India is a land of diverse cultures, traditions, and a profound history that spans every nook and corner of the country. From natural landscapes to rich historic sites, India encompasses numerous treasures in these various forms. These cultural and historical riches have not only been recognized by the people within its borders but also by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO is a global body that "seeks to encourage the identification, protection, and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity," as per UNESCO's mission. In the current year, UNESCO has once again acknowledged the cultural significance of several Indian places across various categories, and these are listed below:
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
1. Shantiniketan, Kolkata, West Bengal
Shantiniketan, a popular place in West Bengal where poet Rabindranath Tagore built Visva-Bharati over a century ago got the UNESCO tag on September 17, 2023. Established in 1909, the place is a center of art based on ancient Indian traditions, and that also promotes the legacy of Rabindranath Tagore. The major areas of the Santiniketan campus include the Ashram, the Sangeet, and Kala Bhawans, and the Uttarayan area consisting of around 24 buildings. It is the 41st inclusion from India in the World Heritage Sites.
2. Hoysala temples, Halebid and Somananthpura, Belur, Karnataka
This year also witnessed the addition of the Hoysala temples at Belur, Halebid, and Somanathapur in Karnataka as UNESCO World Heritage Sites on September 18, 2023. The temples have been inscribed on the list under the name "The Sacred Ensembles of Hoysalas." The Hoysala temples are renowned for a distinctive style of architecture, characterized by a temple built on a raised platform. The material used is chloritic schist, commonly known as soapstone, which is soft and amenable to carving. With this inclusion, the total number of heritage sites in India now stands at 42.
UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network (UCCN)
Just like UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this year also saw two cities included in UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network (UCCN) for their cultural significance. UCCN which is a project of UNESCO launched in 2004 to promote cities as a major creative contributor to urban development, has recognised two cities from India for their contribution.
Gwalior as 'City of Music'
Located in Madhya Pradesh, the city of Gwalior has been named the 'City of Music' this year by the UCCN for it being the oldest musical gharana and holding importance in Hindustani classical music and its history. The culture of music is supposed to have flourished under the reign of Raja Man Singh Tomar during the 15th century. Along with many other musicians who contributed to this feat, one of the most notable is Tansen, whose history revolves around this city.
Kozhikode as 'City of Literature'
Located in Kerala, Kozhikode has been added to UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network (UCCN) as the 'City of Literature' for giving many prominent personalities in the field of literature. The first Malayalam novel, 'Kundalatha' by Appu Nedungadi came from Kozhikode in 1887. Along with this, several illustrious writers like S K Pottekkatt, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, Uroob, Thikkodiyan, NN Kakkad, P Valsala, Akbar Kakkattil, Punathil Kunjabdulla, and MT Vasudevan Nair have given their contributions to the world of Literature.