UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage : Art & Culture | UPSC Notes

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UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage

The important thing about intangible cultural legacy is not the cultural artefact itself, but the wealth of knowledge and skills that it passes from one generation to the next. The social and economic worth of this transfer of knowledge is important for both minorities and the majority of people in a state. It is also important for both developing and developed states.

Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO

UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage:

• Traditional, Modern, and Living at the Same Time: Intangible cultural heritage isn’t just made up of passed-down traditions from the past. It’s also made up of modern practises in country and urban areas that are done by different cultural groups.

• All-inclusive: They have been passed down from one generation to the next, have changed over time in response to their surroundings, and help us feel like we have a sense of identity and continuity by connecting our past, present, and future. When it comes to intangible cultural property, it doesn’t matter if certain practises are unique to a culture or not. It helps bring people together by giving them a feeling of identity and responsibility, which makes them feel like they belong to one or more communities and to society as a whole.

• Representative: intangible cultural material is not just valued as a cultural good based on how unique or valuable it is compared to other cultural goods. It is based on communities and depends on people who pass on their knowledge of habits, skills, and customs to others in the same community or to other communities.

• Community-based: intangible cultural heritage is only heritage if it is recognised as such by the communities, groups, or people that create, maintain, and pass it on. Without their recognition, no one else can decide for them that a certain expression or practise is their heritage.

• The show has made two lists as of 2010:

The longer Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity includes cultural “practises and expressions that help show the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about how important it is.”

The shorter List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding is made up of the cultural things that concerned groups and countries think need to be protected right away.

Convention for the Protection of the Intangible Heritage of UNESCO

• The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) passed the Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003, and it went into effect in 2006.

• It is made up of 24 people who are chosen by the General Assembly of the Convention based on the ideas of fair regional representation and rotation.

Members of the Committee are chosen for four-year terms.

• Purpose:

To protect the ways that people show their cultural heritage that are in danger because of globalisation.

To make sure that the communities, groups, and people are respected for their intangible cultural history.

To make more people aware of how important intangible cultural heritage is at the local, national, and foreign levels.

• Publications:

List of Some of the World’s Intangible Cultural Heritage.

List of Intangible Cultural Heritage that Needs to be Protected Immediately.

Register of good ways to keep people safe.

• India will be on two UNESCO committees: the World Heritage Committee from 2021 to 2025 and the Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee from 2022 to 2026.

India has been on the ICH Committee twice, from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018.

• The Ministry of Culture has named the Sangeet Natak Akademi, which is an independent organisation under the Ministry of Culture, as the nodal office for intangible cultural heritage issues, such as preparing application dossiers for UNESCO’s Representative List.

Before the finalisation of the dossier, the Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) requires partners, experts/officials, etc. to look over the elements that have been chosen for the nomination.

As the nodal office, the SNA keeps a National Inventory of ICH elements, and for an element to be added to UNESCO’s Representative List of ICH, it must also be in the National Inventory/Register/etc. of the application member state.

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• The Ministry of Culture and other groups work on a daily basis to preserve, protect, and promote the country’s cultural heritage that can’t be seen or touched.

• Different autonomous bodies under the Ministry of Culture have broad responsibilities in this area and work in many different ways to preserve and promote the country’s intangible cultural heritage and many different customs.

• Here are some of the most important organisations that work to protect and spread ICH:

 Sahitya Akademi, Lalit Kala Akademi, Sangeet Natak Akademi

Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts

The National School of Drama

Cultural Resources and Training Centre

There are seven Zonal Cultural Centres.

 Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya

Multiple Survey of India

• In addition to these, the Ministry of Culture runs a number of other programmes that help artists and organisations that promote and spread different kinds of ICH by giving them money.

• Since 2013-14, the Ministry of Culture has also been running a programme called “Scheme for Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage and Diverse Cultural Traditions of India.” This program’s goals are to increase professional awareness and interest in ICH and to protect, promote, and spread it in a systematic way.

• India has 14 things on the UNESCO Representative List that are part of its intangible cultural heritage.

UNESCO’s list of India’s “Intangible Cultural Heritages”

Kutiyattam (Sanskrit theatre)

• It was put on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity Representative List in 2008.

• It is one of India’s oldest forms of theatre that is still performed today. It began in Kerala more than 2,000 years ago.

• It is a combination of Sanskrit classical ideas. It is known as an oral history and shows how the people of Kerala live.

• Kutiyattam is usually put on in Hindu temples in places called Kuttampalams, which are like stages.

