Tamil Nadu, is one of the most prominent states in India, plus my home State, which also houses numerous remarkable history, architectural heritage, and natural heritage. Over time, most of its rich history got disappeared and manipulated, architectures got destroyed, and nature was encroached upon. Still, a vast number of destinations survived and are being sustained by State Government to some extent at present. And out of these, some sites have become United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) listed heritage sites and are directly under the supervision and it is to be noted that getting UNESCO recognition is never an easy task.
These UNESCO-listed heritage sites, both historical and natural, in Tamilnadu carries the mindblowing history behind their existence, and a great deal of art and architectural value.
I have always sighed over the disappeared value of Tamil Nadu over centuries due to colonization. But these heritage sites exist closer to my heart reminding my identity and at the same time making me depressed too. Who wouldn’t be? After all, we have forgotten all the valuable architectural and cultural lessons over time due to misinterpreted and manipulated history.
Let’s get to the point now. I am here to give you guys the list of UNESCO heritage sites of Tamil Nadu so that you could make sure to visit it before 2022 ends. We are already close to the end of 2022. Can you guys believe it?
MOST ICONIC UNESCO HERITAGE SITES OF TAMILNADU
If you have been reading my blog from the beginning, you could have known that my first blog post was written on my visit to Mahabalipuram, one of the most prominent historical sites in Tamil Nadu. Knowing for its enriching historical value, Mahabalipuram’s monuments were declared a UNESCO heritage site in 1984. Being just 55 KM from Chennai Airport, the group of monuments in this historically rich coastal town situated on the shores of the Bay of Bengal is a significant pride of Tamil Nadu. Built during the rule of the Pallava king around the 7th century, this was the kingdom’s prominent port city as well as the 2nd capital carved out of granite stones. Out of all in Tamil Nadu, this was the first UNESCO-listed site I visited during my school days, and holds a special place in my heart. The Shore Temple, Rathas, and Mandapams would never cease to amaze you.
Also Read: Shores Of History
GREAT LIVING CHOLA TEMPLES
Ruling the Tamil region till the 13th Century, Chola Dynasty is an exceptionally important part of Tamil Nadu’s history. Their history is something that can’t be left out while talking about the rich culture and heritage of Tamil Nadu. Withholding the scars of the time by surviving beyond the ransack of the colonial era, at present, there are very few temples that exist to stand as a testimony of their architectural intellectual out of which the following three are listed as heritage in UNESCO.
Tanjore Big Temple
Tanjore Big temple, aka Brihadeeshwarar Temple aka Peruvudaiyar Kovil situated just 55 km from Tiruchirapalli International Airport is a renowned architectural marvel that I first encountered in Tamil Literature before witnessing it through my eyes. This temple dedicated to lord Shiva carries so much history and was built during the reign of King Raja Raja Cholan in 1010 AD. In my case, the architectural science behind it was the main reason I went to visit it. This beautiful and enchanting piece of architecture was listed as a heritage site by UNESCO in 1987.
It was such a blissful place and from my personal experience, it brings lots of peace just by sitting in the mandapa and looking at the details of the sculpture which speak endless stories. Its 13-tier tower, the growing stone Nandhi statue, the Gopuram’s/ Sanctum’s shadow that doesn’t fall on the ground, the mystery of how the temple was procured and built with 1,30,000 tons of granite when there were no hills around, and the mystery of how the heaviest gopuram was placed on top of the temple when it was the time, with no advantages we have today. And this gives you all the reason as to visit it at the earliest if you haven’t yet.
I visited Gangaikonda Cholapuram quite recently, just 2 months back, on July 17th, so it’s just fresh in my memory. We took a bus to Chidambaram from Perungalathur bus stop on a Saturday afternoon and reached Chidambaram on a rainy night and got a direct bus from Chidhamabaram bus stop and reached right next to the site.
Being a fanatic of Tanjore temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram, which was often recognized as a replica or a bit smaller version of Tanjore temple has its charm. Built in 1035 by Rajendra Chola son of Raja Raja Chola, Gangaikonda Cholapuram is situated in a very rural part of Tamil Nadu and is also a spectacle that was managed to survive over time. If you visit it you could realize it by the damaged buildings inside the mandapam. Listed as a UNESCO heritage site in 1987, it carries a very quaint appearance, that makes you feel calmer. I find it a bit cuter version of what Rajendra Chola’s father built. Even Nandhi seems to have a softer personality. If you visit on Sunday, you could see how many art students sit there and sketch its exquisite beauty.
Darasuram Temple aka Airavatheeswara Temple is the most awaited place on my bucket list, and I am hoping to visit it right before 2022 if possible. If I have visited it, it would almost make it like I have visited all the UNESCO sites in Tamil Nadu. This oldest temple is well known for its enigmatic architecture, carvings, and sculpture that just hook the eyes with all their uniqueness. Listed as a heritage site in the year of 2004, this temple, located in Kumbakonam was also dedicated to Lord Shiva by Raja Raja Chola II during the 12th Century. Its unfathomable beauty of art is known to be beyond inspiration and has always been intriguing me for a visit.
NILGIRI MOUNTAIN RAILWAY LINE
Nilgiri Mountain Railway line is more than an experience than a site. And this spectacle and a heritage treasure by the British Government during 1908 was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 2005 along with the Toy train line in Darjeeling. Experiencing a 1000 mm gauge Nilgiri Mountain Railway ride is an experience of a lifetime and I am always glad that I experienced it during my visit to Ooty. This scenic ride extends from Mettupalayam to Ooty amidst the tunnels, the mountain forest that smells like Eucalyptus, and over the fairytale-like railway station is something that always makes you brag. There is a small heritage museum in Ooty railway station, where you can get a short glimpse of this exceptionally renowned heritage site’s history.
Read: Nilgiris Toy Train
Western Ghats is the natural heritage of the entire South India even before it was recognized and declared as a Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO on 02 July 2012. Being home to endless species of flora, fauna, and wild animals, the Western Ghats spread across almost 7 states including Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra, etc, play a significant role in conserving the majority of world biological species. If you are a nature lover who has a thirst for embracing and relishing the overflowing beauty of the mystery of nature, note this one of the top 10 biodiversity hotspots in the world on your bucket list. And for those who don’t know, this mountain range in the southern part of India is older than the Himalayan mountain range. While it’s not going to be easy to explore the entire western ghats, make sure to visit all the sanctuaries and reserves such as Srivilliputtur Wildlife Sanctuary, Mudumalai National Park, Sathyamangalam Wildlife Reserve, and more.
Now that you have known, make sure to start a plan for your next trip as soon as possible. If you have previously visited any of these places, feel free to share your experience in the comment section below.
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