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World Heritage Day 2022 | Celebrating India's intangible cultural heritage

World Heritage Day observed on April 18 every year to promote awareness about the diversity of cultural heritage of humanity, its vulnerability and the efforts required to conserve it. Let’s take a look at Unesco’s list of the intangible cultural heritage elements from India

April 18, 2022 / 01:26 PM IST
Durga Puja | Inscribed in 2021 | The annual festival marks the ten-day worship of Hindu mother-goddess Durga. The festival is celebrated in many parts of India but most notably in Kolkata, West Bengal. In months preceding the festival, artisans sculpt images of Durga busing unfired clay and the worship begins on the inaugural day of Mahalaya, when eyes are painted on the sculpture to bring the goddess to life. The festival celebration includes large-scale installations, traditional Bengali drumming and venerations of the goddess. The festival is celebrated with great fervor and large number of crowds is seen in pavilions to admire the installations. (Image: Reuters)
Durga Puja | Inscribed in 2021 | The annual festival marks the ten-day worship of Hindu mother-goddess Durga. The festival is celebrated in many parts of India but most notably in Kolkata, West Bengal. In months preceding the festival, artisans sculpt images of Durga busing unfired clay and the worship begins on the inaugural day of Mahalaya, when eyes are painted on the sculpture to bring the goddess to life. The celebration includes large-scale installations, traditional Bengali drumming and venerations of the goddess. The festival is celebrated with great fervour and big crowds are seen in pavilions to admire the installations. (Image: Reuters)
Kumbh Mela | Inscribed in 2017 | The festival of the sacred pitcher is a major pilgrimage and witness the largest congregation of pilgrims on earth. During the festival devotees bathe in scarfed Ganga river which they believe frees one from sins liberation her/him from the cycle of birth and death. The festival is held at Prayagraj, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik every four years by rotation and is attended by millions of people. Kumbh Mela plays a central spiritual role in the country, exerting a mesmeric influence on ordinary Indians. The event involves different social and cultural activities as it held in four different cities in India, making it a culturally diverse festival. (Image: AFP)
Kumbh Mela | Inscribed in 2017 | The festival of the sacred pitcher is a major pilgrimage and witness the largest congregation of pilgrims on earth. During the festival, devotees bathe in scarfed Ganga river which they believe frees one from sins, liberating from the cycle of birth and death. The festival is held at Prayagraj, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik every four years by rotation and is attended by millions of people. Kumbh Mela plays a central spiritual role in the country, exerting a mesmeric influence on Indians. The event involves different social and cultural activities as it is held in four different cities in India, making it a culturally diverse festival. (Image: AFP)
Navruz | Inscribed in 2016 | The festival is celebrated in many countries including India to mark the beginning of new year. It is referred to as Nauryz, Navruz, Nawrouz, Nevruz, Nooruz, Novruz, Nowrouz or Nowruz meaning ‘new day’ when a variety of rituals, ceremonies and other cultural events take place for a period of about two weeks. An important tradition practised during this time is the gathering around ‘the Table’, decorated with objects that symbolize purity, brightness, livelihood and wealth, to enjoy a special meal with loved ones. Wearing new clothes, exchanging gifts, street performance, public rituals and many more practices support cultural diversity and tolerance and contribute to building community solidarity and peace. (Source: UNESCO)
Navruz | Inscribed in 2016 | The festival is celebrated in many countries including India to mark the beginning of the new year. It is referred to as Nauryz, Navruz, Nawrouz, Nevruz, Nooruz, Novruz, Nowrouz or Nowruz meaning "new day" when a variety of rituals, ceremonies and other cultural events take place for a period of about two weeks. An important tradition practised during this time is the gathering around ‘the Table’, decorated with objects that symbolise purity, brightness, livelihood and wealth, to enjoy a special meal with loved ones. Wearing new clothes, exchanging gifts, street performance, public rituals and many more practices support cultural diversity and tolerance and contribute to building community solidarity and peace. (Source: UNESCO)
Yoga | Inscribed in 2016 | The ancient Indian practice of yoga has influenced various aspects of the society in India. Yoga is based on unifying the mind with the body and soul to allow for greater mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing. The values of yoga form a major part of community’s ethos and involves series of poses, meditation, controlled breathing, word chanting and other techniques.
Yoga | Inscribed in 2016 | The ancient Indian practice of yoga has influenced various aspects of society in India. Yoga is based on unifying the mind with the body and soul to allow for greater mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing. The values of yoga form a major part of the community’s ethos and involve a series of poses, meditation, controlled breathing, word chanting and other techniques.
Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab | Inscribed in 2014 | The craft of the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru constitutes the traditional technique of manufacturing brass and copper utensils in Punjab. The metals used – copper, brass and certain alloys – are believed to be beneficial for health. The process begins with procuring cooled cakes of metal that are flattened into thin plates and then hammered into curved shapes, creating the required small bowls, rimmed plates, to larger pots for water and milk, huge cooking vessels and other artefacts. The process of manufacturing is transmitted orally from father to son. Metalwork is not simply a form of livelihood for Thatheras, but it defines their family and kinship structure, work ethic and status within the social hierarchy of the town. (Source: UNESCO)
Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab | Inscribed in 2014 | The craft of the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru constitutes the traditional technique of manufacturing brass and copper utensils in Punjab. The metals used—copper, brass and certain alloys—are believed to be beneficial for health. The process begins with procuring cooled cakes of metal that are flattened into thin plates and then hammered into curved shapes, creating the required small bowls, rimmed plates, to larger pots for water and milk, huge cooking vessels and other artefacts. The process of manufacturing is transmitted orally from father to son. Metalwork is not simply a form of livelihood for Thatheras but it defines their family and kinship structure, work ethic and status within the social hierarchy of the town. (Source: UNESCO)
Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur | Inscribed in 2013 | Sankirtana encompasses an array of arts performed to mark religious occasions and various stages in the life of the Vaishnava people of the Manipur plains. Sankirtana practices centre on the temple, where performers narrate the lives and deeds of Krishna through song and dance. The Sankirtana of Manipur is a vibrant practice promoting an organic relationship with people: the whole society is involved in its safeguarding, with the specific knowledge and skills traditionally transmitted from mentor to disciple. Sankirtana works in harmony with the natural world, whose presence is acknowledged through its many rituals. (Source: UNESCO)
Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur | Inscribed in 2013 | Sankirtana encompasses an array of arts performed to mark religious occasions and various stages in the life of the Vaishnava people of the Manipur plains. Sankirtana is practiced centre of the temple, where performers narrate the lives and deeds of Krishna through song and dance. The Sankirtana of Manipur is a vibrant practice promoting an organic relationship with people: the whole society is involved in its safeguarding, with the specific knowledge and skills traditionally transmitted from mentor to disciple. Sankirtana works in harmony with the natural world, whose presence is acknowledged through its many rituals. (Source: UNESCO)
Buddhist chanting of Ladakh: recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in the trans-Himalayan Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir | Inscribed in 2012 | In the monasteries and villages of the Ladakh region, Buddhist lamas (priests) chant sacred texts representing the spirit, philosophy and teachings of the Buddha. Two forms of Buddhism are practised in Ladakh – Mahayana and Vajrayana – and there are four major sects, namely Nyngma, Kagyud, Shakya and Geluk. Each sect has several forms of chanting, practised during life-cycle rituals and on important days in the Buddhist and agrarian calendars. Chanting is undertaken for the spiritual and moral well-being of the people, for purification and peace of mind, to appease the wrath of evil spirits or to invoke the blessing of various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, deities and rinpoches. (Source: UNESCO)
Buddhist chanting of Ladakh | Inscribed in 2012 | In the monasteries and villages of the Ladakh region, Buddhist lamas (priests) chant sacred texts representing the spirit, philosophy and teachings of the Buddha. Two forms of Buddhism are practised in Ladakh—Mahayana and Vajrayana—and there are four major sects, namely Nyngma, Kagyud, Shakya and Geluk. Each sect has several forms of chanting, practised during life-cycle rituals and on important days in the Buddhist and agrarian calendars. Chanting is undertaken for the spiritual and moral well-being of the people, for purification and peace of mind, to appease the wrath of evil spirits or to invoke the blessing of various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, deities and rinpoches. (Source: UNESCO)
Chhau dance | Inscribed in 2010 | Tradition from eastern India enacts episodes from epics including the Mahabharata and Ramayana, local folklore and abstract themes. Chhau dance is intimately connected to regional festivals, notably the spring festival Chaitra Parva. Chhau is taught to male dancers from families of traditional artists or from local communities. The dance is performed at night in an open space to traditional and folk melodies, played on the reed pipes mohuri and shehnai. The reverberating drumbeats of a variety of drums dominate the accompanying music ensemble. Chhau is an integral part of the culture of these communities. It binds together people from different social strata and ethnic background with diverse social practices, beliefs, professions and languages. (Source: UNESCO)
