In an important announcement, the Intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO’s 2003 Convention on Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage has inscribed ‘Durga Puja in Kolkata’ on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during its 16th session being held at Paris, France from 13th to 18th December 2021. The Committee commended Durga Puja for its initiatives to involve marginalized groups, and individuals as well as women in their participation in safeguarding the element.
PM Narendra Modi has hailed UNESCO’s decision as a “matter of great pride and joy for every Indian”. The Union Minister for Tourism and Culture, G Kishan Reddy, in a tweet said that this is a recognition of the confluence of our rich heritage, culture, rituals and practices and a celebration of the feminine divinity and the spirit of womanhood.
Durga Puja not only is a celebration of the feminine divinity but is a consummate expression of dance, music, crafts, rituals, practices culinary and cultural aspects. The festival transcends the boundaries of caste, creed and economic classes and joins the people together in its celebration.
With the inscription of Durga Puja in Kolkata, India now has 14 intangible cultural heritage elements on the prestigious UNESCO Representative List of ICH of Humanity. In recent years, the ICH elements that saw inscriptions areKumbh Mela (inscribed 2017), Yoga (inscribed 2016) among others. India is a signatory of the 2003 UNESCO Convention which aims for the Safeguarding of the Intangible of theIntangible Heritage along with traditions and living expression. Intangible cultural heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated with them that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as a part of their cultural heritage. Furthermore, its importance is not in the cultural manifestation itself, but in the wealth of knowledge, know-how and skills that are transmitted from one generation to the next.