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UNESCO list of Intangible Culture Heritage of India
Aug 20, 2015

The importance of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next. The social and economic value of this transmission of knowledge is relevant for minority groups and for mainstream social groups within a State, and is as important for developing States as for developed one. The Intangible cultural Heritage according to UNESCO:

• Traditional, contemporary and living at the same time: intangible cultural heritage does not only represent inherited traditions from the past but also contemporary rural and urban practices in which diverse cultural groups take part;

• Inclusive: They have been passed from one generation to another, have evolved in response to their environments and they contribute to giving us a sense of identity and continuity, providing a link from our past, through the present, and into our future. Intangible cultural heritage does not give rise to questions of whether or not certain practices are specific to a culture. It contributes to social cohesion, encouraging a sense of identity and responsibility which helps individuals to feel part of one or different communities and to feel part of society at large;

• Representative: intangible cultural heritage is not merely valued as a cultural good, on a comparative basis, for its exclusivity or its exceptional value. It thrives on its basis in communities and depends on those whose knowledge of traditions, skills and customs are passed on to the rest of the community, from generation to generation, or to other communities;

• Community-based: intangible cultural heritage can only be heritage when it is recognized as such by the communities, groups or individuals that create, maintain and transmit it – without their recognition, nobody else can decide for them that a given expression or practice is their heritage

At present, UNESCO has listed 11 elements from India in its Representative List:

 

S. No.

 

Item

 

Inscribed in Year

 1.

 Kutiyattam, Sanskrit Theatre

2008 

 2.

 The Tradition of Vedic Chanting

2008 

 3.

 Ramlila - the Traditional Performance of the Ramayana

2008

 4.

 Novruz 

2009

 5.

 Ramman: religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas, India

2009 

 6.

 Chhau dance

2010

 7.

 Kalbelia folk songs and dances of Rajasthan

2010

 8.

 Mudiyettu, ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala

2010

 9.

 Buddhist chanting of Ladakh: recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in the trans-Himalayan Ladakhregion, Jammu and Kashmir, India

2012

 10

 Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur

2013

 11

 Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab, India

2014

11. Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab, India:  

Thatheras-of-Jandiala-Guru-Punjab-India

  •  It is traditional technique of manufacturing brass and copper utensils in Punjab. 

  • The metals used – copper, brass and certain alloys – are believed to be beneficial for health.

  • The process of manufacturing is transmitted orally from father to son. Metalwork is not simply a form of livelihood for Thatheras, but it defines their family and kinship structure, work ethic and status within the social hierarchy of the town. 

10. Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur: 

  • It encompasses an array of arts performed to mark religious occasions and various stages in the life of the Vaishnava people of the Manipur plains. 

  • Sankirtana practices centre on the temple, where performers narrate the lives and deeds of Krishna through song and dance. 

  • In a typical performance, two drummers and about ten singer-dancers perform in a hall or domestic courtyard encircled by seated devotees. 

  • Sankirtana has two main social functions: it brings people together on festive occasions throughout the year, acting as a cohesive force within Manipur’s Vaishnava community; and it establishes and reinforces relationships between the individual and the community through life-cycle ceremonies.

  • Regarded as the visible manifestation of God

Dance-of-Manipur

  • Sankirtana works in harmony with the natural world, whose presence is acknowledged through its many rituals.

9. Buddhist chanting of Ladakh: recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in the trans-Himalayan Ladakhregion, Jammu and Kashmir, India: 

  • In the monasteries and villages of the Ladakh region

  • Buddhist lamas (priests) chant sacred texts representing the spirit, philosophy and teachings of the Buddha 

Buddhist-chanting-of-Ladakh

  • Chanting is undertaken for the spiritual and moral well-being of the people, for purification and peace of mind, to appease the wrath of evil spirits or to invoke the blessing of various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, deities and rinpoches

  • The chanting is performed in groups, either sitting indoors or accompanied by dance in monastery courtyards or private houses

  • Chants are practised everyday in the monastic assembly hall as a prayer to the deities for world peace, and for the personal growth of the practitioners.

8.   Mudiyettu, ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala: 

  • Ritual dance drama from Kerala based on the mythological tale of a battle between the goddess Kali and the demon Darika.

Mudiyettu

  • Mudiyettu performers purify themselves through fasting and prayer, then draw a huge image of goddess Kali, called as kalam, on the temple floor with coloured powders, wherein the spirit of the goddess is invoked. 

  • Mudiyettu is performed annually in ‘Bhagavati Kavus’, the temples of the goddess, in different villages along the rivers Chalakkudy Puzha, Periyar and Moovattupuzha.

  • Mutual cooperation and collective participation of each caste in the ritual instils and strengthens common identity and mutual bonding in the community. 

  • Mudiyettu serves as an important cultural site for transmission of traditional values, ethics, moral codes and aesthetic norms of the community to the next generation, thereby ensuring its continuity and relevance in present times.

