The ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ of Kolkata’s Puja: Basics Explained

Unesco’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage put “Durga Puja in Kolkata” on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

             According to UNESCO, “cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects”, but “also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts”.

       The list of Intangible Cultural Heritage elements on the UNESCO website includes 13 entries from India.

                  Besides Durga Puja in Kolkata (2021), the India list has: Kumbh Mela (2017); Nowruz (2016); traditional brass and copper utensil-making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab (2014); Sankirtana of Manipur (2013); Buddhist chanting of Ladakh (2012); Chhau dance, Kalbelia dance of Rajasthan, and Mudiyettu of Kerala (2010); Ramman festival of Garhwal (2009); and Kutiyattam Sanskrit theatre, Ramlila, and Vedic chanting (2008).



In 1945, UNESCO was created in order to respond to the firm belief of nations, forged by two world wars in less than a generation that political and economic agreements are not enough to build a lasting peace. Peace must be established on the basis of humanity’s moral and intellectual solidarity. UNESCO strives to build networks among nations that enable this kind of solidarity; France’s Audrey Azoulay as its director-general

Mobilizing for education: so that every child, boy or girl, has access to quality education as a fundamental human right and as a prerequisite for human development.

Building intercultural understanding: through protection of heritage and support for cultural diversity. UNESCO created the idea of World Heritage to protect sites of outstanding universal value.

Pursuing scientific cooperation: such as early warning systems for tsunamis or trans-boundary water management agreements, to strengthen ties between nations and societies.

Protecting freedom of expression: an essential condition for democracy, development and human dignity.

UNESCO is known as the “intellectual” agency” of the United Nations. Audrey Azoulay is the current director general of UNESCO.

UN specialized agencies are international organizations that coordinate their work with the United Nations through negotiated agreements.

There are 17 Specialized Agencies:

FAO: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

ICAO: International Civil Aviation Organization

IFAD: International Fund for Agricultural Development

ILO: International Labour Organization

IMF: International Monetary Fund

IMO: International Maritime Organization

ITU: International Telecommunication Union

UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

UNIDO: United Nations Industrial Development Organization

UNWTO: World Tourism Organization

UPU: Universal Postal Union

WHO: World Health Organization

WIPO: World Intellectual Property Organization

WMO: World Meteorological Organization

World Bank Group:

IBRD: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development

IDA: International Development Association

IFC: International Finance Corporation


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