Durga Puja: UNESCO’s ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ List


    In News

    • The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has inscribed ‘Durga Puja in Kolkata’ on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


    • In total, 14 Intangible Cultural Heritage elements from the country have now been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List.
      • Earlier, UNESCO announced the Harappan city of Dholavira in Gujarat as India’s 40th world heritage site.
    • The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity has 492 elements currently. 
    • Durga Puja: 
      • It is a five-day festival that begins on the fifth night of the nine-day Navratri festival and ends on the tenth day, which is Dashami. During this time, people collectively worship and invoke Goddess Durga, who is regarded as the feminine energy of the cosmos, also known as ‘Shakti’.
      • Though originating in West Bengal, which has the largest Bengali community in the country, the festival is celebrated in many other parts of India, and also the world.

    What is Intangible Cultural Heritage?

    • As per UNESCO, Intangible Cultural Heritage includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.
    • UNESCO established its Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage with the aim of ensuring better protection of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and the awareness of their significance.
    • The list was established in 2008 when the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage took effect.


    • This inscription will offer encouragement to the local communities that celebrate Durga Puja, including all the traditional craftspeople, designers, artists, and organizers of large-scale cultural events, as well as tourists and visitors who partake in the inclusive festivity that is Durga Puja.
    • Earlier this year (2021), the British Council in India had mapped the creative economy of Durga Puja to over Rs. 32,000 crore for the year 2019 and added that the festival contributes 2.58% of West Bengal’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

    United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

    • UNESCO was formed in 1945, is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris.
    • It works for achieving peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.
    • It has 195 member states and ten associate members. India is a founding member of the Organisation.
      • In 2019, the USA and Israel formally left UNESCO.

    Intangible Cultural Heritage elements from India 


    Buddhist Chanting

    • Sacred texts chanted by the Buddhist lamas (priests) in the Ladakh region. 


    • It is a folk dance of Rajasthan state of India. It is well known by other names like ‘Sapera Dance’ or ‘Snake Charmer Dance’
    • Kalbelia dance is particularly performed by a Rajasthani tribe called ‘Kalbelia‘.

    Chhau Dance

    • Chhau is a major dance tradition of eastern India. 
    • It is prevalent in the tribal belt of the bordering areas of the provinces of Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal in eastern India. There are three distinct forms of Chhau:
      • (i) Seraikela Chhau of Jharkhand
      • (ii) Mayurbhanj Chhau of Orissa
      • iii) Purulia Chhau of West Bengal


    • Kutiyattam is the Sanskrit theatre, which is practised in the province of Kerala, is one of India’s oldest living theatrical traditions. 

    Kumbh Mela

    • It is a religious festival that is celebrated four times over the course of 12 years.
    • The site of the observance rotating between four pilgrimage places on four sacred rivers—at Haridwar on the Ganges River, at Ujjain on the Shipra, at Nashik on the Godavari, and at Prayag (modern Prayagraj) at the confluence of the Ganges, the Jamuna, and the mythical Sarasvati.


    • It is a ritual art form performed to appease Goddess Kali (called Durga, in many other places) prevalent in South Kerala and Kochi. 


    • Nawruz, literally “new day,” is the Iranian holiday that celebrates the beginning of spring. 
    • Nawruz was observed in Zoroastrian Persia.


    • It is a “Rama’s play”, a performance of then Ramayana epic in a series of scenes that include song, narration, recital and dialogue. It is performed across northern India during the festival of Dussehra.


    • Popular Festival of Garhwal Region Of Uttarakhand.


    • Ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur.

    Traditional Brass & Copper Craft

    • The craft of the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru constitutes the traditional technique of manufacturing brass and copper utensils in Punjab.

    Vedic Chanting

    The verses of the Vedas were traditionally chanted during sacred rituals. 


    The art of unifying the mind with the body for greater, spiritual, mental and physical well being.

    Source: IE