Durga Puja has been added in UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Here is a list of other Indian festivals and things that are a part of the list.
Inscribed in 2017, Kumbh Mela is the largest congregation of pilgrims on Earth, during which participants bathe or take a dip in the sacred river. It is believed that by bathing in the Ganges, one is freed from their sins and liberated from the cycle of life and death. It is held at Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik every four years by rotation. Millions of people, irrespective of caste, creed or gender, attend it.
Yoga was inscribed in the list in 2016. Various aspects of how society in India functions, whether it be in relation to areas such as health and medicine or education and the arts are influenced from the philosophy behind the ancient Indian practice of yoga. It unifies the mind with the body and soul to allow for greater mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing. Yoga comprises a series of poses, meditation, controlled breathing, word chanting and other techniques to help individuals build self-realisation, ease suffering and allow for a state of liberation.
Brass & copper utensils of Jandiala Guru, Punjab
It was inscribed in the list 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 good for health. The process begins hammering cooled cakes of metal that are flattened into thin plates to give them a curved shape, 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 defines their family and kinship structure, work ethic and status within the social hierarchy of the town.
Nawrouz was inscribed in 2016 by Iranian Cultural Heritage Handicrafts and Tourism Organisation. New Year is often a time when people wish for prosperity and new beginnings. March 21 marks the start of the year in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. It is also called Nauryz, Navruz, Nawrouz, Nevruz, Nooruz, Novruz, or Nowruz and means ‘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.
Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur
It was inscribed in the list 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.
Buddhist chanting of Ladakh
It was inscribed in 2012 in the list. Buddhist priests chant sacred texts representing the spirit, philosophy and teachings of the Buddha in the monasteries and villages of the Ladakh region. The two forms of Buddhism 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 lifecycle rituals and on important days in the Buddhist and agrarian calendars.
Chhau dance was inscribed in the list in 2010. It is a tradition from eastern India that enacts episodes from epics including the Mahabharata and Ramayana, local folklore and abstract themes. Its three distinct styles come from the regions of Seraikella, Purulia and Mayurbhanj, wherein the first two use masks. Chhau dance is intimately connected to regional festivals, notably the spring festival Chaitra Parva.
Celebrated mainly in Kolkata, Durga Puja is an annual festival that takes place in September or October. It is also celebrated in other parts of the country and among the Bengali diaspora. During the festival, Hindu mother-goddess Durga is worshipped for 10 days. Before the festival, small artisanal workshops sculpt images of Durga and her family using clay of the Ganga River. The worship begins on the inaugural day of Mahalaya, when eyes are painted onto the clay idols to bring the goddess to life. It ends on the tenth day, when the images are immersed in the river from where the clay was taken. Thus, the festival signifies ‘home-coming’ or a seasonal return to one’s own roots. The festival is a collaborative effort of artists, designers, and a public gathering wherein religion and art comes together. Large-scale installations, traditional Bengali drumming and veneration of the goddess take place during the festivities. In December 2021, Durga Puja was included in UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.