Heritage and World Heritage Day

Heritage refers to processes that have a special meaning in group memory. In the literature, we come across terms National heritage site, Historic site, Cultural heritage, World Heritage Site, List of destroyed heritage, Food heritage, Heritage language, Industrial heritage, Natural heritage, Virtual Heritage, Inheritance, Heritage science and Heritage studies and their importance. Heritage is our past that has been preserved for the present and it will be inherited for the future generations. A World Heritage Site is a landmark or area with officially authorized protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). These Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance. The Heritage sites are judged to contain “cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity”. To be selected, a World Heritage Site must be a somehow unique landmark which is geographically and historically identifiable and has special cultural or physical significance. For example, World Heritage Sites might be ancient ruins or historical structures, buildings, cities, deserts, forests, islands, lakes, monuments, mountains, or wilderness areas. There are currently 1,121 UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the world as on April 2021(869 cultural, 213 natural, and 39 mixed properties) exist across 167 countries.There are truly some incredible heritage sites and monuments around the world. We mention some most beautiful world heritage sites here. (a)Machu Picchu, Peru: Fortified atop the Andes Mountains, Machu Picchu is one of the most iconic structures in South America. This archaeological site is steeped in history, undoubtedly making it one of the top UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Arguably the most famous ancient city in the world, Machu Picchu dates to the mid-15th century and largely escaped plunder by Spanish colonizers. Only in the early 20th century was it studied and explored in detail. Venturing here is best accomplished from nearby Cusco, which itself was once the capital of the mighty Inca Empire. Scenic routes through the mountains lead up to Machu Picchu and help make the trek nearly as worthwhile as the site itself. Recently, the Puruvian government has sought to limit the number of visitors allowed to the site so one must plan ahead when making travel arrangements. (b) Angkor Wat, Cambodia: Angkor Wat in modern day Cambodia was built during the Khmer Empire, when it ruled over most of the region. Constructed as a Hindu Temple complex, it was converted into a Buddhist Temple sometime in the 12th century. Over 400 acres (162 hectares) in size, Angkor Wat is among the largest religious monuments in the world. Angkor Wat (located in Siem Reap)isa1-hour flight from Bangkok, Thailand. The central temple is the most iconic, but also the busiest. Spend some time wandering the outer temples where one can better appreciate the scale and magnificence of this ancient landmark. (c) Petra, Jordan:The ancient city of Petra was established over 2,300 years ago. It’s recognizable for its temples and tombs that are carved into rose-colored sandstone. Petra is nestled between mountains, canyons, and river beds, extending over 100 square miles (264 square km). Located in Western Jordan, the landscapes at Petra are nothing short of magnificent. Petra is a 3-hour drive from Amman. Unforgiving desert extends in nearly every direction. Excavations over the years have unearthed a labyrinthian set of structures carved into the solid rock-walled canyons. The site’s most famous structure, Al-Khazneh, is instantly recognizable from its many appearances in film and television. Travel to Petra is easiest via the nearby town of Wadi Musa. Summertime temperatures in the region often soar to extreme levels. (d) Roman Forum / Colosseum, Italy: In the world, Rome is one of those rare places offering ancient treasures surrounded by spectacular urban luxury.
