UNESCO is not immune to the charms of Durga Puja- Pujo enters ‘Intangible Heritage’ list

The 10-day religious festival is the best instance of the public performance of religion and art celebrated across the frenetic megalopolis of Kolkata. It gives us all a reason to cheer up as Pujo is now officially, world heritage!

As a general practice, UNESCO adds to its list of ICH cultural traditions and arts from around the world every year, either as ‘In Need of Urgent Safeguarding’ or in its ‘Representative List of ICH of Humanity’. India’s nominees are proposed by the Sangeet Natak Akademi, which was appointed as the nodal agency for ICH by the Union Ministry of Culture in 2011.

Durga Puja was nominated for Representative List in 2020. In its recommendation to UNESCO, the SNA stated that: “Durga Puja is the most important festival of West Bengal and is observed in many states of India, in Bangladesh, and in major cities of the world by the Bengali diaspora. Over the years, however, Kolkata has emerged as the geographical and cultural heart – of the national and worldwide celebrations of the festival.”

“It is where we can trace the longest history of Durga Puja, from its grand celebrations within the mansions of the traditional families to its growing life as a community event. In recent times, the festival has taken on its grandest scale in Kolkata, encompassing all city spaces, its largest commercial dimensions, and its spectacular artistic profile. Today, approximately 5,000 Durga Pujas are organised in the city, involving elaborate organisational infrastructure of the communities and the government. While Durga Puja has become the city’s biggest cultural event, the city’s identity has grown increasingly synonymous with this festival, ” adds SNA.

Durga Puja and it is our proud and historic moment. It is a red-letter day for us. Our congratulations to all the people of Bengal, the country, and the world. We convey our thanks and gratitude to UNESCO for the recognition bestowed on this great festival as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,” the West Bengal govt said in a statement.

It marks a celebration of craftsmanship, cross-cultural transactions, and cross-community revelry. The manner in which the festival is enmeshed in a web of competition and consumption, accelerated by the winning of accolades, secures its secular identity, embedding it in the contemporary global cultures of touring, spectacle, and entertainment.

The exemplary character of Durga Puja is reflected in its dynamism and fusion of tradition with changing tastes and popular cultures which present the iconographies of Durga and the styles of her temporary abodes to cater to new regimes of art production.

Image by Rajesh Pamnani

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