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Let’s pledge to preserve our rich heritage on World Heritage Day-Puri

Let’s pledge to preserve our rich heritage on World Heritage Day-Puri
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Let’s pledge to preserve our rich heritage on World Heritage Day-Puri

Jaswant Singh Puri/ April 18,2024

World Heritage Day, also known as the International Monuments and Sites Day, is celebrated on 18th March to increase the importance of the diversity of cultural heritage and preserving it for generations in the future. Ancient monuments and buildings are an asset for us all around the world. This unique day was established in 1982 by the International Council for Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). The Organisation was founded after realizing to preserve and protect the valued heritage. Since its inception, it has strengthened to include almost ten thousand members in over 150 countries all over the world. There is also World Heritage Committee which meets once a year to evaluate the proposed sites and demonstrate what is known as “Outstanding Universal Value”. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) also works to ensure the completion of all necessary steps for the smooth running of the Committee. There is a need to remember these extraordinary places as these carry in-depth meaning for monuments which carry experiences of past generations, ancestral homes and hotspots for biodiversity. Another useful UNESCO project is the Environmental DNA Expeditions for marine world heritage sites. The theme for World Heritage Day 2024 is: “Discover and Experience Diversity”. There is a lovely quote on heritage and culture: “Our monuments are beautiful reflection of our ancient cultural roots. Our aesthetic legacies define our national identity and cultural richness. Culture is a way of thinking a set of values, a belief system that influences our behavior”. South Africans celebrate National Heritage Day every year on September 24 when they are encouraged to celebrate their culture, diversity and heritage to solemnise their cultural roots. South Africa is highly multicultural, with 11 official languages and it is commonly called “The Rainbow Nation”.

Let’s pledge to preserve our rich heritage on World Heritage Day-Puri

 

The Archaeological Survey of India celebrates World Heritage Week. It is our duty to protect the treasures which hold cultural, historical, scientific significance. Archaeological Survey of India has protected over 3,650 ancient monuments and sites which include temples, mosques, tombs, churches, forts, rock-out caves, secular architecture and ancient mounds. There are a number of Indian sites listed on the World Heritage List like Agra Fort (1983), Ajanta Caves (1983) Ellora Caves (1983), Taj Mahal (1983), Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram, Sun Temple (Konark), Kaziranga National Park, Keoladeo National Park, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Churches and Convents of Goa, Fatehpur Sikri, Group of Monuments at Hampi, Khajuraho Group of Monuments, Elephanta Caves, Great Living Chola Temples, Group of Monuments at Pattadakal, Sunderbans National Park, Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers, National Parks, Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi, Humayun’s Tomb at Delhi, Qutb Minar and its Monuments.

There are other sites and places which speak of their cultural diversity and heritage which deserve appreciation. These are: Mountain Railways of India, Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya, Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly called Victoria Terminus), Red Fort Complex, the Jantar Mantar Jaipur, Western Ghat, Hill Forts of Rajasthan, Rani-Ki-Var at Patan, Gujrat; Great Himalyan National Park Conservation Area, Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda, Khangchendzonga National Park, The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, Historic City of Ahmadabad, Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai, Jaipur City (Pink City of India), Kakatiya Rudreshwara Temple (Telangana), Sacred Ensembles of Hoysalas in Karnataka. There are two temples in Hassan District and one in Mysore District. These are the temples of Belur, Halebid and Somnathpura. Santiniketan in West Bengal is also inscribed UNESCO World Heritage List since 2023. RN Tagore called it the ‘darling of our hearts.’ Likewise, Dholavira – a Harappan City in Gujrat is an archaeological site, spread in 120 acres and UNESCO has also included it in the list of World Heritage Sites in 2021. Maharashtra has the honour to have total five UNESCO World Heritage Sites which include Ajanta Caves, Ellora Caves, Elephanta Caves, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus and the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Buildings of South Mumbai. Ahmedabad or Amdavad is India’s first UNESCO World Heritage City followed by Jaipur as the Second World Heritage City.