Chhau dance | Inscribed in 2010 | This tradition from eastern India enacts episodes from epics including the Mahabharata and Ramayana, local folklore and abstract themes. Chhau dance is intimately connected to regional festivals, notably the spring festival Chaitra Parva. Chhau is taught to male dancers from families of traditional artists or from local communities. The dance is performed at night in an open space to traditional and folk melodies, played on the reed pipes mohuri and shehnai. The reverberating drumbeats of a variety of drums dominate the accompanying music ensemble. Chhau is an integral part of the culture of these communities. It binds together people from different social strata and ethnic background with diverse social practices, beliefs, professions and languages. (Source: UNESCO)
 Kalbelia folk songs and dances of Rajasthan | Inscribed in 2010 |  Songs and dances are an expression of the Kalbelia community’s traditional way of life. Once professional snake handlers, Kalbelia today evoke their former occupation in music and dance that is evolving in new and creative ways. Today, women in flowing black skirts dance and swirl, replicating the movements of a serpent, while men accompany them on the khanjari percussion instrument and the poongi, a woodwind instrument traditionally played to capture snakes. Transmitted from generation to generation, the songs and dances form part of an oral tradition for which no texts or training manuals exist. Song and dance are a matter of pride for the Kalbelia community, and a marker of their identity at a time when their traditional travelling lifestyle and role in rural society are diminishing. They demonstrate their community’s attempt to revitalize its cultural heritage and adapt it to changing socioeconomic conditions. (Source: UNESCO)
Kalbelia folk songs and dances of Rajasthan | Inscribed in 2010 | Songs and dances are an expression of the Kalbelia community’s traditional way of life. Once professional snake handlers, Kalbelia today evoke their former occupation in music and dance that is evolving in new and creative ways. Today, women in flowing black skirts dance and swirl, replicating the movements of a serpent, while men accompany them on the khanjari percussion instrument and the poongi, a woodwind instrument traditionally played to capture snakes. Transmitted from generation to generation, the songs and dances form part of an oral tradition for which no texts or training manuals exist. Song and dance are a matter of pride for the Kalbelia community, and a marker of their identity at a time when their traditional travelling lifestyle and role in rural society are diminishing. They demonstrate their community’s attempt to revitalize its cultural heritage and adapt it to changing socioeconomic conditions. (Source: UNESCO)
Mudiyettu, ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala | Inscribed in 2010 | Mudiyettu is a ritual dance drama from Kerala based on the mythological tale of a battle between the goddess Kali and the demon Darika. It is a community ritual in which the entire village participates. After the summer crops have been harvested, the villagers reach the temple in the early morning on an appointed day. Mudiyettu performers purify themselves through fasting and prayer, then draw a huge image of goddess Kali, called as kalam, on the temple floor with coloured powders, wherein the spirit of the goddess is invoked. Mudiyettu is performed annually in ‘Bhagavati Kavus’, the temples of the goddess, in different villages along the rivers Chalakkudy Puzha, Periyar and Moovattupuzha. Mutual cooperation and collective participation of each caste in the ritual instils and strengthens common identity and mutual bonding in the community. Mudiyettu serves as an important cultural site for transmission of traditional values, ethics, moral codes and aesthetic norms of the community to the next generation, thereby ensuring its continuity and relevance in present times. (Source: UNESCO)
Mudiyettu, ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala | Inscribed in 2010 | Mudiyettu is a ritual dance drama from Kerala based on the mythological tale of a battle between the goddess Kali and the demon Darika. It is a community ritual in which the entire village participates. After the summer crops have been harvested, the villagers reach the temple in the early morning on an appointed day. Mudiyettu performers purify themselves through fasting and prayer then draw a huge image of goddess Kali, called as kalam, on the temple floor with coloured powders, wherein the spirit of the goddess is invoked. Mudiyettu is performed annually in ‘Bhagavati Kavus’, the temples of the goddess, in different villages along the rivers Chalakkudy Puzha, Periyar and Moovattupuzha. Mutual cooperation and collective participation of each caste in the ritual instills and strengthens common identity and mutual bonding in the community. Mudiyettu serves as an important cultural site for the transmission of traditional values, ethics, moral codes and aesthetic norms of the community to the next generation, thereby ensuring its continuity and relevance in present times. (Source: UNESCO)
