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UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Why is it in the news?

  • Recently, the Hoysala temples located in Belur, Halebid, and Somanathapur in Karnataka, India, were officially designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites making it India’s 42nd World Heritage Site along with the inclusion of Santiniketan as India’s 41st World Heritage Site.


More about the news

  • The Chennakeshava temple in Belur and Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebid, both situated in Hassan district, had been on UNESCO’s tentative list since 2014.
  • The Keshava temple in Somanathapur, located in Mysuru district, was added to the tentative list, and all three temples were nominated by the Indian government for the 2022-23 cycle in February 2022.
  • An expert from the International Commission on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) conducted site visits to all three temples in September of the previous year.
  • The official inscription as UNESCO World Heritage Sites took place during the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
  • These temples are collectively referred to as ‘The Sacred Ensembles of Hoysalas’ and are under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
  • Hoysala temples are renowned for their distinctive architectural style characterized by intricate carvings and follow a stellate plan, often constructed using soft, carvable chloritic schist (soapstone).
    • The Chennakeshava temple in Belur was initiated during King Vishnuvardhana’s reign in 1117 CE and took 103 years to complete, while the Hoysaleshwara temple in Halebid was commissioned in 1121 CE. The Keshava temple in Somanathapur was commissioned by Somanatha Dandanayaka during the rule of Narasimha III in 1268 CE.
  • The inscription of these three sites as UNESCO World Heritage Sites is expected to bring global recognition to these monuments, known for their exquisite sculptures and carvings, and is anticipated to boost tourism in the region.


Hoysala architecture
  • Hoysala architecture developed in the Karnataka region near Mysore between 1050 and 1300 A.D.
  • Prominent temple seats include Belur, Halebid, and Sringeri.
  • Salient features of Hoysala Architecture:
    • Multiple shrines dedicated to different deities built around a central pillared hall.
    • Stellate plan: Temples intricately designed in the shape of a star.
    • Main building material is soft soapstone.
    • Extensive emphasis on temple decoration through intricate sculptures.
    • Elaborate carvings on both interior and exterior walls, as well as deity jewelry.
    • Temples constructed on an elevated platform called Jagati.
    • Walls and stairs of the temple follow a zigzag pattern.
  • Hoysala temples are considered hybrid or vesara, as their style is a blend of both Dravida and Nagara, falling somewhere in between.
  • Unlike Nagara and Dravidian architecture, which often follows a panchayatan style (principal temple and four subsidiary shrines), Hoysala architecture is based on a stellate plan with a star-shaped layout of the temple.

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