‘Durga Puja’ in Kolkata was included in the Intangible Heritage List on 15th December 2021. UNESCO tweeted on Twitter with a picture of the idol of Goddess Durga, stating, ‘Congratulations India.’ Durga Puja of Kolkata is Inscribed in 2021 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
What is Durga Puja
Durga Puja is an annual festival celebrated in September or October, most notably in Kolkata, West Bengal of India, and other parts of India and the Bengali diaspora.
It marks the ten-day worship of the Hindu mother-goddess Durga. In the months preceding the festival, small artisanal workshops sculpt Durga and her family using unfired clay pulled from the Ganga River.
The worship of the goddess then begins on the inaugural day of Mahalaya, when eyes are painted onto the clay images to bring the goddess to life. It ends on the tenth day when the images are immersed in the river where the clay came from.
Thus, the festival has also signified ‘home-coming’ or a seasonal return to one’s roots. Durga Puja is seen as the best instance of the public performance of religion and art and a thriving ground for collaborative artists and designers. Large-scale installations and pavilions characterize the festival in urban areas and traditional Bengali drumming and adoration of the goddess.
During the event, the divides of class, religion and ethnicities collapse as spectators walk around to admire the installations.
What is UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage
According to UNESCO, The importance of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills transmitted through it from one generation to the next.
The social and economic value of this transmission of knowledge is relevant for minority groups and mainstream social groups within a State. It is as important for developing States as developed ones.
Intangible cultural heritage is:
Traditional, contemporary and living at the same time:
Intangible cultural heritage does not only represent inherited traditions from the past but also contemporary rural and urban practices in which diverse cultural groups take part;
UNESCO might share intangible cultural heritage expressions similar to those practiced by others. Whether they are from the neighboring village, from a city on the opposite side of the world, or have been adopted by peoples who have migrated and settled in a different region, they all are intangible cultural heritage: they have been passed from one generation to another, have evolved in response to their environments and they contribute to giving us a sense of identity and continuity, providing a link from our past, through the present, and into our future. Intangible cultural heritage does not give rise to questions of whether or not certain practices are specific to a culture. It contributes to social cohesion, encouraging a sense of identity and responsibility which helps individuals to feel part of one or different communities and to feel part of society at large;
Intangible cultural heritage is not merely valued as a cultural good, on a comparative basis, for its exclusivity or its exceptional value. It thrives on its basis in communities and depends on those whose knowledge of traditions, skills and customs are passed on to the rest of the community, from generation to generation, or to other communities;
Intangible cultural heritage can only be heritage when it is recognized as such by the communities, groups or individuals that create, maintain and transmit it – without their recognition, nobody else can decide for them that a given expression or practice is their heritage.