Ramman, religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas | Inscribed in 2009 | Every year in late April, the twin villages of Saloor-Dungra in the state of Uttarakhand (northern India) are marked by Ramman, a religious festival in honour of the tutelary god, Bhumiyal Devta, a local divinity whose temple houses most of the festivities. This event is made up of highly complex rituals: the recitation of a version of the epic of Rama and various legends, and the performance of songs and masked dances. The festival is organized by villagers, and each caste and occupational group has a distinct role. Combining theatre, music, historical reconstructions, and traditional oral and written tales, the Ramman is a multiform cultural event that reflects the environmental, spiritual and cultural concept of the community, recounting its founding myths and strengthening its sense of self-worth. (Source: UNESCO)
Ramman, religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas | Inscribed in 2009 | Every year in late April, the twin villages of Saloor-Dungra in the state of Uttarakhand are marked by Ramman, a religious festival in honour of the tutelary god, Bhumiyal Devta, a local divinity whose temple houses most of the festivities. This event is made up of highly complex rituals: the recitation of a version of the epic of Rama and various legends, and the performance of songs and masked dances. The festival is organised by villagers, and each caste and occupational group has a distinct role. Combining theatre, music, historical reconstructions, and traditional oral and written tales, the Ramman is a multiform cultural event that reflects the environmental, spiritual and cultural concept of the community, recounting its founding myths and strengthening its sense of self-worth. (Source: UNESCO)
Kutiyattam, Sanskrit theatre | Inscribed in 2008 | Kutiyattam, Sanskrit theatre, which is practised in the province of Kerala, is one of India’s oldest living theatrical traditions. Originating more than 2,000 years ago, Kutiyattam represents a synthesis of Sanskrit classicism and reflects the local traditions of Kerala. Kutiyattam is traditionally performed in theatres called Kuttampalams, which are located in Hindu temples. (Source: UNESCO)
Kutiyattam, Sanskrit theatre | Inscribed in 2008 | Kutiyattam, Sanskrit theatre, which is practised in Kerala, is one of India’s oldest living theatrical traditions. Originating more than 2,000 years ago, Kutiyattam represents a synthesis of Sanskrit classicism and reflects the local traditions of Kerala. Kutiyattam is traditionally performed in theatres called Kuttampalams, which are located in Hindu temples. (Source: UNESCO)
Ramlila, the traditional performance of the Ramayana | Inscribed in 2008 | Ramlila is 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. The Ramlila brings the whole population together, without distinction of caste, religion or age. All the villagers participate spontaneously, playing roles or taking part in a variety of related activities, such as mask- and costume making, and preparing make-up, effigies and lights. (Source: UNESCO)
Ramlila, the traditional performance of the Ramayan | Inscribed in 2008 | Ramlila is a performance of the Ramayan epic in a series of scenes that include song, narration, recital and dialogue. It is performed across northern India during the festival of Dussehra. The Ramlila brings the whole population together, without distinction of caste, religion or age. All the villagers participate spontaneously, playing roles or taking part in a variety of related activities, such as mask- and costume making, and preparing make-up, effigies and lights. (Source: UNESCO)
Tradition of Vedic chanting | Inscribed in 2008 | The Vedas comprise a vast corpus of Sanskrit poetry, philosophical dialogue, myth, and ritual incantations developed and composed by Aryans over 3,500 years ago. Regarded by Hindus as the primary source of knowledge and the sacred foundation of their religion, the Vedas embody one of the world’s oldest surviving cultural traditions. The Vedic heritage embraces a multitude of texts and interpretations collected in four Vedas - the Rig Veda (an anthology of sacred hymns); the Sama Veda (features musical arrangements of hymns from the Rig Veda and other sources); the Yajur Veda (abounds in prayers and sacrificial formulae used by priests); and the Atharna Veda (includes incantations and spells) - commonly referred to as “books of knowledge” even though they have been transmitted orally. Expressed in the Vedic language, which is derived from classical Sanskrit, the verses of the Vedas were traditionally chanted during sacred rituals and recited daily in Vedic communities. (Source: UNESCO)
The tradition of Vedic chanting | Inscribed in 2008 | The Vedas comprise a vast corpus of Sanskrit poetry, philosophical dialogue, myth, and ritual incantations developed and composed by Aryans over 3,500 years ago. Regarded by Hindus as the primary source of knowledge and the sacred foundation of their religion, the Vedas embody one of the world’s oldest surviving cultural traditions. The Vedic heritage embraces a multitude of texts and interpretations collected in four Vedas—the Rig Veda (an anthology of sacred hymns), the Sama Veda (features musical arrangements of hymns from the Rig Veda and other sources); the Yajur Veda (abounds in prayers and sacrificial formulae used by priests) and the Atharva Veda (includes incantations and spells) - commonly referred to as “books of knowledge” even though they have been transmitted orally. Expressed in the Vedic language, which is derived from classical Sanskrit, the verses of the Vedas were traditionally chanted during sacred rituals and recited daily in Vedic communities. (Source: UNESCO)
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