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access_time April 28, 2015 chat_bubble_outline 0 comments 3895 views

Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in West India with Reshma Kulkarni


After North, South and East, it’s time for West to make an appearance. Here’s a look at some of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in West India:

1) Victoria Terminus/ Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus , Mumbai


Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) was formerly know as Victoria Terminus

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) was formerly know as Victoria Terminus

The well-know Victoria Terminus (VT) was built in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. It was designed by architect Frederick William Stevens who used Gothic, Italianate, Victorian revival influences, along with some Mughal ones to create this buzzing train station, which took him ten years to complete. Victoria Terminus was renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in 1996 and was included in UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2004.


2) Elephanta Caves, Mumbai


Elephanta Caves

The entrance to Elephanta Caves

Caves cut from tough basalt rock and adorned with striking art, dating back to the 5th-8th century still form a major tourist attraction at the island of Gharapuri, a few nautical miles from Mumbai. Known as Elephanta caves, these structures were a Hindu place of worship till the Portuguese rule began in 1534. The island actually comprises of two sets of caves – one, a group of five large Hindu caves; and two, a couple of Buddhist caves. The Hindu caves comprise of imposing rock cut stone sculptures of Lord Shiva, thus showing the influence of the Shaiva Hindu sect. UNESCO added these caves to its list of World Heritage sites in 1987 to especially preserve the artwork, which was suffering huge damage due to the caves’ proximity to the sea.


3) Churches and Convents of Goa


Church of Mary in Panaji, Goa

The whitewashed Church of Mary in Panaji, Goa

Goa was the former capital of Portuguese Indies and thus stands testimony to the evangelization of Asia through the churches and convents, which got built there during that time. These churches and convents were built by Portuguese colonial rulers between 16th and 18th century. The most prominent amongst these is the Basilica of Bom Jesus that contains the tomb of St. Francis Xavier. These churches and convents were established by various Catholic orders. There were around 60 of them, but only a few survive now. Some of these include Saint Catherine’s Chapel, Church of St. Cajetan and Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. Built with laterites and walls plastered in limestone mixed with broken shells, these structures have popularised the Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque art forms in India. UNESCO included these structures in its list of World Heritage sites in 1986.


4) Champaner- Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Gujarat


Jami Masjid at Champaner Pavagadh was built in 16th century A.D. by Sultan Mahmud Begada

The magnificent Jami Masjid at Champaner Pavagadh

Located in Gujarat’s Panchamahal district around the historical city of Champaner, this World Heritage site is a collection of largely unexcavated archaeological, historic and living cultural heritage properties, including prehistoric (chalcolithic) sites, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital, and remains of the 16th-century capital of Gujarat. It also beholds water bodies, religious buildings, palaces, etc, belonging to 8th to 14th century. Amongst the religious sites, the Kalikamata temple atop Pavagadh Hill is considered quite important.  The site also gains prominence for being the only complete and unchanged Islamic pre-Mughal city and for showcasing the transition from Hindu to Mughal architecture from 15th to 16th century. UNESCO included it in its list of World Heritage sites in 2004.


5) Rani ki Vav, Gujarat


Ornate stone carved walls lining the 11th century Rav-Ki-Vav stepwell at Patan

Ornate stone carved walls lining the 11th century Rav-Ki-Vav stepwell at Patan

The most recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage site list, Rani ki Vav is a Queen’s step-well constructed during the reign of the Solanki dynasty. The step-well was submerged under silt from the nearby Saraswati River. It remained undiscovered till 1980, when the Archaeological Department of India unearthed it to find the intricate carvings in shipshape condition. Comprising of stepped corridors with pillared multi-storeyed pavilions, the Vav is ornately decorated with sculptures from the Dashavatara, and also used to be full of Ayurvedic plants to cure many kinds of ailments. UNESCO added it to its list in 2014.

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About author


Reshma S Kulkarni is a freelance writer-journalist, with a byline in more than 20 national and international publications including Bombay Times, Femina, The Hindu, Cosmopolitan, DNA and Hello (UAE). She translates books for renowned publishing houses and works as a freelance copy-editor for two Indian financial journals. She is a Visiting Faculty at the department of post-graduate studies in Mass Media & Journalism at two Mumbai-based institutes. In her free time, Reshma loves to read books, conduct tarot readings and whip up culinary delights.

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