We, the Indians, have every right to be proud of our heritage, the facets of which have now been recognized as the heritage of entire humanity. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the world’s premier organization, generally considered a repository of socio-cultural record of the nations of the world has given recognition to two items of Indian heritage as world heritage. These are the tangible Taj Mahal at Agra and the intangible Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. Conducted by online travel portal TripAdvisor, the survey lists the UNESCO Cultural and Natural heritage sites best rated by travellers around the globe.
Taj Mahal, the white marble mausoleum built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his deceased wife needs no description as it is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The history of its construction and the engineering perfection of this monument have always remained the subject of great excitement for the visitors from all over the world. The UNESCO has rated this iconic ivory mausoleum of India next to the Ankor Wat of Cambodia. According to the official records about eight million tourists from all over the world visit Taj Mahal every year and go back with lasting memory of this wonder of the world. It is the biggest attraction for tourists from different parts of the world and Agra, the site of the monument is connected with the capital of India with a beautiful six-lane motorway.
Ministry of Tourism has taken all steps to make a tourist’s visit to Taj Mahal as much exciting as is possible in terms of conduct of a tour with the help of experts, hotel and motel accommodation and even the facility of home-made food for those who intend to taste Indian cuisine in the lovely environs of Taj Mahal. A tour of the Taj is best suited either at the sunrise or sunset. Archaeological Survey of India in cooperation with the Union Ministry of Tourism is looking after maintenance of the Taj and the spacious gardens that add to the natural grace of the monument. It is really a matter of pride for our nation to have the distinction of possessing the world second most beautiful and tangible heritage after Ankor Wat.
About Kumbh Mela, the UNESCO has listed it as the “largest peaceful congregation of pilgrims on earth”. The decision to include the festival in UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity was taken at the ongoing meeting of the organisation’s World Heritage Committee in South Korea. What more proof of India’s unity in diversity can be given than the Kumbh festival? Two things make this festival very distinctive apart from the fact that it is the gathering of largest number of people anywhere in the world on the day of pilgrimage. Firstly, there is absolutely no distinction of pilgrims in respect of their faith, sect, religion, ideology, profession, economic status, nationality etc. Foreign citizens from different countries of the world have invariably flocked to this festival to enjoy the warmth of the people and culture of India. The second and most impressive distinction is that this festival is peaceful and non-violent. Conduct of the festival is mostly handled by volunteers and social workers drawn from all the four corners of the country. The saints, scholars and savants of Hindu faith usually called the sadhus/sants impart classical knowledge of Indian philosophy and tradition to the desiring pilgrims in traditional manner which gives an idea of how this knowledge has passed from generation to generation over so many millennia.
A lesson that we the Indian should learn from the recognition given to our heritage by the world body is that we need to understand that the world appreciates and lauds our heritage and as such we should be proud of our country and be its worthy sons and daughters. It is disturbing indeed to find some people in the country totally ignorant of our cultural past have no qualms of conscience in denigrating our culture and its manifestations eloquently recognized by the world at large. They attack everything Indian — faith, tradition, culture, customs and even scriptures —- all in the name of modernism or westernise or borrowed ideologies. They do not even understand that they are causing damage to their own heritage. We call it perversion. But the sweep of history is such that all these angularities have to get ironed out with the passage of time.