Heritage sites of Maharashtra are many but those recognized by UNESCO ( United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) are very few. The land of Maharashtra showcases some of the striking diversities, it showcases a magnificent stretch of beaches on the west coast of India, has some of the best and most beautiful hill stations, temples, forts, wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, tiger reserves, historic monuments and world heritage sites.
Heritage sites of Maharashtra are just four, but they hold some great importance. Three out of four heritage sites of Maharashtra are the rock cut caves. These caves were built on high hills and present us an incredible examples of engineering skill sets the people of bye-gone era possessed. The Heritage sites include Ajanta caves, Ellora caves and Elephanta cave statue. Other popular rock cut caves are Karla Bhaja Caves, Bedsa caves and Lenyandri Temple caves.
Ajanta caves of Aurangabad, Maharashtra, are listed under UNESCO’s “World Heritage sites” as the Cultural Heritage sites of Maharashtra. It was in the year 1983 when this site was recognized by UNESCO. These caves are believed to build around 2nd Century BC. These rock cut caves are a group of 29 cave monuments that include paintings and sculptures that are considered masterpieces. The whole area was build up in two phases, the first phase was build in 2nd century BCE and the second phase was constructed around 6th century BCE. These caves depict artistic influences of Buddhist religious art showcasing richly decorated paintings and frescoes.
Ellora in Aurangabad district is another group of rock cut caves that are listed in cultural heritage sites of Maharashtra. These caves were build by Rashtrakuta Dynasty. The group of caves here represent a mix of religious arts of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. These rock cut caves are a series of 34 monasteries and temples, extending over more than 2 km. These caves were dug side by side in the wall of a high basalt cliff. These cave monuments dates back to 6th – 10th century. It is a group of 12 Buddhist (caves 1–12), 17 Hindu (caves 13–29) and 5 Jain (caves 30–34) caves demonstrating the religious harmony of the bye-gone era. It was in the year 1983 when UNESCO considered listing these caves as cultural heritage sites of Maharashtra.
The monuments and caves of Elephanta are another important heritage sites of Maharashtra. It is a network of sculpted caves located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri (literally “the city of caves”) in Mumbai Harbor. The island is a very popular tourist spot for people coming to Mumbai. The Island is located on an arm of the Arabian Sea. Elephanta caves consists of two groups. The first group consists of five Hindu caves and the second group consists of two Buddhist caves. It was in the year 1987 when this site was recognized by UNESCO and were listed under “World Heritage sites” as the “Cultural Heritage sites of Maharashtra”.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is a historic railway station in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Today it serves as the Headquarters of The Central Railway. It was formerly named as Victoria Terminus in order to honor Queen and Empress Victoria. The construction began in the year 1878 and took almost 10 years to complete. It was open on the on the date of her Golden Jubilee in 1887. It was recognized and listed in the heritage sites of Maharashtra in the year 2004.
Other must see / visit heritage sites of Maharashtra include various forts (land and sea forts), historic monuments etc. Maharashtra is the most visited state in India by foreign tourists. Much of the credit goes to the four heritage sites of Maharashtra i.e. Ajanta caves, Ellora caves, Elephanta caves and CST.