South India is renowned for its stunning temple architecture, and several notable locations have been awarded the status of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

On World Heritage Day a look at the 5 Notable World Heritage Sites in south IndiaCourtesy: Nireekshit/Wikimedia Commons
Features Heritage Tuesday, April 18, 2017 - 20:04

April 18 is celebrated across the globe as World Heritage Day, and this year, the theme is ‘Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Tourism.’ South India is renowned for its stunning temple architecture, and several notable locations have been awarded the status of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Here's a look at some of them:

Group of Monuments at Hampi, Karnataka

The Virupaksha temple at Hampi. Courtesy: Corrector007/Wikimedia Commons 

Hampi is a town in North Karnataka that was given World Heritage status in 1986. Located within the ruins of the ancient city of Vijayanagar, Hampi is best known for several Hindu temples that have been constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture.

One of the most prominent temples in Hampi is the Virupaksha temple, which is still used as a place of worship by Hindus. The temple predates the Vijayanagar empire, and was built in the 7th century AD. Other famous structures include the Krishna temple complex, Achyutaraya temple complex, Vitthala temple complex and several bazaars and puras.

Hampi has faced several risks from pollution and other activities, including mining and quarrying, in the past. However, in recent years, the Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority has introduced new laws to combat these risks, including the gradual phasing out of petrol and diesel vehicles in Hampi.

Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Tamil Nadu

Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Courtesy: Michael Varun/Wikimedia Commons

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is one of the three railway lines that make up the Mountain Railways of India World Heritage Site. The railway was built in 1908 by the British Empire, and the 46km stretch between Mettupalayam and Coonoor runs through the Nilgiri mountains.

Surrounded by lush greenery, the railway line meanders across 26 viaducts and climbs to a height of 2218 metres. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway also has one of the steepest tracks in Asia.

The Nilgiri Mountain Railway has traditionally used steam locomotives, which were comparatively more harmful for the surrounding region. These outdated locomotives were gradually replaced with more efficient diesel engines.

Pattadakal, Karnataka

Mallikarjuna and Kashivishwanatha temples at Pattadakal Group of monuments. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Pattadakal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Karnataka that is famous for its Chalukya style of architecture. Kings of the Chalukya dynasty were traditionally coronated at Pattadakal, and it was the capital of the Chalukya dynasty between the 6th and 8th century AD.

Pattadakal is famous for its temple architecture and inscriptions, which can be seen in monuments like the Jain Narayana temple, the Sangameshwara temple, the Chandrashekhara temple and the Mallikarjuna temple.

Pattadakal has several caves in areas surrounding the temples, and people have been living in and around these caves for generations. However, a recent increase in development due to the tourism industry has caused severe problems for the region, resulting in widespread pollution.

The Archaeological Survey of India has been overseeing the rehabilitation of people residing in these areas.

Great Living Chola Temples, Tamil Nadu

Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram. Courtesy: Ssriraman/Wikimedia Commons

The Great Living Chola Temples are a group of Dravidian-style temples built by the Chola empire in present-day Tamil Nadu. The Brihadisvara Temple, the Temple at Gangaikonda Cholapuram and the Airavatesvara Temple are some of the noteworthy temples at this heritage site, and they are a testament to the artistic and architectural prowess of the Chola empire.

These temples feature art and inscriptions that are several centuries old, and they are still frequented by locals as a place of worship.

Structures in the Chola temples are located close to each other and experience large numbers of visitors around the year. According to a UNESCO report, the actions of the Archaeological Survey of India which involve the periodic maintenance and monitoring of the monument have helped to keep it largely free of pollution.

The provision of basic amenities like water and toilets have helped to improve sanitation and hygiene standards.

Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu

Tiger Caves, Mahabalipuram. Courtesy: Sa.balamurugan/Wikimedia Commons

Mahabalipuram is located in a quaint seashore district south of Chennai. Also referred to as Mamallapuram, Mahabalipuram was the capital of during the Pallava dynasty. This place is famous for its seashore temples and the rock carved caves.

Another notable attraction is Krishna's Butter Ball, a large rock boulder precariously perched on an extremely small surface area.

Mahabalipuram has recently been a victim of oil spills. This caused significant damage to the local ecosystem, and it also affected tourism in the region. However, efforts to clean up the region have been largely successful. The clean-up was handled by a taskforce of over 2600 people comprising of volunteers and workers from agencies like the  Tamil Nadu Police Coastal Security Group, Pollution Control Board, Fire and Rescue Department and State Highways.

Main image courtesy: Nireekshit/Wikimedia Commons

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