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

UNESCO announces 9 new world heritage sites to add to everyone's Bucket list

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Nalanda Mahavihara. Image Source: VOA News
  • Exciting news for India, Nalanda Mahavihara, a large Buddhist monastery in Magadha was announced one of the 9 New World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
  • Interestingly, this would be the second world heritage site in the country after Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya.
  • The committee is also reviewing 27 sites of cultural significance which have been nominated for the World Heritage List.

UNESCO has declared the much awaited Nalanda ruins in Bihar as a world heritage site. The decision came during the UN cultural agency’s ongoing session in Istanbul, Turkey on July 15.

The cultural agency UNESCO also tweeted on this matter:

Nalanda University is located in Rajgir, near Nalanda, Bihar, India and  was established during the Gupta Dynasty. It was earlier an acclaimed large Buddhist monastery in the ancient kingdom of Magadha. Interestingly, this would be the second world heritage site in the country after Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya.

Nalanda University. Image Source : Wikimedia commons
Nalanda University. Image Source : Wikimedia commons

The Nalanda site that comprises of the archaeological remains of a monastic and scholastic institution from the 3rd century B.C. to the 13th century A.D. is in fact one of the ancient seats of learning in the world.

Another interesting addition to the list has been the old city of Ani, in the Turkish province of Kars. Ani, near Turkey’s now closed border with Armenia, once served as the capital of the Armenian kingdom in the 10th century. Mostly abandoned after a devastating earthquake in the 14th century, the ruins include a relatively well-preserved cathedral and hold major significance for Armenians.

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Other sites announced on Friday include China’s Zuojiang Huashan rock art cultural landscape, Iran’s ancient aqueducts known as Qanat. A trans-boundary site located in Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, and heritage sites in Greece, Spain and Gibraltar have also made it to the list.

The World Heritage Committee also zeroed upon Micronesia’s artificial islets of Nan Madol and simultaneously placed it on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Made of basalt and coral boulders, the 99 artificial islets of Nan Madol are home to ruins ranging from temple to tombs between A.D. 1200 and 1500.

Dating back to the 5th century B.C., Zuojiang Huashon rock art cultural landscape straddles steep cliffs in southwest China and represent the only trace left of the Luoyue people.

Iran’s Qanat system tapped into alluvial aquifer and transported water underground across vast valleys helping sustain agricultural life and settlements in arid areas.

The medieval tombstones and graveyards, known as stecci, combine 30 sites in Bosnia, central and southern Croatia, western Montenegro and western Serbia. Carved from limestone, they feature decorative motives and inscriptions.

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The Greek archaeological site of Philippi, founded in 356 B.C. by the Macedonian King Philip II, lies in the present-day region of eastern Macedonia and Thrace. It later became an important Christian site, following the visit of Apostle Paul, UNESCO said.

The Antequera Dolmens site, in Andalusia, southern Spain, is comprised of three megalithic monuments as well as two natural mountainous formations.

The natural sea caves – or Gorham’s Cave Complex – in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, also made the list, and provide evidence of Neanderthal occupation over a span of more than 125,000 years.

Gathered from July 10-20 in Istanbul, the committee is reviewing 27 sites of special cultural or natural significance which have been nominated for the World Heritage List. (With input from VOA)

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Give a Visit and Witness the Beauteous Glory of Mumbai’s Clock Towers

Aware yourself with the admirable Mumbai's Clock Towers that forms an important aspect of Mumbai's history and should be more accessible to the masses

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Mumbai's Clock Tower
One of the Mumbai's Clock Tower.Wikimedia.

Mumbai, November 14: They are not-so-mute witnesses to history, clanging away at intervals of 15 minutes, as if asking us all to grab the moment because time was slipping by.

Perhaps in the daily, mad rush in Maximum City, not many Mumbaikars pay attention to the 16-odd time-keepers of the city, some of them centuries old. But they have seen dramatic changes as Mumbai evolved from a conglomeration of fishing villages into a burgeoning metropolis — a modern, global financial centre accommodating 17 million people that often appears to come asunder at its seams.

Yet, they have been evidently bypassed in the Swachh Bharat campaign.

“I was once permitted to go up the tower to click Mumbai views, but came across a lot of dirt, pigeon droppings and even dead birds. If people are allowed to visit them regularly, maintenance will be better,” historian and archaeologist Mugdha Karnik told IANS.

He says Mumbai’s clock towers are an important aspect of any city’s history and should be more accessible to the masses, especially in Mumbai.

The most famous of the Mumbai’s Clock Towers is, of course, the Rajabai Clock Tower adorning the entrance of the University of Mumbai, which once played God Save The King and a Handel Symphony with 16 tunes that kept changing four times a day — now limited to chimes every quarter of an hour. But it still makes heads turn with people glancing at their own watches to match the time.

Mumbai's Clock Towers
One of the Mumbai’s Clock Towers, Rajabai Clock Tower. Wikimedia.

