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Ex-French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay Elected to Head UNESCO

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Audrey Azoulay, a French-Jewish woman
Audrey Azoulay, a French-Jewish woman of Moroccan descent, as its next Director-General. Wikimedia
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United Nations, October 14: A day after the US and Israel announced they were withdrawing from the Unesco alleging anti-Israel bias in the organization, it elected Audrey Azoulay, a French-Jewish woman of Moroccan descent, as its next Director-General.

In the final round of voting by Unesco’s Executive Board on Friday at its headquarters in Paris, Azoulay defeated Hamad bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari of Qatar, winning 30 votes to his 28.

Audrey Azoulay will succeed Irina Bokova, a Bulgarian who ran unsuccessfully for Secretary-General of the UN last year.

In her vision statement or manifesto, while campaigning for the post, Azoulay wrote, “Unesco must assert itself with ambition as the conscience of the United Nations.”

Through “the defense of humanist values” the Unesco can bring new life to the UN’s “universalist project of peace and democracy,” she said.

Unesco is the science, education and culture arm of the UN family.

Audrey Azoulay has had a long career in arts and culture administration before becoming Culture Minister last year and leaving the job after the national elections last May.

She has been the deputy Director-General of the French National Centre of Cinematography and a legal expert on culture and communication for the European Commission.

When she takes over the helm of Unesco she must grapple with the fallout of the US leaving the organization.

US membership in the Unesco will formally end in 2018 but already in 2013 Washington had lost its voting rights because Congress stopped paying the dues to the organization starting in 2011 because it had admitted Palestine as a full member.

The US contribution was 22 percent of Unesco’s budget and the organization had to cut its programmes with US arrears in excess of 600 million.

The breaking point for the US came in July when Unesco called the Old City of Hebron and a sanctuary considered holy by both Jews and Muslims in the West Bank a part of Palestinian territory while designating them World Heritage Site.

The area is under Israeli control and Israel claims the area. Palestinians call Hebron Al-Khalil and the sanctuary is called the Tomb of the Patriarchs by Jews and Ibrahim Mosque by Muslims.

The campaign for Unesco’s top job started with 10 candidates and the list was whittled down to three this week.

Egyptian Moushira Khattab was the third candidate in Thursday’s fourth round ballot where Azoulay and Al-Kawari led and moved on to the final round.(IANS)

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Rani Ki Vav: A Mesmerising Stepwell Built In The Memory Of A King By His Queen

Rani Ki Vav is also considered the queen of stepwells in India

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Rani Ki Vav is one of the greatest stepwells ever made in India. Wikimedia Commons

By Ruchika Verma 

  • Rav Ki Rani in Gujarat is one of the biggest stepwells in India
  • It is famous for its size and beautiful architecture
  • The stepwell is one of the World Heritage Sites by UNESCO

Stepwells are an important part of India’s architecture and its

Rani Ki Vav in Gujarat is one of the biggest stepwells in India. Wikimedia Commons
Rani Ki Vav in Gujarat is one of the biggest stepwells in India. Wikimedia Commons

history. Throughout India, there are many stepwells present which may though look similar, but differ in their architectural and historical significance. One such stepwell is Rani Ki Vav in Gujarat.

Rani Ki Vav – A monument breaking the norms 

India has many monuments which have been built by the kings in the memory of their queens, Taj Mahal is one of the greatest examples of that. However, Rani Ki Vav is different. Breaking through the norms, this monument was built by a queen in the memory of her king.

Rani ki Vav, which means, Queen’s stepwell is near Patan in Gujarat. It was constructed sometime during the 11th century in the memory of Bhimdev, the son of Mularaja who was the founder of the Solanki dynasty. The richly sculpted stepwell which is considered a masterpiece was dedicated to the king by his widowed wife, Udayamati. It was flooded by the river Saraswati in the 1980s.

Also Read: Nalanda Mahavira makes it to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites

Rani Ki Vav – Architecture 

Rani Ki Vav stepwell was recognised as World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2014.

This stepwell was built by a queen in the memory of her king. Wikimedia Commons
This stepwell was built by a queen in the memory of her king. Wikimedia Commons

Rani Ki Vav is built inside an opening in the ground, which makes it special. The east facing stepwell is constructed in seven storeys and is approximately 64m long, 20m wide & 27m deep.

The central architectural theme of the stepwell is “Dasavatars,” meaning ’10 incarnations’ of Lord Vishnu. There are over 800 sculptures in the seven galleries, out of which, majority are devoted to Lord Vishnu only.There is also a carving of Vishnu reclining on one thousand snakeheads. The lowest level of the well is blocked by stones and silt now, after the flooding by river Saraswati, however earlier it used to be an escape route to the neighbouring villages.

Rani Ki Vav is considered queen of stepwells in India. Wikimedia Commons
Rani Ki Vav is considered queen of stepwells in India. Wikimedia Commons

Rani Ki Vav is one of the finest step wells in India and the most famous in Gujarat. It has many pillars and walls which are sculpted in the beautiful Maru-Gurjara architectural style. It is nothing less than a mesmerizing sight.

Also Read: 5 Traditional Water Conservation Methods In India 

It is one of kind type of mesmerising structure which is definitely worth visiting. Rani Ki Vav is also considered the queen of stepwells in India. Rani ki Vav was also among the five international heritage sites selected by the Scottish Ten team for digital preservation and scanned in 2011. It is one truly remarkable monument.