A site or monument with legal protection under an international convention regulated by the UNESCO is called a World Heritage Site. UNESCO recognizes sites as World Heritage Sites because of their importance in terms of culture, history, science, or other fields. Various historical and culturally significant sites are nominated annually to become UNESCO World Heritage Sites. However, UNESCO has established criteria for selecting a site. The Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage 1972 emphasises that nominated sites must have “outstanding universal value“. In India, there are now 32 cultural, 7 natural, and 1 mixed World Heritage Sites.


Countries that have ratified the World Heritage Convention are recognized as State Parties and are the ones who submit nominations. If a property is inscribed on the World Heritage List, it must offer information on how it is protected, a management strategy for maintaining it, and a commitment to preserving its World Heritage significance. They are also urged to report on the properties’ status on a regular basis. In some instances, a nomination might not be accepted to give the nation additional time to develop its management strategy for the site.


Making an “inventory” of the significant natural and cultural heritage monuments that are located within a nation’s borders is the first step that must be taken. This is significant because the State Party’s Tentative List is a prerequisite for the World Heritage Committee to consider a nomination for inscription on the World Heritage List.


A State Party can organize a tentative list of nominees for a nomination file, which must be thorough and include all required supporting material and maps.


ICOMOS, IUNCN, and ICCROM provide independent analysis and advice to the World Heritage Committee on cultural site conservation.


The World Heritage Committee meets annually to decide which sites will be added to the List.


The most important details are that the site must have “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one of the ten criteria listed by Unesco: stand in for a masterpiece of human creativity, exhibit a significant exchange of human values, bear a unique testimony to a living or extinct cultural tradition or civilization, be a magnificent embodiment of a certain building type, be a prime example of a traditional human settlement, have a direct or tangible relationship to historical occurrences, have remarkable natural occurrences, be outstanding examples of major stages in human history, be outstanding cases of important ecological and biological processes, and contain the most significant and vital natural habitats for the in-situ conservation of biological diversity.


It ensures economic benefits by increasing tourism at the site. Access to global project management resources is made possible. The importance of the site’s preservation and conservation on a worldwide level is brought to light. If necessary, UNESCO provides funding for training, preservation, and restoration. For instance, Hampi: The Hampi World Heritage Area Management Authority (HWHAMA) ensures effective management and coordination of works while allowing local self Government authorities to exercise their powers. The Integrated Information Management Centre and Joint Heritage Management Program are significant steps towards adequate protection and management. Most importantly, during warfare, a site is protected by the Geneva Convention against destruction or exploitation. It also strengthens ties with the United Nations and offers prestige and assistance. The encouragement for forming alliances between the public and corporate sectors and NGOs to advance conservation objectives is also promoted.

VADNAGAR – A MULTI-LAYERED HISTORIC TOWN OF GUJARAT (the recent addition to the tentative list of UNESCO)

On December 20, 2022, Vadnagar was inscribed into the tentative list of world heritage sites under UNESCO.

The cultural site, Vadnagar is a town and municipality in the Mehsana district of the North region of Gujarat state. Vadnagar, also known as Vridhanagar, Anandapur, Anantapur, and Nagar, has been inhabited continuously for over 2,700 years. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi was Gujarat’s Chief Minister in 2006, several archaeological excavations got underway in this area and emphasized the city’s significance as a Buddhist centre.

The structural remains discovered during the excavation include a rampart and fortification, a Buddhist Monasteries and votive stupas, an elliptical structure and stupa, as well as artefacts, sealings, residential properties, lanes/streets, and an industrial hearth dating from before the second century BCE to the Gaekwad period (18th– 19thcentury CE). The excavation at Vadnagar confirmed seven cultural periods with scientific dates. Vadnagar’s antiquity can be traced back to 750 BCE (2750 BP) and is divided into the following cultural periods:

  • Pre 2nd century BCE
  • II – 2nd century BCE – 1stcentury CE
  • III – 1st-4th century CE
  • IV – 5th -9th/10thcentury CE
  • V – 10th-13thcentury CE
  • VI– 14th-17thcentury CE
  • VII– 17th/18th-19thcentury CE

ADVOCACY OF “OUTSTANDING UNIVERSAL VALUE”: The site Vadnagar justifies criteria II and criteria V to be included in the list.

CRITERIA II:  Vadnagar was ideally located at the intersection of two important ancient trade routes, one of which connected central India with Sindh and the farther northwest and the other with the port cities along the Gujarat coast and Rajasthan. The routes continued to link Vadnagar to locations in the western Indian Ocean, and historically Vadnagar was also regarded as one of Gujarat’s significant land ports (Sthal Pattan). Vadnagar’s strategic location and its extensive networks and communication across the ocean are supported by the discovery of several items of non-Indigenous origin during site excavations.

CRITERIA V: The historic town of Vadnagar exhibits sustainable land use planning while mostly maintaining the building fabric’s historical footprint. Gates, fortifications, temples, and other historic buildings from the seven distinct cultural eras of the area have been seamlessly merged into the modern town. The town showcases an exceptional display of persistent human habitation in addition to its meticulously constructed water management system, self-sufficient planning, and sustainable land use and building designs.

Therefore, we can conclude that Vadnagar in Gujrat proves its “Outstanding Universal Value” and advocates all its required criteria to enter the World Heritage Sites under UNESCO. In fact, the National Museum Institute of Delhi is running a project to build a museum in Vadnagar. The first phase of the experiential museum in Vadnagar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s hometown, is expected to be completed by August 2023.

Officials from the state museum and archaeology department stated that the museum in Vadnagar is designed to present the narrative of the town’s uninterrupted history of human settlement in seven phases by presenting excavated artefacts from neighbouring sites. The museum will house over 40,000 artefacts discovered during excavations at archaeological sites throughout Vadnagar.


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