[Prelims 2020] List of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages from India

What do you mean by intangible cultural heritage?

Intangible cultural heritage means the traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed through generations as a way of life. These include oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe and the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

Conservation of intangible cultural heritage is of paramount importance in maintaining cultural diversity amidst growing globalization. Further, a wider understanding of the intangible cultural heritage of different communities helps in enhancing intercultural dialogue and encourages mutual respect.

What are the characteristics of Intangible Cultural heritage?
  • Traditional, contemporary and living at the same time
  • Inclusive
  • Representative
  • Community-based
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Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage

The Convention of the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2003 and entered into force in 2006.

The Purpose of the Convention

  • to safeguard the expressions of intangible cultural heritage that are endangered by the processes of globalization;
  • to ensure respect for the intangible cultural heritage of the communities, groups and individuals;
  • to raise awareness at the local, national and international levels of the importance of the intangible cultural heritage.


The Committee to the Convention publishes three lists of intangible cultural heritage:

  1. Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
  2. List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding
  3. Register of good safeguarding practices
Intangible Cultural Heritages from India included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
  • India has a total of 13 intangible cultural heritages included in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Let us now have a look at the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages from India and their characteristics.

List of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritages from India

Kutiyattam·        Form of Sanskrit theatre practised in Kerala

·        Synthesis of Sanskrit classicism and local traditions of Kerala

·        Neta abhinaya (eye expression) and hasta abhinaya (the language of gestures) are prominent.

·        Performed in theatres called Kuttampalams, which are located in Hindu temples.

The tradition of Vedic chanting·        The verses of the Vedas were traditionally chanted during sacred rituals and recited daily in Vedic communities.

·        It is known for the rich content of its oral literature and the ingenious techniques employed by the Brahmin priests.

·         only 13 of the over one thousand Vedic recitation branches have survived

·        Four noted schools: Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka and Orissa are under threat

Ramlila·        Theme: the Ramayana

·        performed across northern India during the festival of Dussehra

·        Staging of the Ramayana is based on the Ramacharitmanas by Tulsidas

·        Most representative Ramlilas are those of Ayodhya, Ramnagar and Benares, Vrindavan, Almora, Sattna and Madhubani.


Ramman·        It is a religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas

·        Performed every year in late April, in the honour of the tutelary god, Bhumiyal Devta

·        Performed at the twin villages of Saloor-Dungra in  Uttarakhand

·        It reflects the environmental, spiritual and cultural concept of the community

Mudiyettu·        It is a ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala

·        performed annually in ‘Bhagavati Kavus’, the temples of the goddess

·        Performed in different villages along the rivers Chalakkudy Puzha, Periyar and Moovattupuzha

·        Theme: the mythological tale of a battle between the goddess Kali and the demon Darika

Kalbelia folk songs and dances·        Performed by kalbelia community of Rajasthan

·        Women dance replicating the movements of serpent. Men accompany them on the ”khanjari” percussion instrument and the ”poongi,” a woodwind instrument traditionally played to capture snakes.

·        Theme: mythology

·        Special traditional dances are performed during Holi

Chauu Dance·        Performed in Eastern India

·        Theme: episodes from epics including the Mahabharata and Ramayana, local folklore and abstract themes

·        Three distinct styles: Seraikella, Purulia and Mayurbhanj- the first two uses masks

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

·        Folk music played on reed pipes ”mohuri” and ”shehnai.”


Buddhist chanting of Ladakh·        It is the recitation of sacred Buddhist texts by major sects viz. Nyngma, Kagyud, Shakya and Geluk


·        It is ritual singing, dancing, the drumming of Manipur

·        Theme: lives and deeds of Krishna


Craft of the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru·        Constitutes the traditional technique of manufacturing brass and copper utensils in Punjab.

·        Metalwork defines Tathehara’s family and kinship structure, work ethic and status within the social hierarchy of the town.


Nowruz·        Marks the Persian new year-celebrated on March 21st

·        Variety of rituals, ceremonies and other cultural events take place for a period of about two weeks.

·        Also celebrated in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan

Yoga·        It is an art of unifying the mind with body and soul for greater spiritual, mental and physical well-being

·        consists of a series of poses, meditation, controlled breathing, word chanting and other techniques

Kumbh Mela·        It is the largest peaceful congregation of pilgrims on the earth

·        During the festival pilgrims bathe or take a dip in the Ganga River

·         It takes place every third year at one of the four places by rotation: Haridwar, Allahabad, Nasik and Ujjain


This article is a part of the Series of Articles Important for Prelims 2020. To see the full list of articles, visit this page.
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