Two more World Heritage Sites in India


Ajit Kumar AJIT KUMARWISDOM IAS, New Delhi.

Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell)
The Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) located in North Gujarat district of Patan has been inscribed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage List in June 2014. Three other cultural site Namhansanseong  (Republic of Korea), The Grand Canal (China), Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor (China, Kazakhstan,  Kyrgyzstan) have also been included in the list of World Heritage sites.  With today’s inscriptions, the total number of sites on the World Heritage List has climbed to 992.
The Rani-ki-Vav  (the Queen’s Stepwell) is located on the banks of the Saraswati river and was  initially built as a memorial to a king in the 11th century AD. Queen Udayamati commissioned this stepwell, in 1063 A D in the memory of her husband King Bhimdev I of the Solanki dynasty. The vav was excavated in late 1980s by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), with the carvings found in pristine condition. Rani Ki Vav is amongst the finest stepwells in India, and one of the most famous legacies of the ancient capital city.
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.
The well was built by Queen Udayamati in 1063 was later flooded by the nearby Saraswati river and silted over until the late 1980s, when it was excavated by the Archeological Survey of India. The vavs of Gujarat are not merely sites for collecting water and socialising, but also  hold great spiritual significance. By carving out deities in the well, sanctity of water is portrayed.  The Rani-ki-Vav is also referred to as a subterranean temple.
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. The fourth level is the deepest and leads into a rectangular tank 9.5 m by 9.4 m, at a depth of 23 m. The well is located at the westernmost end of the property and consists of a shaft 10 m in diameter and 30 m deep.
  Himachal park is now a World Heritage Site
The World Heritage Committee has inscribed the Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (GHNPCA), India, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criterion (x) of UNESCO Guidelines in June 2014. The Criterion X is “To contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.”
The Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) is located in the Kullu District of Himachal Pradesh, India. The concept of environmental conservation in the Kullu Valley is very ancient. The names of many places in this valley commemorate saints who came here to meditate in the great sanctuary of Himalayas. Some of these sanctuaries are still preserved as sacred groves of trees. The Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (GHNPCA) has GHNP (754.4 sq km), Sainj (90 sq km) and Tirthan (61 sq km) Wildlife Sanctuaries. The 905.40 sq km GHNPCA includes the upper mountain glacial and snow melt water source origins of the westerly flowing JiwaNal, Sainj and Tirthan Rivers and the north-westerly flowing Parvati River.
Situated at the confluence of Oriental and Palaearctic realms, GHNP provides a unique opportunity for the species from both biogeographic regions to thrive, disperse and evolve. GHNPCA is home to several Rare and Threatened species including the Western Tragopan, Chir Pheasant, Snow Leopard, Himalayan Musk Deer, Asiatic Black Bear, Himalayan Tahr, Blue Sheep and Serow. Some 25 Threatened IUCN Red-listed plant species are recorded from the park. The GHNP has more than 35 peaks of greater than 5000m and two greater than 6000m which taken together are arguably more exceptional than a few isolated higher peaks in the region. The boundaries of GHNP are also contiguous with the recently established (2010) Khirganga National Park (710 sq km), the Pin Valley National Park (675 sq km) in Trans-Himalaya, Rupi-Bhabha Wildlife Sanctuary (503 sq km) in Sutlej watershed and Kanawar Wildlife Sanctuary (61 sq km). Together these four protected areas (PAs) add 1,949 sq km to the area around GHNP and its buffer zone, making the total contiguous protected area associated with the nominated property approximately 2,854.4 sq km not including the Ecozone. GHNP inscription would serve to expedite integration of other PAs into a huge GHNP Conservation Area of ca. 2850 km2. 
This National Park in the western part of the Himalayan Mountains in the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh is characterized by high alpine peaks, alpine meadows and riverine forests. The 90,540 ha property includes the upper mountain glacial and snow meltwater sources of several rivers, and the catchments of water supplies that are vital to millions of downstream users. The GHNPCA protects the monsoon-affected forests and alpine meadows of the Himalayan front ranges. It is part of the Himalaya biodiversity hotspot and includes twenty-five forest types along with a rich assemblage of fauna species, several of which are threatened. This gives the site outstanding significance for biodiversity conservation.

Monday, 19th Jan 2015, 10:45:52 AM

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