Karnataka to seek UNESCO World Heritage Site status for 14 Hoysala temples

The State Archaeology Department has clubbed 14 temples from the Hoysala period reflecting similar architectural styles — including the monuments at Belur-Halebid and Somnathpur — for serial nomination to seek UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

The final dossier, to be submitted by September 2020, is being prepared by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Bengaluru, which is expected to submit it by April. Pankaj Modi, an architect leading the team preparing the dossier, told The Hindu that the tentative list had only Belur and Halebid monuments, but they were expanding the list for serial nomination by incorporating more temples given their architectural significance.

Apart from the monuments at Belur and Halebid, the list includes Panchalingeshwara temple at Govindahall, Chennakeshava temple at Somnathpur, Kesava temple at Harnahalli, Lakshminarayana temple at Hosaholalu, Ishvara temple at Arsikere, Bucheshwara temple at Koravangala, Nageshwara and Chennakeshava temple at Mosale, Kalyani at Hulikere, Lakshmidevi temple at Doddagaddavalli, Amriteshwara temple at Amrutpura, and Viranarayana temple at Amrutpura.

UNESCO defines serial nominations as any two or more unconnected sites that may contain a series of cultural or natural properties in different locations, provided that they are related because they belong to the same historical and cultural group. In India, forts at Chittorgarh, Kumbalgarh, Sawai Madhopur, Jaipur, Jhalawar and Jaisalmer are examples.

The Archaeology Department entered into an agreement with INTACH earlier this year and the inception report was submitted in the last week of September. Mr. Modi said the effort involves a number of processes, besides stakeholder meetings so as to revise and refine the final dossier. T. Venkatesh, Commissioner of the Department of Archaeology, Museums and Heritage, said the final dossier would highlight the monuments as representing a masterpiece of creative genius in monumental arts and as an outstanding example of a type of architectural ensemble illustrating a significant stage in human history. He said another stakeholder meeting would be held in due course and would involve the district administrations of Hassan, Mandya and Mysuru, as some of the temples listed are scattered across these districts.

The consultant team carried out site visits recently and covered 29 Hoysala temples, including ones in Belur, Halebid, Somnathpur and Hosaholalu, to study the ground situation and gather information on the maintenance and upkeep of the temples and surrounding areas. There are 137 Hoysala temples of significant value in the State — 43 are protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, 55 by the Archaeology Department, and the remaining 39 are unprotected.

The process and the list

For a monument to qualify as a World Heritage Site, it should be in the tentative list for at least six months to one year. The Belur-Halebid temples made it to the tentative list in 2014, while the concept paper for the same had been prepared sometime in 2007.

In addition to Hoysala temples, the final dossier for the ‘Evolution of Temple Architecture at Badami, Ahihole and Pattadakal’ is also being prepared. The ‘Monuments and Forts of the Deccan Sultanate’ is another cluster in it.

However, submission of the final dossier alone will not suffice as it will go through another round of scrutiny by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, which has to nominate the monuments and submit them to UNESCO, which will take the final call.

At present, Karnataka has the Hampi and Pattadakal group of monuments inscribed as World Heritage Sites. Besides, the State has 844 State-protected monuments, nearly 600 ASI-protected monuments, and about 35,000 temples under the Muzrai Department. There are 42 sites in India that are in the tentative list. The country has 38 World Heritage Sites — 30 cultural and eight natural properties.

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