Long a prized notch in every traveler’s belt, the city never seems to lose its appeal. Central to it all are the ruins from perhaps the world’s best-known ancient civilization. The Roman Forum was the beating heart of a vast empire that at one time stretched from Scotland to the Persian Gulf. It was once said all roads lead to Rome, and by that it was meant to the Roman Forum. Marvel at the Temple of Saturn, the Colosseum, and Palatine Hill. Wind through narrow streets to the Pantheon and enjoy a stroll in the bucolic Villa Borghese. One can easily spend multiple days in Rome exploring many centuries of history and barely scratch the surface. There’s a reason they call it the Eternal City.(e) Chichen Itza, Mexico: It dates to the pre-Columbian period and is one of the largest known Maya cities. Only a couple hours’ drive from Cancun, it is today one of Mexico’s most well-known archeological sites. (f) Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt: Ancient Pyramids of Gizawere built around 2,500 B.C. Hardly there is any need of an introduction, this complex, made up of pyramids, rock tombs, and a sphinx, is one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. These pyramids served as tombs for Pharaohs, who were mummified and buried with treasures to prepare them for the afterlife. There is still debate among historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists as to the precise construction techniques used by the Ancient Egyptians. Located in the Giza Necropolis complex on the outskirts of Cairo, one can easily visit the three main pyramids in addition to the Great Sphinx. The site itself is open during daylight hours throughout the week and can be reached via public transportation or minibus. It is possible to tour the insides of some of the pyramids; however, access is limited so make sure one check in advance. Various cafes, shops, and restaurants are located in nearby neighborhoods. (g) Elmina Castle, Ghana: Erected in 1482 by the Portugese, Elmina Castle on Ghana’s Atlantic Coast houses a monstrous legacy. The oldest European building constructed south of the Sahara Desert, Elmina Castle was one of the most important stops along routes comprising the African Slave Trade. Dutch colonizers seized the fort in 1637 and operated it continually as a slave depot until the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814 forbade the practice. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the castle contains preserved slave holding cells where captives faced hellish conditions for sometimes months. In the face of rising nationalism and conflict, it’s more important than ever to visit and contemplate places like Elmina Castle. Humanity need not be doomed to forever repeat the sins of the past. (h) The Parthenon, Athenian Acropolis, Greece:
Prior to the rise of Rome, Ancient Greece was the empire of Classical European Antiquity. The writings of Homer, Thucydides, Herodotus, and others, revealed that Ancient Greece flourished particularly during the 5th and 4th centuries BCE. It was during this period that the famed Parthenon was constructed atop the Acropolis of Athens, a rocky citadel set above the city. Recognized as an enduring symbol of Athenian democracy and Western civilization, the Parthenon ranks among the world’s most important cultural monuments. Walking among the ruins, it’s possible to recall an idyllic time when philosophers sought meaning and order in the world around them. Athenian summers tend to be hot and dry so the best time to visit is in the fall. (j) Taj Mahal, India: The India’s most recognizable cultural landmark was built in 1943 AD as an ornate mausoleum complex for Mumtaz Mahal, wife to the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Located in Agra in India’s most-populous state, Uttar Pradesh, the Taj Mahal is one of the most revered architectural masterpieces in world.It stands proudly and effervescently as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World!One must also tour Agra Fort, a former residence for Mughal Dynasty emperors. Visit the monumental Delhi Gate before walking through Taj Garden and Mumtaz Park on way to the Taj Mahal. With its long history and rich cultural treasures, Agra is a fantastic place to simply wander around. (k) Borobudur Temple, Indonesia: Borobudur Temple in Indonesia. Located in Central Java just outside Yogyakarta, Borobudur is regarded as the world’s largest Buddhist Temple. Initially constructed in the 9th century, it is one of the most outstanding examples of Javanese Buddhist Architecture in existence. A pilgrim trail leads visitors around and through the temple, meandering past nearly 1,500 exquisite artistic reliefs. ‘When viewed from above, the entire complex resembles an elaborate mandala. The ascending design evokes a sense of journeying towards enlightenment as the temple climbs towards its central point. Indonesia has done much to promote tourism in recent years. (i) Burzhoma (Kashmir): In the Kashmiri language ‘Burzahom’ means birch”, a tree species (that generally grows in the elevation range of 3,000 to 4,200 metres (9,800 to 13,800 ft) in the Himalayas), which is found in the excavated housing area in the form of roofing material, and thus confirming the existence of the tree even in the pre-historic Neolithic times.Based on a similar model the Burzahom site has been named as the Northern Neolithic Culture in view of its distinctive structural features with profusion of tools made of bones and stones and tools representing the ritualistic practices. Skeletal remains of Neolithic people found at Burzahom are similar to those found in Harappa of the Indus Valley Civilization.The Vedic Aryan culture extended into Kashmir as per some historians, but archaeological investigation at Burzahom does not support the “Aryans in Kashmir” theory. This site was nominated on 15 April 2014 for inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is yet to be approved. The Mughal gardens of Srinagar are also proposed to be included in UNESCO world heritage sites. It is reported that China and Italy are the countries with the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites, boasting a total of 55 sites each. Close behind is Spain, which has total of 48 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Other countries packed full of UNESCO World Heritage Sites include Germany with a total of 47 UNESCO sites, France with a total of 45 sites, and India which has 38 UNESCO Sites.
