?

As of September 2023, Italy (59) has the maximum number of sites inscribed in the World Heritage list, followed by China.

Priyanka Chaudhary

Joined On : 01-Jan-19

Priyanka is an expert in General Awareness and has experience of over 7 years of teaching various subjects of General Awareness and Current Affairs.



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