Kolkata’s Durga Puja is now part of UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage

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admin December 17, 2021
Updated 2021/12/17 at 2:48 PM

Durga Puja in Kolkata, one of the country’s greatest cultural carnivals and street art festivals, got significant international recognition on Wednesday when it was added to UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

“Kolkata’s Durga Puja has recently been added to the list of # IntangibleHeritage!”The UNESCO Office in New Delhi tweeted, “Inscriptions to Representative List are one of the many ways that #UNESCO campaigns for the promotion and conservation of intangible cultural assets.”

The news was applauded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Minister of Culture G. Kishan Reddy, and the West Bengal government. For every Indian, this is a source of enormous pride and delight! Durga Puja highlights the best of our culture and values. And Durga Puja in Kolkata is an event that everyone should enjoy, “Mr. Modi said on social media.

According to a press release from the West Bengal government, the addition of Durga Puja in Kolkata is a proud and historic event. “Today is a special day for us.” Bengal is now Biswa Bangla, “the press release said.

UNESCO also applauded the responsible organisations in Kolkata for their attempts to integrate marginalised groups and people, as well as women, in their involvement in conserving the intangible cultural heritage, according to the state government’s letter.

The “well-deserved distinction” would enhance Kolkata’s creative and commercial economy, according to well-known art historian Tapati Guha-Thakurta, who was the field specialist in crafting the Ministry of Culture’s dossier for UNESCO.

“The Durga Pujas of Kolkata have taken on a particular aesthetic character in the last two decades. The Durga Pujas have offered an arena for creative activism in recent years, with artists expressing remarks on current social and political problems, ” said Ms. Guha-Thakurta, author of the book In the Name of the Goddess: The Durga Pujas of contemporary Kolkata.

The number of elements on the list of India’s Intangible Cultural Heritage has climbed to 14 with the addition of Durga Puja. The Kumbh Mela, the world’s biggest peaceful gathering of pilgrims, was inscribed in 2017 and is the most recent addition to the list prior to the Durga Puja. In 2016, yoga was added to the Kumbh Mela.

According to Ms. Guha-Thakurta, the Kumbh Mela is the only large-scale celebration that has been included in the list of intangible cultural heritage, and the others are specialised rituals that are endangered. “We had to convey that Durga Puja is not endangered,” says the author. It’s prospering and evolving at the same time. It is impossible to keep a religious tradition alive in a small community. “Durga Puja became a complicated case as a result of all of this, she noted.

In March 2019, a dossier was presented with the views of several stakeholders and a list of signatures requesting that the centuries-old celebration be included in the list of intangible cultural heritage.

Large-scale installations and pavilions in metropolitan areas, as well as traditional Bengali drumming and goddess veneration, mark the event. During the event, class, religion, and ethnicity divides disappear as groups of onlookers roam around admiring the installations, according to the UNESCO website.

Experts also note that Durga Puja in Kolkata is unusual in that it provides a source of income for a huge number of people, including artisans.

“The inscription of Durga Puja of Kolkata in the UNESCO Representative List recognises the festival’s contribution to sustaining and safeguarding a multitude of traditional arts and crafts, community well-being and economic empowerment, and energising creativity,” said Ananya Bhattacharya, director of Banglanatakdot.com, a social enterprise working for sustainable development through the revival of heritage.

The British Council in India estimated Durga Puja’s creative economy to be worth over 32,000 crores in 2019 and that the event contributed 2.58% of West Bengal’s GDP earlier this year.

 

Source: The Hindu

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