Hoysala Temples in Karnataka now India's 42nd UNESCO's World Heritage site


Context: The Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysala — the famed Hoysala temples of Belur, Halebid and Somananthpura in Karnataka have been added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage list during the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.


This inclusion marks the 42nd UNESCO World Heritage Site in India and the fourth in Karnataka comes just a day after Rabindranath Tagore's Shantiniketan also received this distinguished recognition.


About Hoysala temples

  • The sacred ensembles of the Hoysalas, constructed during the 12th and 13th centuries are represented here by the three components of Belur, Halebid, and Somanathapura.
  • The temples included in the ensemble are:
    • The Channakeshava Temple, Belur, Hassan district (Commissioned by King Vishnuvardhana, dedicated to God Vishnu)
    • The Hoysalesvara Temple, Halebidu, Hassan district (Commissioned by King Vishnuvardhana, dedicated to God Shiva)
    • The Kesava Temple, Somanathapura, Mysuru district (Consecrated by Somanatha Dandanayaka, a general of the Hoysala King Narasimha III, dedicated to God Vishnu)
  • While the Hoysala temples exhibit a fundamental Dravidian morphology, they also showcase strong influences from the Bhumija mode of Central India, the Nagara traditions of northern and western India, and the Karntata Dravida modes favoured by the Kalyani Chalukyas. 
  • This eclectic blend of architectural elements and innovative modifications resulted in the birth of the distinctive 'Hoysala Temple' form.
  • The Hoysalas ruled over parts of southern India from the 11th to the 14th century from their capital at Halebidu (Dwarasamudra). Their reign saw the development of art, architecture and religion in southern India.


About UNESCO World Heritage Sites

  • A World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by UNESCO for its special cultural or physical significance
  • The list of World Heritage Sites is maintained by the international ‘World Heritage Programme’, administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.
  • India has three types of UNESCO World Heritage Sites - cultural, natural and mixed. They are listed below with their year of recognition.


Cultural sites (total 34)

  1. Agra Fort (1983)
  2. Ajanta Caves (1983)
  3. Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara at Nalanda, Bihar (2016)
  4. Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi (1989)
  5. Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park (2004)
  6. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) (2004)
  7. Churches and Convents of Goa (1986)
  8. Dholavira: a Harappan City (2021)
  9. Elephanta Caves (1987)
  10. Ellora Caves (1983)
  11. Fatehpur Sikri (1986)
  12. Great Living Chola Temples (1987, 2004)
  13. Group of Monuments at Hampi (1986)
  14. Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram (1984)
  15. Group of Monuments at Pattadakal (1987)
  16. Hill Forts of Rajasthan (2013)
  17. Historic City of Ahmedabad (2017)
  18. Humayun's Tomb, Delhi (1993)
  19. Jaipur City, Rajasthan (2019)
  20. Kakatiya Rudreshwara (Ramappa) Temple, Telangana (2021)
  21. Khajuraho Group of Monuments (1986)
  22. Mahabodhi Temple Complex at Bodh Gaya (2002)
  23. Mountain Railways of India (1999, 2005, 2008)
  24. Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi (1993)
  25. Rani-ki-Vav (the Queen’s Stepwell) at Patan, Gujarat (2014)
  26. Red Fort Complex (2007)
  27. Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (2003)
  28. Sacred Ensembles of the Hoysalas (2023)
  29. Santiniketan (2023)
  30. Sun Temple, Konârak (1984)
  31. Taj Mahal (1983)
  32. The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement (2016)
  33. The Jantar Mantar, Jaipur (2010)
  34. Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai (2018)


Natural sites (total 7)

  1. Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area (2014)
  2. Kaziranga National Park (1985)
  3. Keoladeo National Park (1985)
  4. Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (1985)
  5. Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks (1988, 2005)
  6. Sundarbans National Park (1987)
  7. Western Ghats (2012)


Mixed site (only 1)

  1. Khangchendzonga National Park (2016)


Significance of World Heritage Sites for India


According to UNESCO, when a country becomes a signatory to the World Heritage Convention and has its sites inscribed on the World Heritage List, it often brings about increased recognition and appreciation for heritage preservation among both its citizens and government.


Furthermore, the country may avail itself of financial assistance and expert guidance from the World Heritage Committee to bolster efforts aimed at safeguarding these precious sites.



Imp for: UPSC Prelims, UPSC GS Mains Paper I

Topic: Art & Architecture, UNESCO World Heritage Sites



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