World Heritage Day: Amputated artisans, floating idols, here are some lesser known facts about India’s heritage sites
From the amputated artisans of the Taj Mahal to the floating idols of Konark Sun Temple. Here are some lesser known facts about the UNESCO recognised heritage sites in India.Updated: Apr 18, 2020, 20:56 IST
Every year, April 18 is celebrated as the International Day for Monuments and Sites or World Heritage Day. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) promote cultural heritage and diversity of the world’s monuments and heritage sites on this day. India is home to 38 such heritage sites, making it the country with the sixth highest number of UNESCO-recognised World Heritage Sites in the world. While usually people visit heritage monuments and sites on this day, this year on account of the coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in indefinite lockdown all across the globe, people are being encouraged to stay within their homes, practising social distancing, proper hygiene and isolating themselves from other.
The theme for World Heritage Day this year is ‘Shared Cultures, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility.’ In its press release, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) offered measures and ideas to celebrate the day in quarantine, including taking virtual conferences, online lectures, press releases, and social media campaigns. The release said, “You can post photos, information and videos on shared cultures and shared heritage from your respective country. To increase the reach, we should use hashtags and share the message with as many friends and family as possible. Individuals can also upload photos which are in relation to the theme, onto the ICOMOS Photobank.”
Explaining the theme, the press release stated, “’The theme for ‘Shared Cultures, Shared Heritage, Shared Responsibility’, reflects the global context of heritage as part of cultural identity at a time of rapid population shift, conflict, and environmental uncertainty. The theme recognises that heritage – whether places, landscapes, practices, or collections – are frequently connected with and valued by multiple and diverse groups and communities.”
While it may be a long time before we get to see the Mughal Gardens, Vijaya Vitthala Temple, or India’s Symbol of Love and Hope, the iconic, timeless Taj Mahal, we can always revisit (via photos and memorabilia) the beautiful memories we made at the beautiful sites in India, or fantasize about when we will finally be able to experience the beauty in person. Until then, here are some interesting and lesser known facts about some of the gorgeous World Heritage Sites that India is home to. Read on:
The four minarets of the Taj Mahal have been constructed slightly outside of the plinth so that in case the minarets fell, they would fall away and not on the main structure. Another interesting fact is related to the famous story/myth that the artisan’s who worked on Taj Mahal had their arms chopped off at Emperor Shah Jehan’s order, as he did not want them to recreate the beautiful Taj for anyone else. However, Ustad Ahmed Lahauri, the architect who lead the construction of the Taj, laid the foundation of the Red Fort too, which would have been impossible without his arms. Mythbusters believe that the statement, “Haath kaat diye jaaye”, is more figurative than literal, the Emperor did not want those who worked on the construction of the Taj to ever create anything ever again. Unless it was for the emperor himself. And given that they lost all other means of livelihood, the famous saying goes, “Taj Mahal banwaneke baad Shah Jehan ne karigaro ke haath katwa diye.”
Bihar’s Nalanda University’s library, Dharmaganja, was so huge that after it was raided and set on fire by invaders, it kept on burning for over three months.
Konark Sun Temple
Legend has it that before the Sun Temple in Konark, Odisha, was destroyed by the Portuguese, the iron-statue of the Sun God used to float in mid-air by a strategic magnetic arrangement.Legend has it that before the Sun Temple in Konark, Odisha, was destroyed by the Portuguese, the iron-statue of the Sun God used to float in mid-air by a strategic arrangement of magnets.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author behind the timeless Sherlock Holmes detective novels, had made the Agra Fort the centre of an investigation in his famous book Sign of the Four.
Vijaya Vitthala Temple
Hampi’s Vijaya Vitthala Temple is dedicated to Vittala, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and is best known for its movable stone chariots and musical pillars. The original structure of the main shrine only had an enclosed Mantapa and an open Mantapa or hall was added to the structure in the year 1554 AD.
The large Ranga Mantapa is well known for its 56 musical pillars, which are also called the SaReGaMa pillars on account of the musical notes that emit from them when they are gently tapped. A set of such main pillars and several similar smaller ones can be found at the mantapa.
The Red Fort
The Red Fort which was built under Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s regime in 1648, was originally white in colour and made from limestones. It was built to commemorate Shah Jahan’s decision to move his capital from Agra to Delhi, and was originally known as Qila-e-Mubarak, or the Blessed Fort. However, when the British colonized India, the lime stone of the fort began to chip off so they painted the fort red and renamed it.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, erstwhile Victoria Terminus
Nobel Prize winning author Rudyard Kipling’s father, Lockwood Kipling has designed several sculptural locations in Gothic Revival style for many British-era structures in Mumbai, including the then Victoria Terminus, now called the Chhatrapati Shivaji Railway station. The station was designed by British born engineer and architect Frederick William Stevens, who was attached to the Bombay office of the Indian colonial Public Works Department. The work of CST began in 1878 and took ten years to complete. iThe station was named Victoria Terminus after the then reigning Queen Victoria. It was named so to commemorate 50 years or the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. However, it was renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in 1996 after the Maratha ruler and warrior, Shivaji, who founded the Maratha Empire. CST happens to be one of the busiest stations in India