Durga Puja is a quintessential combination of religion and culture, which the Bengali people take great pride in and celebrates. Many people see it as more of an emotional experience than a festival.
While it is also observed in other regions of the world, official universal recognition was on the horizon. ‘Durga Puja in Kolkata’ has officially been inscribed on the Representative List of Humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The decision was made during the 16th session, which ran from December 13 to December 18 this year.
“I would like to extend my congratulations to India, its people, and especially all those who worked on the nomination dossier,” said Eric Falt, director of UNESCO New Delhi, in a press statement. I am confident that this inscription will provide encouragement to the local communities who celebrate Durga Puja, including all traditional craftspeople, designers, artists, and organizers of large-scale cultural events, as well as tourists and visitors who partake in Durga Puja’s inclusive festivity.”
What is Intangible Cultural Heritage, and how does it differ from physical cultural heritage?
“Cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of things,” according to unesco.org. Oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, celebratory occasions, knowledge, and practices about nature and the universe, or knowledge and skills to make traditional crafts are all examples of living expressions inherited from our forefathers and passed down to our grandchildren.”
As a result, Durga Puja, an ancient festival that has been observed in India for millennia, has earned a spot on our list. In total, 14 items of the country’s Intangible Cultural Heritage have been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List.
Currently, there are 492 components on the Representative List of Humanity’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. It covers “forms of expression that testify to the diversity of intangible heritage and raise awareness of its importance,” according to a press release. UNESCO wants to improve the “visibility of communities’ cultural practises and know-how,” with the goal of “protecting communities’ intangible cultural assets globally.”
Durga Puja is a five-day event that takes place on the fifth night of the nine-day Navratri holiday and concludes on Dashami, the tenth day. People worship and invoke Goddess Durga, who is regarded as the feminine spirit of the cosmos, also known as ‘Shakti,’ during this period.
Though the celebration originated in West Bengal, which has the country’s largest Bengali population, it is now celebrated in many other parts of India, as well as around the world.
During this period, people gather in ‘pandals’ and pavilions to worship intricately-designed clay figures of the Goddess. The festival includes folk music, cuisine, artisanal, and performing arts traditions.