Environment & Ecology

UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List & Draft National ICH List l www.insightdaily.in


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is an important organization under the United Nations. Such international bodies and programs play an important role in the IAS exam. In this article, you can read all about UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritages in India.

International organizations and groupings are an important part of the International Relations section of the General Studies paper-2 in the UPSC Syllabus. Arts and Culture from the General Studies paper-1 section can be a scoring subject. Students preparing for UPSC 2024 and other Government Exams can find this article useful.

UPSC aspirants must know about UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India. Know more about UNESCO World Heritage Sites in India in the linked article. 

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages

With the aim of ensuring better protection of important intangible cultural heritage across the world and in order to create awareness of their significance, UNESCO established the Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

  • This list also encompasses living expressions and traditions. Intangible cultural heritage means the skills, knowledge, expressions, representations, practices – as well as the artifacts, objects, instruments, and cultural spaces associated with them that various groups, communities and in certain cases individuals recognize as a part of their cultural heritage. 
  • This list is published by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Its members are elected by State parties meeting in the United Nations General Assembly
  • It aims at drawing attention to the importance of safeguarding cultural heritage and is a repository of cultural diversity and creative expression.

‘Khongthong’ the country’s only ‘whistling village’ seeks to get the UNESCO Intangible and Cultural Heritage Tag. It is known as the Whistling Village because residents often communicate with each other by whistling. Residents of the village also have ‘whistling names’ apart from their formal names. 

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages List (India):- Download PDF Here

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages in India

India, known for its heritage and cultural diversity, has 14 cultural heritages in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list. The table image briefly explains the Intangible Heritages of India in terms of culture:

Entity  Year added  Description
Ramlila 2008 The traditional performance of Ramayana performed across North India during the festival of Dussehra. Most representative are those performed in Sattna, Vrindavan, Varanasi and Ramnagar.
Vedic Chanting 2008 Chanted during sacred rituals and recited daily by the Vedic communities known not only for the rich content of its oral literature but also for ingenious techniques employed by the priests.
Kudiyattom 2008 A Sanskrit theatrical tradition practised in Kerala, traditionally performed in theatres called Kuttampalams, located in Hindu temples.
Ramman 2009 A religious festival in honour of the tutelary god, Bhumiyal Devta, practised in the villages of Saloor-Dungra in Uttarakhand. 
Chhau dance 2010 A tradition from Eastern India that enacts episodes from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, local folklore and abstract themes. 
Kalbelia 2010 A folk song and dance form of Rajasthan. The songs disseminate mythological knowledge through stories.
Mudiyettu 2010 A ritual dance drama from Kerala based on the tale of the battle between Darika, a demon and Goddess Kali.
Buddhist Chanting 2012 Sacred texts chanted by the Buddhist priests of the Ladakh region. 
Sankirtana  2013 Set of arts performed to mark religious occasions and various stages in the life of the Vaishnava people of the Manipur plains.
Traditional Brass and Copper Craft of Utensil Making 2014 The craft of the Thathelias of Jandiala Guru constitutes the traditional technique of manufacturing brass and copper utensils in Punjab. 
Yoga  2016 The art of unifying the mind with body and soul for greater physical and mental well-being. It consists of a series of poses, meditation, controlled breathing, word chanting, etc.
Nowruz 2016 The Persian new year celebrated worldwide. It involves street performances of music and dance, public rituals involving water and fire, traditional sports and the making of handicrafts.
Kumbh Mela 2017 One of the largest human congregations in the world. It is a major pilgrimage and festival for Hindus.
Durga Puja in Kolkata 2021 The annual festival celebrated in September or October marking the ten-day worship of the Hindu mother-goddess Durga.
Garba of Gujarat 2023 Dance form from Gujarat entrenched deeply in ritualistic and devotional roots.

Garba of Gujarat

In 2023, ‘Garba of Gujarat’ was added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. It is the latest addition from India to the list.

Durga Puja

Durga Puja was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2021.

Kumbh Mela

“Kumbh Mela” was the latest addition to the list in 2017.

  • It is one of the largest human congregations in the world. It is held in four pilgrimage places on sacred rivers in Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik and Prayag.
  • Kumbh Mela was inscribed on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during the 12th session held at Jeju, South Korea.

Also read Bharatanatyam – UPSC Art & Culture Notes.

National List of Intangible Cultural Heritages Draft

The Government of India launched a draft National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage under the Ministry of Culture in April 2020.

  • The National ICH List is an attempt to recognize the diversity of Indian culture embedded in its intangible heritage.
  • It aims to raise awareness about the various intangible cultural heritage elements from different states of India at the national and international levels and ensure their protection. This initiative is also a part of the Vision 2024 of the Ministry of Culture.

Read about the Draft National List of ICH in detail on PIB: 18 April 2020.

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