Hoysala temples on UNESCO heritage list
- September 24, 2023
- Posted by: OptimizeIAS Team
- Category: DPN Topics
Hoysala temples on UNESCO heritage list
Section: Art and Culture
Context: The Hoysala temples at Belur, Halebidu and Somanathapur in Karnataka were officially inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites during the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee at Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Features of Hoysala Temple:
- The Hoysala dynasty ruled over much of South India for close to 200 years and during this time they built spectacular temples; both Hindu as well as Jain.
- The Hoysala temples are known for evolving a distinct style that is ornate with temple architecture following a stellate plan built on a raised platform.
- The material used in temple construction is chloritic schist which is also known as soapstone that is soft and amiable to carving.
- An abundance of figure sculpture covers almost all the Hoysala temples.
- The garbhagriha (sanctum-sanctorum) houses a centrally placed murti (enshrined icon) on a pitha (pedestal).
- The shikhara (superstructure), rises over the garbhagriha and together with the sanctum they form the vimana (or mulaprasada) of a temple.
- A ribbed stone, amalaka, is placed atop the shikhara with a kalash at its finial.
- An intermediate antarala (vestibule) joins the garbhagriha to an expansive pillared mandapa (porch) in front, chiefly facing east (or north).
- The temple may be approached via entrances with gigantic gopurams (ornate entrance towers) towering over each doorway.
- In the prakaram (temple courtyard) several minor shrines and outbuildings often abound.
What makes the three temples on UNESCO list special:
- Among the surviving Hoysala-era temples, these three are considered prime examples of Hoysala art.
- In his work “A History of South India,” K A Nilakanta Sastri notes that the Chennakesava temple in Belur features a total of 46 pillars, with all except the four in the central bay designed differently, creating an astonishing variety and complexity.
- It is believed that Shantala Devi, queen of Vishnuvardhana, who commissioned the temple, served as the model for one of its sculptures, known as Darpana Sundari (lady with the mirror).
- The Kesava temple in Somanathapura, designed as a 16-point star, houses three shrines dedicated to Keshava, Janardhana, and Venugopala.Unfortunately, the statue of Keshava in the Somanathapura temple is currently missing.
- The temple in Halebidu is hailed for its extensive exterior sculpture work, which is considered one of the world’s most remarkable monuments and an unparalleled repository of religious expression in plastic form.
- Halebidu faced a historical setback when it was raided by Malik Kafur, a general in the army of Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khalji.
What is UNESCO World Heritage Sites:
- A World Heritage site is a landmark or area with legal protection by an international convention administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
- World Heritage sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific or other forms of significance.
- The sites are judged to contain “cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.”
What is the history and background of World Heritage Sites:
- The concept of World Heritage emerged after WWII amid concerns over the widespread destruction of cultural sites and nature. Efforts to remedy this led to the drafting of the 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, commonly known as the World Heritage Convention.
- It established the framework to preserve the world’s outstanding heritage.
- The Convention defines the kind of natural or cultural sites that can be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List by meeting specified criteria.
- By signing the Convention, member countries commit to protecting not just national heritage but mankind’s shared heritage, irrespective of where sites are located.
- 191 State Parties have ratified this World Heritage Convention, including India. India formally signed the Convention on November 14, 1977.
- There are currently 1,172 World Heritage Sites across 166 countries, of which 913 are cultural, 220 are natural, and 39 are mixed properties that have outstanding universal value as the heritage of humanity.
What is the selection Criteria for UNESCO World Heritage Site
- For a site to be inscribed as a World Heritage Site, it must go through a rigorous nomination and evaluation process.
- UNESCO’s advisory bodies the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assess each nominated site.
- A site must demonstrate Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) by meeting one or more criteria defined in the Convention to make it worthy of special protection for all humanity.
What is the Legal Status of Designated World Heritage Sites:
- Upon inscription, each World Heritage Site retains its ownership by the respective state, yet the safeguarding and preservation of its Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) assumes a collective responsibility for all of humanity. The legal implications encompass:
- Member states bear the obligation to ensure the identification, safeguarding, preservation, revaluation, and transmission of their cultural and natural heritage to future generations.
- States are anticipated to integrate heritage protection into regional planning initiatives, provide regular reports on on-site conditions to the World Heritage Committee, and abstain from taking deliberate actions that could harm the heritage.
- States are encouraged to enhance public awareness and reverence for heritage through educational and informational programs.
- In instances of severe threats to World Heritage, the Committee can deploy experts to offer assistance. In extreme cases, the possibility of delisting or imposing sanctions on gravely imperiled sites also exists.