Let’s pledge to preserve our rich heritage on World Heritage Day-Puri

There are really some marvelous heritage sites and monuments around the world like Machu Picchu, which is located in the mountainous terrain above Urubamba river in Peru. There are awe-struck sites in Egypt and the Pyramids of Giza. Other places of interest include Began in Myanmar, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and the Great Wall of China. The year 2016 saw the addition of Gorhm’s Cave Complex in the UK and the Persian Qanat in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Moreover, Coliseum in Europe is the largest ancient amphitheater ever built about 2000 years ago.

It is really a matter of pride and pleasure that Rail Museum is to celebrate World Heritage Day on April 18. There are a total of 1199 World Heritage Sites located across 1168 countries, of which 933 are cultural, 227 are natural and 39 are mixed. A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an International Convention administered by the UNESCO. Its motivation is that: “Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today and that both cultural and natural heritage are irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration”. Ten very marvelous UNESCO World Heritage Sites include: The Great Pyramids of Giza, built about 4,500 years ago, outside the ancient city of Memphis. It is also known as the Pyramid of Cheops on the Pyramid of Khufu. The next wonder is the Coliseum, a symbol of Rome par excellence. Then there is The Taj Mahal at Agra-a mausoleum or tomb, commissioned in 1632. There is Mada in Salih in Saudi Arabia which features monumental tombs with decorated facades. UNESCO proclaimed it as a site of patrimony, the first site of South Arabia to be enlisted as World Heritage Site. The Grand Site of Chichen Itza is located on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and considered as one of the New Wonders of the World. Easter Island in the Southeastern Pacific Ocean is famous for monumental status. Likewise, Serengete National Park in Tanzania is one of the most diverse and beautiful places, spread over 5,700 square miles. Moreover, Historic City of Ayutbhaya was the capital of the Kingdom of Siam until the 18th century which is witness to the development of true national Thai art. The Chauvet Cave in Southern France and Yosemite National Park are really splendid. The list is endless and exciting to know.

It is really a matter of pride and pleasure that North Zone Cultural Centre (NZCC) in Patiala (Punjab) was the first amongst several regional-cultural centers to promote and enhance arts, crafts, traditions and cultural heritage of India. It is one of the seven Cultural Zones of India defined and provided with administrative infrastructure by the Indian Government. There are some other centers like Kolkata West Zone Cultural Center, Udaipur etc. Such Centers are also found in Nagaland, Prayagraj, Tanjavur, Nagpur (Maharashtra). The author himself feels honoured to have worked at NZCC, Patiala as Media Coordinator during the tenure of Dr. Rajinder Singh Gill, Director NZCC, Patiala. Besides, Golden Temple at Amritsar is a unique site of Sikh Culture and heritage. There have been wonderful films based on our heritage and culture to preserve our legacy. The great personalities like Mother Teresa are world renowned to keep alive their mission of peace.

 “Dr. Ajit Singh Puri’s health guide “Speaking Of How to Prevent Common Diseases” is a world acclaimed book to detect, prevent and combat common fatal diseases and “dedicated to the memory of Mother Teresa for her love of the poor and the sick. She devoted her life to redirect the destiny of those suffering and stuck by terminal diseases.” Mother Teresa was really a wonderful heritage personality par-excellence.

UNESCO World Heritage site is a place that is recognized by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation as of distinctive cultural or physical importance which is thought to be of immense value to humanity. UNESCO endeavours to encourage the conservation, identification and maintenance of natural and cultural heritage around the world. It also maintains a list of World Heritage Sites in danger. China and Italy have the highest number of World Heritage Sites, both with 55 entries. I recollect a few lines of a poem ‘We Have Such Great Powers’ as given below:

“We must open our eyes

To see the beauty.

Listening through clamor

We can hear silence.

By reaching out to others

We can touch and feel love.

It is by inhaling deeply

We can smell the Earth”.

Let’s pledge to preserve our rich heritage on World Heritage Day-Puri
Jaswant Singh Puri

Note: The views expressed are personal. This article is dedicated to Alka Puri  was the wife of Dr. Ajit Singh Puri and mother of Jaswant Singh Puri.