The iconic 280-feet tall structure, once visible from distances of 15 km, entered the 140th year of its existence in November. It has seen the reclamation of land beyond the present Oval Maidan, which pushed back the Arabian Sea by nearly 200 metres. Access to the top, which offered a panoramic view of Bombay, was stopped a few decades ago after it became a suicide point.

Other famous clock towers are at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), Naval Dockyard, David Sassoon at Byculla Zoo, Crawford Market, St. Thomas Cathedral, BH Wadia in Fort, David Sassoon Library, Life Insurance Building Churchgate, the Khoja Shia Imami Ismaili Jamatkhana gifted by the Moloo Brothers of Zanzibar — all in good working condition.

There is a Time Ball Building clock tower in the Mumbai Port Trust, which is not functional, another at Sasoon Docks Gate in Colaba, Lakshmi Insurance Building in Fort, Fulchand Nivas Building at Chowpatty, Mhatre Pen Building and Vijaynagar Building, both in Dadar to the north, and a few stray ones in other parts of Mumbai.

Avid clock tower lover, conservationist and historian Aadil Desai said the ones at CSMT, St. Thomas Cathedral built in 1718, David Sassoon at Byculla Zoo, David Sassoon Library, Naval Dockyard, BH Wadia and some others are very well-maintained and continue to grab attention.

“Several conservation activists regularly keep in touch with the owners of these premises on the status of the clock towers and they are very cooperative as it is a part of the city’s rich heritage and history. The Mumbai Port Trust is even considering setting up a museum at the site,” Desai said.

Every clock tower is unique, each having its own history and importance for the city, he said.

For instance, Rajabai Tower was financed by “Cotton King” Premchand Roychand, one of the original founders of the modern-day Bombay Stock Exchange Ltd. It was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott on the lines of London’s Big Ben and built in nine years for what was then a staggering amount of Rs 550,000.

It is named after Roychand’s blind mother, Rajabai, who was a staunch Jain and needed to have her meals before dusk, and the clock chimes helped her do that without needing to depend on anyone.

The massive Mumbai’s clock towers above the CSMT — which was one of the sites targeted during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks — was built in 1888 by Sir Frederick William Stevens, inspired by the Victorian Gothic architecture of London’s St Pancras Railway station.

It’s now a UNESCO world heritage site and the imposing clock sees millions of commuters hurrying past daily or tourists gaping and photographing it. Recently, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has built a “selfie point” off the CST and the BMC headquarters to help people click pictures of the heritage precincts.

It was in the 1860s that Albert Abdul Sassoon, son of a Baghdadi Jewish philanthropist, came upon the idea of settng up a good library in the heart of the city. It materialised in 1870 as the David Sassoon Library at Kala Ghoda, near the Jehangir Art Gallery.

It is built with yellow Malad stone, like the nearby Army & Navy Building, Elphinstone College and Watson’s Hotel, with a proud white stone bust of David Sassoon adorning the library entrance.

The Sassoon Docks, with a large clock tower, is one of the oldest fishing docks of Mumbai built on reclaimed lands in Colaba and constructed in 1875 by Albert Abdul Sassoon as a prime fish unloading and trading spot, which remains operational till date.

The Crawford Market, renamed Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market, is a stone’s throw from the CSMT and opposite the Mumbai Police Headquarters.

Blending the Norman and Flemish architectural styles, the freizes at the entrance depict Indian farmers and fountains made of Kurla stone, designed by Lockwood Kipling, the father of the legendary novelist Rudyard Kipling.

The Time Ball Building clock tower at Mumbai Port Trust is just one of the two surviving — the second being in Kolkata — and among the handful in the world, like at Greenwich, UK. Desai says it is an important piece of historical heritage and must be protected.

Perhaps it’s time to step in and preserve the Mumbai’s Clock towers which may otherwise become the victims of, well, time. (IANS)

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2,648 illegal Migrants detained in Turkey

According to an official statement by Turkish General Staff , Turkish border guards rounded up 1,632 migrants attempting to illegally enter Turkey from Syria

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Turkey launches nationwide operation to detain illegal migrants (representative image) Pixabay

Turkey, November 9, 2017: A total of 2,648 undocumented migrants were detained in nationwide operations across Turkey, security force said on Wednesday.

Turkish border guards rounded up 1,632 migrants attempting to illegally enter Turkey from Syria, the Turkish General Staff said in a statement, Xinhua reported.

Some 171 undocumented migrants were found attempting to cross Turkey-Greece border illegally, according to the statement.

Another 575 migrants trying to illegally enter Greece and Bulgaria were held in northwestern Edirne province, a security official told state-run Anadolu Agency.

Gendarmerie caught 126 migrants, including 104 Afghan and 22 Pakistani nationals, from a bus at a checkpoint in Turkey’s central province of Sivas.

During another operation in northern Kastamonu province, security forces stopped an Istanbul-bound bus and held 121 migrants, including Pakistanis, Afghans and Senegalese. (IANS)

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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

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)