Mumbai gets another UNESCO heritage tag

Mumbai city, PTI file photo

In a major recognition, Mumbai's Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The country's western metropolis earned the honours on Saturday at the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO at Manama in Bahrain.

"Just inscribed as @UNESCO #WorldHeritage site: Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai, #India. Congratulations!," UNESCO said in a tweet.

Over the last few years, the Maharashtra government, BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority and various NGOs have been supporting the initiative. The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee, too, has supported the move.

The ensemble comprises of two architectural styles — the 19th-century collection of Victorian structures and the 20th century Art Deco buildings.

Together, this architectural ensemble represents the "most remarkable collection" of Victorian and Art Deco buildings in the world, which forms the unique character of this "urban setting, unparalleled" in the world.

The 19th-century Victorian buildings form part of the larger Fort precinct situated to the east of the Oval Maidan. These public buildings include the Old Secretariat (1857-74), University Library and Convention Hall (1874-78), the Bombay High Court (1878), the Public Works Department Office (1872), Watson’s Hotel (1869), David Sasoon Library (1870) and the Elphinstone College(1888), among others.

The Oval Maidan in south Mumbai is unique in many respects. The legendary cricketing ground separates two radically different genres of Mumbai's architectural evolution.

It forms a spectacular and unique urban scenario, with an expanse of open space between the 19th century Victorian Gothic buildings of the Bombay High Court, University and Old Secretariat to its east and the 20th-century development of the Art Deco of the Backbay Reclamation Scheme and Marine Drive to the west.

The Art Deco styled buildings is situated to the west of the Oval Maidan and were raised in an early 20th century on the newly reclaimed lands at Marine Drive and "symbolised the shift in expression to represent contemporary aspirations".

India now has overall 37 World Heritage Inscriptions, with 29 cultural, 7 natural and 1 mixed sites. While India stands second largest in number after China in terms of a number of World Heritage properties in the Asia and Pacific region, it is overall sixth in the world.

Commenting on this, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said," This achievement is expected to give a tremendous fillip to domestic and international tourism leading to increased employment generation, the creation of world-class infrastructure and augmentation of sale of local handicrafts, handlooms and heritage memorabilia," he said.

The two other heritage structures in Mumbai are the Chattarapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus and the Elephanta caves.

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Mumbai gets another UNESCO heritage tag

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