• Neta abhinaya, which is the language of the eyes, and hasta abhinaya, which is the language of movements, are two of the most important parts of its coded theatrical language.

• The main focus of the play is on what the main character thinks and feels. The actor’s art is mostly about describing a scene or situation in detail by controlling his or her breathing and moving the face and body in small ways.

Chanting in the Vedic Style

• The Vedas are thought to be one of the oldest oral cultural practises that still exist in the world.

• The verses of the Vedas are written in the Vedic language, which is based on classical Sanskrit. Traditionally, these verses were chanted during sacred practises and read every day in Vedic communities.

• This practise is important not only because of the rich content of its oral literature, but also because of the clever ways the Brahmin priests have used to keep the texts unchanged for thousands of years.

• The people who do it were taught from a young age. To keep the sound of each word the same, the priests teach complicated ways to recite based on tonal accents, different ways to say each letter, and specific speech combos.

• The Vedas also tell us important things about the past of Hinduism and how different artistic, scientific, and philosophical ideas, like the idea of zero, came to be.

• The Rig Vada is a book of holy hymns.

• The Sama Vada is a collection of musical arrangements of hymns from sources like the Rig Vada.

• The Yajur Vada is a book of priestly prayers and sacrifice formulas.

• The Atharva Veda is a book of spells and incantations.

Ramlila – the traditional Ramayana performance.

• It is a performance of the Ramayana epic in a number of scenes that include song, narration, recital, and dialogue.

• Performed all over northern India during the Dussehra festival, which is held every year in the fall based on a ritual calendar.

• Most Ramlilas tell stories from the Ramacharitmanas through a number of performances that last between ten and twelve days. However, some, like the one in Ramnagar, can go on for a whole month.

• Ramlila talks about the fight between Rama and Ravana and is made up of conversations between gods, sages, and loyal people. The dramatic power of Ramlila comes from the way each scene’s peak is shown by an icon.


• Celebrates the New Year and the start of spring in a wide area, including Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan, among others.

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• It is celebrated every year on March 21, a date that was originally chosen by astronomers.

• Novruz is tied to many local customs, such as calling on Jamshid, an Iranian king from mythology, and a lot of stories and legends.

• Novruz supports the values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families, as well as reconciliation and neighbourliness. This helps to make people and communities more accepting of each other’s cultures and more friendly with each other.


• Garhwal Himalayan religious festival and ritual play.

• Ramman is a religious event that takes place every year at the end of April in the twin villages of Saloor-Dungra in Uttarakhand. It is held in honour of Bhumiyal Devta, a local god who is seen as a protector.

• Ramman is a cultural event with many different parts. It includes plays, music, and traditional stories told orally and in writing.

• The event helps the community think on its environmental, spiritual, and cultural ideas, and it also helps the community feel better about itself.

• The holiday has very complicated rituals, such as telling a version of the epic of Rama and other stories, singing songs, and dancing while wearing masks.

• The villagers plan the event, and the family that takes care of Bhumiyal Devta all year long has a strict daily schedule. Each tribe and group of jobs is supposed to do something different.

Chhau Dance

• A tradition from eastern India in which stories from the Mahabharata and Ramayana, as well as local tales and abstract ideas, are acted out.

• It has three different styles that come from:

 Seraikella, Purulia and Mayurbhanj.

• The Chhau dance is a big part of local celebrations, especially the spring holiday Chaitra Parva.

• Its roots can be found in the dances and fighting styles of native people.

• Its movement vocabulary includes fake combat moves, stylized animal and bird gaits, and moves based on how village women do their chores.

• Male dancers from local villages or the families of traditional artists learn Chhau.

• The dance is done at night in an open area to traditional and folk tunes played on the mohuri and shehnai reed pipes. The backing music is mostly made up of the echoing beats of different drums.

Rajasthan Kalbelia folk songs and dances

• Kalbelias have always been used to catch snakes.

• Songs and dances are a source of pride for the Kalbelia people and show how they used to live in the past.

• Mythology is taught through the stories in Kalbelia songs. The songs also show how good poets the Kalbelia are, since they are known to make up words on the spot during performances.

• The songs and dances were passed down from one family to the next. They are part of an oral tradition that doesn’t have any written books or manuals.

• Women dancers wear long black skirts and move like snakes by dancing and swirling. Men play different instruments with them, like the ”khanjari,” which is a percussion instrument, and the ”poongi,” which is a woodwind instrument that was originally used to catch snakes.


• Dance theatre and ritual theatre of Kerala.

