Monday 8 April 2019

Kolkata’s Durga Puja may get UNESCO heritage status

The festival is India’s official nomination for the 2020 edition of the Intangible Cultural Heritage list

India’s apex cultural body, the Sangeet Natak Akademi, has nominated Kolkata’s iconic Durga Puja celebrations to be included in UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) for the year 2020.

Why Durga Puja?
Every year, UNESCO adds to its list of ICH cultural traditions and arts from around the world, either as ‘In Need of Urgent Safeguarding’ or in its ‘Representative List of ICH of Humanity’. India’s nominees are proposed by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, which was appointed as the nodal agency for ICH by the Union Ministry of Culture in 2011. The proposal is expected to outline, among other things, the entry’s social functions and cultural significance in its community, how its inscription on the list will contribute to its visibility and dialogue among its various stakeholders and relevant communities.

In its nomination of Durga Puja for the Representative List, the SNA stated that: “Durga Puja is the best instance of the public performance of religion and art in the city. It witnesses a celebration of craftsmanship, cross-cultural transactions and cross-community revelry. The manner in which the festival is enmeshed in a web of competition and consumption, accelerated by the winning of accolades, secures its secular identity, embedding it in the contemporary global cultures of touring, spectacle, and entertainment. The exemplary character of Durga Puja lies in its ability to not temporally bound itself to the ritual occasion. Its dynamism lies in it being a constantly mutating event – in its fusion of tradition with changing tastes and popular cultures, and in the adaptation of the iconographies of Durga and the styles of her temporary abodes to cater to new regimes of art production.”

India’s entries on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list
India currently has 13 ICH on the list, including the Kumbh Mela, which was added in 2017, yoga (2016), the dance forms of Chhau, Kalbelia and Mudiyettu (2010), Vedic and Buddhist chanting (2008 and 2012) and the tradition of brass and copper utensil making in Punjab’s Jandiala Guru (2014). All of these are on the UN’s Representative List.

In addition, there are a number of elements that have been nominated to the Representative List by the SNA over the years, but have not yet been selected by UNESCO. These include Qawwali, turban tying in Rajasthan, Kalamkari and Phad paintings, the art of Kolam, Patola textiles and Nautanki theatre.

(Source: CN Traveller)

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