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UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages in India

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages in India short notes for UPSC Prelims, State PSCs Prelims and Other Examinations.

UNESCO in 2003, adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. This defined intangible cultural heritage as:

  • “Practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated with the communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognized as part of their cultural heritage.” 

The aim of this convention is:

  • To raise awareness and respect for intangible cultural heritage
  • To encourage international cooperation for its preservation and transmission. 

Since then, UNESCO has been working with the countries of the world to identify and preserve their intangible cultural heritage.

Following list contains the Intangible Cultural Heritages in India recognized by UNESCO and the year in  which they were included in the list:

1. The tradition of Vedic chanting

  • Chanting of Sanskrit mantras mentioned in various vedas(There are four Vedas – Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda, Atharva Veda)
  • Included in 2008

2. Ramlila(The traditional performance of the Ramayana)

  • Re-enactment of God Shri Rama’s life according to Ramayana in a stage performance
  • Generally performed across northern India during the Dussehra festival
  • Included in 2008

3. Kutiyattam(A sanskrit theater)

  • One of the oldest living Sanskrit  theatrical arts in Kerala.
  • It has a structured and codified dramatic language, with emphasis on Netra Abhinaya (eye expression) and Hasta Abhinaya (the language of gestures).
  • Performances are done very elaborately and precisely hence, becoming a performer needs 10-15 years of intensive training.
  • Included in 2008

4. Ramman

  • A religious festival and ritual theater of the Garhwal Himalayas
  • It is celebrated by the Garhwali people in Uttarakhand villages to honor the local governing god called ‘Bhumiyal Devta’.
  • Included in 2009.

5. Mudiyettu

  • A ritual theater and dance drama of Kerala
  • Theatrical performance enacts the mythological story of Goddess Kali’s battle with the demon Darika.
  • It is performed in the Bhadrakali shrines of Kerala(locally known as ‘Bhagavati Kavus’).
  • Included in 2010

6. Kalbelia 

  • Folk songs and dances performed by Kalbelias, a snake charming tribe in Thar desert, Rajasthan.
  • Particularly performed during Holi.
  • The performer wears  jewelry, clothes elaborately embroidered with small mirrors and silver thread, traditional tattoos etc.
  • Included in 2010

7. Chhau dance

  • Semi classical dance with martial arts and folk traditions
  • Recreates scenes from epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana
  • Various styles:
    • Purulia Chhau
    • Saraikela Chhau
    • Mayurbhanj Chhau
  • Included in 2010

8. Buddhist chanting of Ladakh

  • Recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in the Ladakh region.
  • Buddhist priests recite Lord Buddha’s teachings and philosophy in the form of hymns in the monasteries of the region.
  • Performed by various local Buddhist sects such as Kagyud, Nyingma, Geluk, and Shakya.
  • Included in 2012

9. Sankirtana

  • Ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur
  • Mainly performed by Manipur’s Vaishnava community
  • Depict the stories and episodes from Lord Krishna’s life
  • Included in 2013

10. Utensil making among the Thatheras 

  • Thateras are an artisan caste of Jandiala Guru, Punjab who makes brass and copper craft utensils using traditional methods.
  • This metalworking tradition among the Thateras has been passing through the generations
  • Included in 2014

11. Yoga

  • An ancient Indian practice to unite the mind, body and spirit through the exercises and meditation.
  • Consists of a series of ‘Asanas(Body postures)’, having controlled breathing patterns and meditation that are designed to improve the body and the mind.
  • Recognizing its universal appeal, on 11 December 2014, the United Nations proclaimed 21 June as the International Day of Yoga.
  • Included in 2016

12. Nowruz

  • A festival celebrated by the Parsi community on the occasion of New Year with a variety of rites, rituals and cultural activities.
  • It is celebrated in multiple countries, including India.
  • Included in 2016.

13. Kumbh Mela

  • World’s largest religious congregation to take a sacred bath in the river by pilgrims.
  • Celebrated every four years alternatively in Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik.
  • Included in 2017

14. Durga Puja in Kolkata 

  • Festival of mother-goddess Durga 
  • Included in 2021

15. Garba of Gujarat

  • A form of Gujarati folk dance performed during the nine-day Hindu festival Navratri.
  • Included in 2023

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