The call of the time is that we must preserve our ancient monuments not only for their economic and social importance but also for their historical importance as we can proclaim with the beat of drum that our past was great and illuminating.
Every year, World Heritage Day is observed on 18 April. World Heritage Day, which is also known as the International Monuments and Sites Day, celebrates the work carried out by the ICOMOS – International Council on Monuments and Sites. ICOMOS, organization was established on the principles set forth in the Venice Charter, otherwise known as the 1964 International Charter on the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites. The organization was founded after a need was identified to protect these valued locations, and it saw the coming together of experts from hundreds of related fields. These include architects, engineers, geographers, civil engineers, and artists and archaeologists. Each year they work to help ensure that some of the world’s most beautiful sites and important cultural monuments remain preserved for future generations. Since it’s inception it has grown to include almost 10,000 members in over 150 countries all over the world. Of these 10,000 members over 400 are members from institutions, national committees, and international scientific committees, all working together to save important sites and identify new ones that need to be added to the watch list. There is a theme that is assigned to each World Heritage Day. The World Heritage Day 2021 theme is “Complex Pasts: Diverse Futures”. If we look at some of the interesting past year themes, we find out that they have a close association with an appreciation of artistic hands, traditions and cultures with an imbibed essence of culture bloomed in its core. Our ancestors have given us a rich cultural past, and their efforts to preserve our heritage shouldn’t go in vain. The human heritage and its continued legacy are an asset to the whole world. For every nation, its monuments and ancient sculptures define its rich ancient past. Collective efforts to build a cultural friendly ecosystem are a huge responsibility for every one of us. Celebrations across world cultures and spreading awareness on historic sites are the need of the hour. We have to preserve our rich heritage for the sake of our future generations. All around the world, the culmination of experts from diverse fields like architecture, engineering, geology and archaeology have retained some of the most scintillating and marvellous cultural monuments for the younger generations. The day is all about increasing the awareness of the importance of the diversity of cultural heritage and preserving it for generations in the future. Ancient monuments and buildings are an asset to us all around the world. However, they need to be protected to ensure that they continue to be an asset for years and years to come. Therefore, the day is a collective effort of communities around the globe. The most important way to celebrate World Heritage Day is to search out those locations near you that count as World Heritage Sites, and perhaps pay them a visit. Before doing so research the site and find out what steps are needed to protect it, and respect them during your visit. One should also take a look online to see if there are any events going on in your local area in honor of World Heritage Day. One should participate in these events and increase awareness regarding the preservation of important buildings and monuments. It is also a good idea to spread awareness regarding this day with the people that one know. This is something one can do with ease via social media. We can post a message that informs our friends, followers, and family members of this day and encourage them to post something too. WE can post a photo of one of the best international sites one has visited or seen via media. This is a great way of getting everyone involved and raising awareness about this date! In brief, the call of the time is that we must preserve our ancient monuments not only for their economic and social importance but also for their historical importance as we can proclaim with the beat of drum that our past was great and illuminating.
( While Dr Insha Nazir, physiotherapist at Real Kashmir Football Club, Dr Bilal A Bhat is an Associat Professor at S K University of Agriculture Sciences & Technology)


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