The Ministry of Culture has implemented several schemes to provide financial assistance to artists and institutions in order to promote and preserve cultural heritage.

The famous Durga Puja of Kolkata which arrests tourists from all over the world and is celebrated with great enthusiasm by Bengalis around the world marking the time of the year as “Homecoming”, has been included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage meets for its nearly sixteenth session from December 13-18, with members hailing Durga Puja for her initiative to engage marginalized groups and individuals. India now has 14 “Intangible Cultural Heritage” items on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage including yoga and the Kumbh Mela.

Eric Falt, Director of UNESCO in New Delhi expressed confidence that this inclusion would encourage local communities celebrating Durga Puja including artists, artisans, organizers as well as visitors.

Durga Puja in Kolkata

Durga puja is the largest religious festival for the Hindu Bengali community across the world. Although celebrated in Tripura, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odish, Delhi and Maharashtra, the four-day heart of Sharodutsav is in Kolkata which begins with Devi-baron in ‘Sasthi’ i.e. the sixth day of Navratri and ends with Bisarjan or Dussehra.

More than 3000 Durga Puja communities are organized with great enthusiasm which includes pandal building, decoration with lights, puja and bhog distribution. The UNESCO site considers Durga Puja the “best insurance” for art and religion and a thriving platform for designers and artists. Moreover, large-scale installations in the urban space, veneration of the goddess, and traditional Bengali drumming characterize the festival that transcends caste, ethnicity and religion, says UNESCO.

The government of Mamata Banerjee has been organizing the Durga Puja Carnival since 2016 in which it parades the popular pujas from Kolkata and nearby areas on the Red Road to attract global attention. Moreover, financial assistance of Rs 50,000 was given to Jan Durga Puja. Likewise, organizers have been assured that they can use electricity for individuals at half the price of the four-day celebration.

Comartoli craftsmen on UNESCO mark

Kumartuli is a 3000 year old clay designer center in Kolkata who designs Durga idols and even exports them to other parts of the world. The makers of the idol in Comartoli, with the new UNESCO sign, hope to renovate the infrastructure, working conditions and civic facilities.

The artisans also hoped for more organized and organized ceremonies. Kartik Paul, spokesperson for Kumartuli Mritshilpi Samity told PTI that an event will be organized for the future roadmap. The craftsmen also look forward to repairing the infrastructure of Comartoli which lies under narrow lanes, and the cramped studios which pose particular challenges during the rainy season to protect the idols.

How is the intangible cultural heritage included in the UNESCO List

States Parties shall submit nomination files on the component relevant to the assessment and examination of the UNESCO Committee. Nomination files are prepared by Sangeet Natak Academy of the Ministry of Culture after conducting the necessary interaction with experts and stakeholders

The Ministry of Culture then designs plans aimed at preserving and promoting the intangible cultural heritage in the country. Many independent bodies like Sahitya Academy, Sangeet Natak Academy, Indira Gandhi National Center for Arts, District Cultural Centers, National School of Drama, Anthropological Survey of India are working in different fields.

The Ministry of Culture has implemented several schemes to provide financial assistance to artists and institutions in order to promote and preserve cultural heritage.

UNESCO recommends that countries develop inventories and work with collections to ensure their continued existence. It also provides for discoveries collected voluntarily by member states and disbursed to support conservation of the recognized element

Recently, there has been discussion about the use of intellectual property rights to protect heritage and the use of the legal framework to do so but the risks of commodification derived from the possibility have been discussed.

What is intangible cultural heritage

Intangible cultural heritage according to the United Nations is something contemporary, traditional and living at the same time that is community-based, representative and inclusive and has an important role in preserving cultural diversity and can help its understanding. With intercultural dialogue and mutual respect for other ways of life.

It does not end with monuments or collections of objects but also includes living expressions, traditions bequeathed and passed down through generations through performing arts, oral traditions, rituals, social practices, ceremonial events, and the like.

India’s Other Intangible Cultural Assets

The representative list contains 492 items with 14 entries from India now China has the largest number of items followed by France and Japan. Besides Durga Puja, the menu in India includes Kumbh Mela, Sankirtana from Manipur, Chau dance in West Bengal, Nowruz, Buddhist Ladakh chanting, Vedic chanting, Ramila, Kotyatam Sanskrit theater and more.

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