7. Kalbelia folk songs and dances of Rajasthan:

  • Once professional snake handlers, Kalbelia today evoke their former occupation in music and dance that is evolving in new and creative ways 

  • Men accompany women on the khanjari percussion instrument and thepoongi,

  • The dancers wear traditional tattoo designs, jewellery and garments richly embroidered with small mirrors and silver thread

Kalbelia

  • Kalbelia songs disseminate mythological knowledge through stories, while special traditional dances are performed during Holi, the festival of colours. 

  • The songs also demonstrate the poetic acumen of the Kalbelia, who are reputed to compose lyrics spontaneously and improvise songs during performances. 

6. Chhau: 

  • Tradition from eastern India that enacts episodes from epics including the Mahabharata and Ramayana, local folklore and abstract themes. 

  • Its three distinct styles hail from the regions of :

⇒ Seraikella

⇒ Purulia and 

⇒ Mayurbhanj

  • Seraikell and Purulia uses mask

  • Chhau dance is intimately connected to regional festivals, notably the spring festival Chaitra Parva.

  • Its origin is traceable to indigenous forms of dance and martial practices.

  • Its vocabulary of movement includes mock combat techniques, stylized gaits of birds and animals and movements modelled on the chores of village housewives.

Chhau

  • Chhau is taught to male dancers from families of traditional artists or from local communities. 

  • The dance is performed at night in an open space to traditional and folk melodies, played on the reed pipes mohuri and shehnai. 

  • The reverberating drumbeats of a variety of drums dominate the accompanying music ensemble.

5. Ramman: religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas, India:

  • A religious festival in honour of the tutelary god, Bhumiyal Devta, a local divinity whose temple houses most of the festivities . 

  • Celebrated every year in late April, in the twin villages of Saloor-Dungra in the state of Uttarakhand  

  • This event is made up of highly complex rituals: the recitation of a version of the epic of Rama and various legends, and the performance of songs and masked dances

Ramman

  • The festival is organized by villagers, and each caste and occupational group has a distinct role.

  • Ramman is a multiform cultural event that reflects the environmental, spiritual and cultural concept of the community, recounting its founding myths and strengthening its sense of self-worth.

4.  Novruz:

  • Marks the New Year and the beginning of spring across a vast geographical area covering, inter alia, Azerbaijan, India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan 

  • It is celebrated on 21 March every year, a date originally determined by astronomical calculations. 

  • Novruz is associated with various local traditions, such as the evocation of Jamshid, a mythological king of Iran, and numerous tales and legends.

  • Novruz promotes the values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families, as well as reconciliation and neighbourliness, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and various communities.

3. Ramlila - the Traditional Performance of the Ramayana:

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

  • Performed across northern India during the festival of Dussehra, held each year according to the ritual calendar in autumn

Ramlila

  • The majority of the Ramlilas recount episodes from the Ramacharitmanas through a series of performances lasting ten to twelve days, but some, such as Ramnagar’s, may last an entire month. 

  • Ramlila recalls the battle between Rama and Ravana and consists of a series of dialogues between gods, sages and the faithful. Ramlila’s dramatic force stems from the succession of icons representing the climax of each scene.

2. The Tradition of Vedic Chanting:

  • Expressed in the Vedic language, which is derived from classical Sanskrit, the verses of the Vedas were traditionally chanted during sacred rituals and recited daily in Vedic communities.

  • The value of this tradition lies not only in the rich content of its oral literature but also in the ingenious techniques employed by the Brahmin priests in preserving the texts intact over thousands of year

  • To ensure that the sound of each word remains unaltered, practitioners are taught from childhood complex recitation techniques that are based on tonal accents, a unique manner of pronouncing each letter and specific speech combinations.

1. Kutiyattam, Sanskrit Theatre:

  • Practised in the province of Kerala

  • Originated more than 2,000 years ago, Kutiyattam represents a synthesis of Sanskrit classicism and reflects the local traditions of Kerala

  • In its stylized and codified theatrical language, neta abhinaya (eye expression) and hasta abhinaya (the language of gestures) are prominent.

  • They focus on the thoughts and feelings of the main character.

  • Actors undergo ten to fifteen years of rigorous training to become fully-fledged performers with sophisticated breathing control and subtle muscle shifts of the face and body.

Kutiyattam

  • The actor’s art lies in elaborating a situation or episode in all its detail. Therefore, a single act may take days to perform and a complete performance may last up to 40 days.

  • Kutiyattam is traditionally performed in theatres called Kuttampalams, which are located in Hindu temples

  • Access to performances was originally restricted owing to their sacred nature, but the plays have progressively opened up to larger audiences.

  • The male actors hand down to their trainees detailed performance manuals, which, until recent times, remained the exclusive and secret property of selected family

  • With the collapse of patronage along with the feudal order in the nineteenth century, the families who held the secrets to the acting techniques experienced serious difficulties. After a revival in the early twentieth century, Kutiyattam is once again facing a lack of funding, leading to a severe crisis in the profession. In the face of this situation, the different bodies responsible for handing down the tradition have come together to join efforts in order to ensure the continuity of this Sanskrit theatre. 


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