Topic of the Day – UNESCO intangible cultural heritages from India

UPSC Exam Preparation: Topic of the Day – UNESCO intangible cultural heritage from India/UNESCO intangible cultural heritage India UPSC

With the aim of ensuring better protection of important intangible cultural heritage across the world and in order to create awareness of their significance, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris (UNESCO) established the intangible cultural heritage list.  UNESCO General Conference adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage as an international treaty acknowledging that cultural heritage is more than tangible objects, monuments, and places. It 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 the cultural heritage and is a repository of cultural diversity and creative expression.


India, known for its heritage and cultural diversity has 13 cultural heritages in the UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list. “Kumbh Mela” was the latest addition to the list. Kumbh Mela was inscribed on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during the 12th session held at Jeju, South Korea.


  1. Koodiyattam – a Sanskrit theatrical tradition practiced in a province of Kerala, traditionally performed in theatres called as Kuttampalams located in the Hindu temples.
  2. Vedic Chanting – the tradition of Vedic chanting, 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 the ingenious techniques employed by the Brahmin priests.
  3. Ramlila – The traditional performance of Ramayana performed across North India during the festival of Dussehra. Most representatives are those performed in Sattna, Vrindavan, Varanasi, and Ramnagar.
  4. Ramman – A religious festival in honour of the tutelary god, Bhumiyal Devta practised in the villages of Saloor-Dungra in the state of Uttarakhand. Each of the caste and occupational groups has distinctive roles in the festival.
  5. Mudiyett – A ritual dance drama from the state of Kerala based on a mythological tale of the battle between Darika – the demon and goddess Kali.
  6. Kalbelia – A folk song and dance form of Rajasthan. ‘Khanjari’ percussion instrument and the ‘Poongi’, a woodwind instrument are used during the performance. Kalbelia songs disseminate mythological knowledge through stories. At times, the lyrics are spontaneously composed and improvised during the performance.
  7. Chhau Dance – A tradition from eastern India that enacts episodes from epics including the Mahabharata and Ramayana, local folklore and abstract themes. It is closely connected to the regional festivals specifically the Chaitra Parva.
  8. Buddhist Chanting – The sacred texts chanted by the Buddhist lamas (priests) in the Ladakh region. Each of the Buddhist sects has several forms of chanting.
  9. Sankirtana – Includes a set of arts performed to mark religious occasions and various stages in the life of the Vaishnava people of the Manipur plains. 
  10. Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making – The craft of the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru constitutes the traditional technique of manufacturing brass and copper utensils in Punjab.
  11. Yoga – The art of unifying the mind with body and soul for greater spiritual, mental and physical well-being. It consists of a series of poses, meditation, controlled breathing, word chanting etc.
  12. Nawrouz – 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.
  13. Kumbh Mela – The festival of a sacred pitcher where the piligrims bathe or take dip in the sacred river. It is one of the largest human congregations in the world. It is held in four pilgrimage places on the sacred rivers in Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik and Prayag.


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