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Ancient Indian monuments that belong to the world

Khajurao temple image

Is the past dead? Is heritage of any relevance today? While all other ancient civilizations have long disappeared, India is probably the only living civilisation spanning over some 5000 years. India at its core has somehow retained the elements of her ancient civilization showing a clear continuity. Much has stood the test of time in India – from the subtlest knowledge to the much preserved world heritage sites. Here’s a brief account of the ancient Indian cultural sites that are classified as world heritage by UNESCO.

‘The past has become the present and the present will be past in the future’ is common knowledge. Says the wise Confucius “Study the past, if you would divine the future”.

Dr.William Durrant, the prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher wrote, “It is a mistake to think that the past is dead. Nothing that has ever happened is quite without influence at this moment. The present is merely the past rolled up and concentrated in this second of time. You, too, are your past…..So with a city, a country, and a race; it is its past, and cannot be understood without it.”

We learn from the past to understand the present; what we do in the present influences our future. Heritage plays a critical role in linking the past to the present. To the question “Why is historical heritage important”, a Wiki answer says “the spirit and direction of the Nation are founded upon and reflected in its historic heritage.” Hence heritage is a good source to know where we come from and learn from it.

The staggering Indian heritage…

India’s staggering heritage comes from being one of the world’s richest and most continuous of cultures. For thousands of years India has been one of the key contributors in both secular and sacred knowledge that include stellar contributions in the fields of medicine, metallurgy, mathematics, the sciences, technology, metaphysical insights (incorrect called as Indian philosophy), literature, linguistics and how can one forget the fine arts, music, dance and numerous other disciplines of art.

Ancient Indian monuments that belong to the world

Of the 962 sites all over the world, recognised by UNESCO as world heritage sites, there are 29 sites in India (as of 2012). Of the 29 sites in India, 6 sites are natural heritage sites and 23 sites are cultural. Of these 23 cultural sites, 14 sites have roots in the Vedic Indian heritage and tell the story of what is essentially Indian. Vedic or Dharmic heritage is the classical heritage of India. It is the underlying factor and an invisible thread that has provided balance and sustained the fabric of Indian society for centuries.

Without classical elements, Indian heritage cannot be imagined. Everything original, authentic and indigenous in India has come from those dharmic traditions – be it the material sciences or even the higher sacred knowledge. The dharmic traditions represent the ancient civilisation of India in many ways and are depicted in the monuments that we see today. Here is the list of those great monuments that are visited by millions.

  1. Ajanta Caves (2nd century BCE to 6th century)
  2. Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi (2nd and 1st centuries BCE to the 12th century CE
  3. Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park (Prehistoric & 8th to 14th centuries)
  4. Elephanta Caves (5th and 8th centuries)
  5. Ellora Caves (7th to 10th century)
  6. Great Living Chola Temples (11th and 12th-century)
  7. Group of Monuments at Hampi (14th and 16th centuries)
  8. Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram (7th and 8th centuries)
  9. Group of Monuments at Pattadakal (8th century)
  10. Khajuraho Group of Monuments (10th and 11th century)
  11. Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya (3rd century BCE, 5th and 6th century)
  12. Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (2nd and 1st centuries BCE)
  13. Sun Temple, Konârak (13th century)
  14. The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur (18th century)

The above monuments (except perhaps the ones at Bhimbetka) stand testimony to that which is essentially Indian.

There are many more…

Of course there is the Taj Mahal, Red Fort, the mountain railways of India, Agra Fort, Qutub Minar, CST terminus in Mumbai etc which are part of Indian heritage. However these striking monuments couldn’t have been built without the patronage of forces that came from outside India.

There are some 30 more tentative sites which have been submitted to UNESCO Committee for evaluation and acceptance. Of the 30, the ones that has its roots in ancient India are the ancient Buddhist site at Sarnath, Buddhist monastery complex in Leh, Dholavira (Harappan) city in Gujarat, excavated remains at Nalanda, group of monuments at Mandu, Madhya Pradesh, Hemis Gompa monastery in Ladakh, Rani-ki-Vav (The Queens Stepwell) at Patan, Gujarat, the Silk Road sites in India, Sri Harimandir Sahib (The Golden temple) in Punjab etc.

Regardless of the UNESCO recognition, they are very much a part of the authentic Indian inheritance and are looked after by the Archaeological society of India (ASI), who administer 3650 such monuments.

All ancient Indian cultural sites showcase different aspects of life divine and its artistic expressions – be it in the form of a sculpture, a mural, an astronomical complex or an ancient place of contemplation. The dharmic identity is imprinted in these cultural sites. All the sciences employed to make these sites stand the test of time has its source in the colossal and deep body of classical Vedic knowledge which is the rock bed of Indian heritage and civilisation.

Ram Lingam blogs his insights on India and Indian culture at

One Response to Ancient Indian monuments that belong to the world

  1. Vidyut H Mehta says:

    Nice article with godd research.

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