Out of 37 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India, we bring you a list of 12 sites of religious significance in India. While some of these sites date back to 200-100 BC, others are relatively modern. Regardless of the date, each of these 12 sites is worth a visit.
Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya, Bihar
Though the present day Mahabodhi Temple Complex is what’s left a grand temple complex built in the 5th and 6th century AD, the site is still one of the most significant holy sites for Buddhist pilgrims. It is in fact, one of the first Buddhist temples constructed out of brick which also highlights the growth of brick architecture during those days. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002.
Churches and Convents of Goa
In 1986, a number of churches and convents in Goa were brought under one banner and declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site. During 16th and 18th centuries, Portuguese landed in Goa as Colonial rulers. With time, many monuments came up which are now some of the most visited sites in Goa. One of these monuments, the Basilica of Bom Jesus houses the relics of St. Francis Xavier.
Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha
The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and for all the right reasons. Though now mostly in ruins, the temple complex has some of the most intricate carvings. The temple is shaped like a chariot and is one of the finest stone architectures in the country.
Great Living Chola Temples
Built during the 11th to the 12th centuries, three temples--Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur, Airavateshwarar Temple and Brihadeeswarar Temple in Gangakondacholisvaram—are collectively known as the Great Living Chola Temples. These temples depicts the best of Chola culture in the form of bronze casting, painting and sculpture and because of which, these temples, together, were declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh
The site holds monuments dating back to 200 to 100 BC. There are palaces, monasteries, temples and monolithic pillars at the site, all related to Buddhism. These monuments were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1989.
Khajuraho Group of Monuments, Madhya Pradesh
Out of original 85 temples, 22 remains at present. Khajuraho monuments, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, is an exceptionally specimen of Chandela architecture and sculpture.
Ajanta Caves date back to 2nd century BC. This cave system showcases Buddhist paintings but that’s not the only thing that makes this site important, the 31 rock-cut cave monuments from this site are some of the best Buddhist religious art we have till date. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
While Ajanta Caves brings us the best of Buddhist religious art, Ellora Caves is a mix of Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism. The cave has 34 rock-cut monasteries and temples and paints a great picture of the ancient India. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
Another good example of rock-cut architecture, the Elephanta Caves are located in the Elephanta Island in Maharashtra. The site consists of two parts, one with two Buddhist caves and the other with five Hindu caves. The site made it to the list of World Heritage Site in 1987.
Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram
The temple complex consists of rock-cut architectures, temples shaped like chariots and caves. Temple of Rivage is one example from the site where one can see thousands of sculptures related to the Hindu god Shiva. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
Group of Monuments at Pattadakal
The site showcases some of the best and important architecture from the Chalukya dynasty. Nine Hindu temples and one Jain sanctuary make up this site. One unique thing about this site is that the architecture at this site is inspired by both northern and southern India. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Group of Monuments at Hampi
The famous Virupaksha temple is the most important aspect of this site in Hampi. Because of the temple, the town of Hampi became an important religious center for Hindus. The site was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.