UNESCO Current Affairs

Okinoshima Island: Japan’s men-only island gets UNESCO heritage tag

Okinoshima Island, Japan’s men-only island was declared as a UNESCO world heritage site. The island will be the 17th set of Japanese cultural assets to be granted this status and overall 21st in the list.

The island is part of the prefecture’s Munakata region. It is located in south-west Japan between the main island of Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula in the Sea of Japan (East Sea). It still follow strict taboos from ancient times, including the controversial ban on women from entering the island

Okinoshima Island

Okinoshima Island is an ancient religious site in Japan that is considered sacred by the local Munakata Taisha. Entries of women are strictly banned on the island. Even male visitors need to take off their clothes and take a naked bath (purifying bath) before visiting the shrine.

It is permanently manned by a Shinto priest who prays the island’s goddess, in a tradition that has been kept up for centuries. The entire island is considered a Shinto Kami, an ethnic religion of Japan that focuses on ritual practices to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present-day Japan and its ancient past. Kami are the spirits or phenomena that are worshipped in the religion of Shinto.

The island covers an area of 240 acres and has a maximum elevation of 244 m. Since ancient times, it was an important window for foreign trade in Japan, forming part of a trade route that linked the archipelago to the Korean peninsula and China.

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Walled City of Ahmedabad designated as India’s first World Heritage City

The 600-year-old Walled City of Ahmedabad was declared World Heritage City by the World Heritage Committee (WHC) of UNESCO after it met in Karlow, Poland. It is first Indian city get the honour.

The Walled City of Ahmedabad is located on the eastern banks of Sabarmati river. It presents a rich architectural heritage from the sultanate period, notably the Bhadra citadel, walls and gates of the Fort city and numerous mosques and tombs, as well as important Hindu and Jain temples of later periods. It will be third city from the Indian subcontinent to enjoy this status along with Bhaktapur in Nepal and Galle in Sri Lanka.

Background

The nomination of Ahmedabad was supported by about 20 countries including Turkey, Tunisia, Lebanon, Peru, Portugal, Croatia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, South Korea, Croatia, Cuba and Poland. Earlier, the committee also added Asmara (capital of Eritrea), added Hebron-Al Khalil Old Town (Palestine) and W-Arly-Pendjari Complex (Benin, Burkina Faso) to the list.

About Walled City of Ahmedabad

The Walled City of Ahmedabad was founded by Sultan Ahmed Shah I of Gujarat Sultanate in in 1411. It remained the capital of the Gujarat Sultanate and later important political and commercial centre of Gujarat.

It was established as a product of the Sultan’s ambitions to create a trading rival to the neighbouring Hindu trade centre of Asaval. Further, he made Ahmedabad centre of his own line of dynasty and replaced the old capital of Anhilvad Patan, located nearby.

Ahmed Shah I had laid the foundation of Bhadra Fort starting from Manek Burj, the first bastion of the city in 1411 which was completed in 1413. During Mughal rule, Bhadra Fort served as the seat of Governor of Gujarat

The richness of architecture present in Ahmedabad is enhanced by the cultural fusion of Hindu and Muslim elements. The city also holds rare distinction of being one of the oldest trading points in India and also centres of Indian freedom struggle under Mahatma Gandhi.

Spread over 5.43 square kilometres, the city now has approximate population of four lakh, living in century old wooden residences in around 600 pols or neighbourhoods. Today, despite having become extremely crowded and dilapidated, it still serves as the symbolic heart of metropolitan Ahmedabad.

About World Heritage Cities Programme

It is one of six thematic programmes formally approved and monitored by the WHC. It aims to assist state parties in the challenges of protecting and managing their urban heritage. The programme is structured along a two-way process (i) development of a theoretical framework for urban heritage conservation, and (ii) provision of technical assistance to States Parties for the implementation of new approaches and schemes.

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