At a recent committee meeting in Istanbul, UNESCO recognised the world heritage value of three more sites in India: the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh designed by architect Le Corbusier, the ancient Buddhist ruins of the Nalanda University in Bihar, and the Khangchendzonga National Park in Sikkim, rich in biodiversity and spiritually potent to communities in the region.
This takes India’s tally of World Heritage sites up to 35, which includes 27 cultural sites, 7 natural sites, and one mixed site that meets the criteria for both natural and cultural value.
Khangchendzonga National Park fulfils UNESCO’s criteria for both natural and cultural heritage, and is the first site in India to be awarded the status of a mixed World Heritage Site. The Himalayan national park covers 1,784 sqkm, about a quarter of Sikkim’s geographical area, and is crowned by Mount Khangchendzonga, the third-highest mountain peak on the planet. Its varied ecosystems, from lush forests to rocky mountains high-altitude lakes and glaciers, are inhabited by endangered species like the snow leopard, Tibetan sheep, musk deer, and the blood pheasant. But Khangchendzonga is also revered by Buddhists and tribes, tied to numerous legends and rituals practiced by Sikkimese locals.
Getting there: Khangchendzonga National Park is 122km/4hr from Gangtok. Yuksom (123km/5hr from Gangtok) and Chungthang (81km/4hr from Gangtok) are entry points to the park, and Bagdogra in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district is the nearest airport. For more details on exploring Khangchendzonga National Park, click here.
Only 70km by road from Bodh Gaya, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, Nalanda is recognized as the oldest university in the Indian subcontinent. The archaeological site’s stupas, shrines, and viharas date back to the period between the 3rd century B.C. and the 13th century A.D., when it was a thriving Buddhist monastery and scholastic centre. The UNESCO website says Nalanda was “engaged in the organized transmission of knowledge over an uninterrupted period of 800 years.” Today, its stone sculptures and stucco art gives 21st-century travellers glimpses of an era long gone, and imparts lessons of peace, compassion, and tolerance.
Getting there: Nalanda excavation site is 70km/1.5hr by road from Bodh Gaya, and approx 90km/2hr by road from Patna, the nearest airport.
Geometric and modernist, The Capitol Complex in Chandigarh embodies the architectural style of Le Corbusier. The complex is one of 17 structures included in a trans-continental UNESCO site celebrating the work of Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier. Other buildings are in Argentina, Belgium, France, Germany, Japan, and Switzerland.
Le Corbusier’s connection with India is well documented. Following the Partition, the master architect was enlisted to design the city of Chandigarh as Punjab’s new capital in the 1950s. In addition to designing streets and avenues, he also drew up plans for the Capitol Complex, which is spread over 100 acres and houses the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Legislative Assembly and the Open Hand monument.
Getting there: The Capitol Complex is about 40min/17km by road from Chandigarh International airport. It is open to the public.