• The sacred dance Mudiyettu is based on a myth about a fight between the goddess Kali and the demon Darika.

• Mudiyettu is a community ceremony that involves the whole village. It is done every year in “Bhagavati Kavus,” which are temples of the goddess, in the villages along the rivers Chalakkudy Puzha Periyar and Moovattupuzha.

• It is set up after summer crops have been picked. After the Mudiyettu artists have cleansed themselves through fasting and prayer, they use coloured powders to draw a huge picture of the goddess Kali, called a “kalam,” on the floor of the temple to call on her spirit.

• Mudiyettu is an important cultural event that helps people work together and teach the next generation about the community’s traditional values, ethics, moral rules, and aesthetic standards.

Ladakh Buddhist Chanting

• In different monasteries and towns in the Ladakh region, Buddhist lamas read holy texts that show the spirit, philosophy, and teachings of the Buddha.

• People read holy texts to improve their spiritual and moral health, to clear their minds and find peace, to get rid of evil spirits, or to get the blessing of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, deities, etc.

• The chanting is also done in the monastic gathering hall as a prayer to the gods for peace in the world and for the practitioners’ own growth.

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• The chanting is done in groups, and the monks wear special clothes and make hand gestures (mudras) that reflect the god Buddha. Instruments like bells, drums, cymbals, and trumpets are played along with the singing to give it a musical rhythm.

Sankirtana of Manipur

• It includes a wide range of arts that the Vaishnava people of the Manipur plains do to mark religious events and different times in their lives.

• The heart of Sankirtana is the temple, where singers and dancers tell stories about the life and actions of Krishna.

• There are two main social uses for Sankirtana:

It gets people together on holidays throughout the year and helps keep the Vaishnava community in Manipur together:

Through life-cycle ceremonies, it builds and strengthens ties between the person and the community.

• Thought of as the visible form of God.

• Sankirtana works in harmony with nature, and its many rituals recognise the presence of nature.

Tools made of copper and brass (Thatheras)

• The Thatheras of Punjab have a long history of making metal and copper tools.

• It is an ancient way for people in Punjab to make brass and copper tools.

• Copper, brass, and some alloys are used because they are thought to be good for health.

• The process of making something is told from father to son verbally.

• Metalwork is not just a way for Thatheras to make a living; it also shapes their family and kinship structure, work ethic, and social standing in the town.


• The ancient Indian practise of yoga is based on a philosophy that has affected many parts of Indian life, such as health and medicine, education, and the arts.

• Yoga is a set of poses, meditation, controlled breathing, word singing, and other practises that help people become more aware of themselves, ease any pain they may be feeling, and reach a state of freedom.

• Traditionally, yoga was taught using the GuruShishya (master-student) model, with yoga gurus being the main keepers of the information and skills related to yoga.

• Yoga ashrams or hermitages, as well as schools, universities, community groups, and social media, are now places where people can learn more about the traditional practise.

Kumbh Mela

• Kumbh Mela, also called the Festival of the Sacred Pitcher, is the biggest gathering of peaceful pilgrims on earth. During this event, people bathe or swim in a holy river.

• Devotees think that taking a bath in the Ganges will wash away all of their sins and free them from the circle of birth and death.

• Millions of people go there without having been invited. There are ascetics, saints, sadhus, aspirants (called kalpavasis), and guests among the group.

• The festival is held in Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik every four years. Millions of people of all castes, creeds, and genders attend the festival.

• Most people who carry it, though, are part of religious groups like akhadas and ashrams or live off of charity.

• Kumbh Mela is the most important spiritual event in India, and it has a mesmerising effect on most Indians.

• The event includes astronomy, astrology, spirituality, rituals, and social and cultural habits and practises, which makes it a very rich source of information.

Durga Puja

• Durga Puja is an event that happens every year in September or October in Kolkata, West Bengal, India, as well as in other parts of India and among Bengalis who live outside of India.

• It remembers the ten-day worship of the Hindu mother goddess Durga.

• In the months before the holiday, unfired clay is taken from the Ganga River and used in small workshops to make statues of Durga and her family.

• On the first day of Mahalaya, eyes are painted on clay figures to bring the goddess to life, and worship of the goddess begins.

• On the tenth day, the idols are thrown into the river where the clay was found.

• Because of this, the holiday has come to mean ‘coming home’ or a yearly return to one’s roots.

• Durga Puja is seen as the best example of a public religious and artistic show. It is also a good place for artists and designers to work together.