Hyderabad, Warangal live endlessly on hope of becoming WH Sites

By Vasanta Sobha Turaga

 A team from the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), technical advisor to UNESCO, visited Ramappa temple, Warangal, recently for reviewing the site’s nomination for the World Heritage Status. This gives us hope that Telangana will get its first ever Unesco World Heritage Site.  If the Indian government prioritizes and submits Ramappa at the earliest and the nomination passes through the World Heritage Committee scrutiny the possibility of getting recognition becomes stronger.  It is indeed a long and tedious procedure to get any heritage site inscribed on the WH list. The State and Central Governments have to play a pro-active role in this regard.
As in 2019, 1121 sites from 167 Countries across the world are listed as World Heritage.

India has to its credit a total of 30 Cultural Sites and eight Natural sites on the WH List.  Out of the 30 Cultural WH sites in India, Maharashtra tops the list of having five sites, the states of MP, UP, Gujarat and Rajasthan have three each, followed by two each in Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and one each in Goa, Orissa, Punjab-Haryana and West Bengal. The eight Natural WH sites are spread over Assam, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Karnataka.

It is unfortunate that forty-seven years after the World Heritage Convention’s existence since 1972, neither of the States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh has a single cultural or natural heritage site on the UNESCO World Heritage List.  In spite of having thousands of years of history, heritage and culture, why no heritage site in two Telugu states have found place on the WH list, needs to be discussed threadbare, leading to action.

If sites in a few States are inscribed and a few other States have missed out, the reasons are more procedural and even political, that certain sites are prioritized for nomination at the State and Central government level.  It is regrettable that Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have not fought enough for getting through to the WH list in all these years. And also, within Telangana, the State government preferred to send the nominations of Ramappa and Warangal, shelving Golconda and Hyderabad, which have been queued in the Tentative List for a long time.

Let us discuss a little the procedures and developments in the last few years in the matters of WH nominations in India and Andhra Pradesh/Telangana.
Since 1972 when the UNESCO World Heritage Convention was made, a few changes have been made in the procedures of nominations and inscriptions. With increasing numbers of nominations being received by the World Heritage Committee, after 1999, UNESCO limited the number of nominations any country could submit to one per category (natural, cultural, mixed) per year. And this is where the need has arisen, to pick out of the sites on the Tentative List, the most important site to be sent from the country every year.

The decision of selection of the one sites to be nominated every year is entirely on Union Ministry of Culture and its attached offices of the Archaeological Survey of India. The role of State Government, while in maximum is at the ground level management of the heritage sites. It is also instrumental in selection of sites and pushing across the proposal to the Central government. Somewhere between the Central and State Governments’ priorities, the States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, have missed getting a position on the WH List. To be noted is the fact that Golconda and Hyderabad have been on the Tentative List for a long time.
Unesco’s Tentative List is not an inscription of the actual WH List. But it is an important and mandatory step in the WH nomination process.  A Tentative List is an inventory of those properties which each State Party intends to consider for nomination in the coming years. UNESCO says, “Nominations to the World Heritage List will not be considered unless the nominated property has already been included on the State Party’s (Country’s) Tentative List.  State Parties are encouraged to re-examine and re-submit their Tentative List at least every ten years”.

Golconda, Hyderabad and Ramappa Temple

After revision of procedures of nomination and operational guidelines by UNESCO, India is adopting systematic ways of selection of sites and preparation of nomination dossiers for submissions. Golconda Fort was one of the few sites on the Tentative List made before 1998. The Tentative List was revised and new sites added from time to time.
In 2010, Golconda and Hyderabad have been added to the Tentative List, re-titled as “The Qutb Shahi Monuments of Hyderabad–Golconda Fort, Qutb Shahi Tombs, Charminar”.  It is reported that a dossier was submitted in January 2012, an ICOMOS team visited in September 2013. In December 2014, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao wrote to the Union Minister seeking to submit the nomination in 2015.
In 2014, the year of formation of Telangana state, two more sites were added to the Tentative List concerning Telangana and Deccan. One, Monuments and Forts of Deccan Sultanate (includes Gulbarga, Bidar, Bijapur and Golconda) and the second one, “The Glorious Kakatiya Temples and Gateways”.

“The Glorious Kakatiya Temples and Gateways”, is proposed on the Tentative List as a serial nomination (submitted one site after the other) covering the following:
*     Remnants of Swayambhu temple and Keerthi Thoranas, Warangal fort
*      Rudreswara Temple (Thousand Pillars Temple), Hanamkonda
*      Rudreswara (Ramappa) Temple, Palampet

The ICOMOS team’s visit in September this year was to review Ramappa temple nomination, submitted first in the serial nomination. (To be continued)

Vasanta Sobha Turaga is a well-known conservation architect. She worked on various projects in India and abroad.