Puducherry's quest for UNESCO World Heritage City title

Synopsis: To qualify for a UNESCO world heritage city, a city should not only be developed but also need to maintain its rich heritage and history, which show the true identity of the locals. In India, presently there are two cities with this tag, i.e., Ahmedabad and Jaipur.

According to recent reports, Puducherry is in a bid to get the most prestigious tag that a city could have, i.e., the UNESCO World Heritage City tag. After hearing this, you must have some questions in your mind, like, "What makes a city a heritage city?" How is a heritage city different from any other city? Can any city become a heritage city? and so on. So, let’s dig deep and learn more about how any city gets the title of UNESCO World Heritage City.

What is a UNESCO World Heritage City?

A UNESCO World Heritage City is a location that has been recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for its cultural or natural significance and has been added to the World Heritage List. The goal of the World Heritage List is to recognize and protect places that have great value for everyone and are important to the history of humanity as a whole.

Criteria to get the ‘UNESCO World Heritage City’ tag:

A location must meet one of the following criteria to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage City.

  1. Represent a masterpiece of human creative genius: The city should display a significant development in architecture or town planning and should be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history.

  1. Exhibit an important interchange of human values: The city should bear unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization that is still living or has disappeared. It should provide evidence of cultural exchange, influences or a mixture of styles that had a profound influence on the development of human values.

  1. Be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history: The city should be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.

  1. Be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance: The city should be associated with the ideas and beliefs of the people who created it, with significant artistic or literary works, or with historical events that have had a significant impact on human civilization.

  1. Contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance: The city should be located in an exceptional natural landscape, and should contain geological formations, natural features or areas of exceptional natural beauty that are of exceptional universal value.

Overall, the city must have great value for everyone and meet at least one of the above requirements. Also, the city needs to have the right protection and conservation measures in place to keep its value for future generations.

With the points raised above, it is clear that in order to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage City, they must develop the entire city, not just some of its monuments or places. 

Why does Puducherry want to get the UNESCO World Heritage City tag?

Puducherry, of course, is a great place where you will get to see a fascinating blend of Tamil and colonial essence.   

Its history dates back to the 2nd century AD when it was a part of the Pallava Kingdom. In the 17th century, the city was acquired by the French East India Company and became a major trading hub for spices, textiles, and other commodities. The French influence can still be seen in the city's architecture, food, and culture.

Foreign tourists are a common sight in Puducherry’s historic French colonial neighborhoods. However, not all of the foreign faces are those of travelers. Most of them have been living in Puducherry for many generations and are locals. Thousands of tourists are attracted to the area not only because of the people but also because of the atmosphere and old French architecture.

According to UNESCO's Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, "UNESCO takes into consideration not just the built heritage, but also intangible heritage, such as the cultural value, of the place."

To be named a UNESCO World Heritage City, a place must meet certain criteria, such as being a masterpiece of human creativity, showing an important exchange of human values, being a great example of a certain type of building, or being directly linked to important events or living traditions.

Puducherry is a city that truly embodies all of these criteria. Its architecture, which is a mix of colonial and traditional Indian styles, shows how its French and Indian cultures come together in a unique way. The city's vibrant street life, cuisine, and religious practices are also an important part of its heritage.

However it’s still a question, Can Puducherry able to maintain its architectural and intangible heritage and win the bid to get the prestigious UNESCO World Heritage City tag?