The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has added Durga Puja to its “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” list. The UN agency took the decision during the 16th session of its Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is currently underway.
Unesco established its Lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008 with the aim of ensuring better protection of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and the awareness of their significance.
The committee examines requests submitted by states for the inscription of intangible heritage on the lists as well as proposals for programmes and projects. Kolkata’s Durga Puja was India’s submission for the list this year.
“Durga Puja is seen as the best instance of the public performance of religion and art, and as a thriving ground for collaborative artists and designers,” Unesco wrote on its site.
The committee commended Durga Puja for its initiatives to involve marginalized groups, and individuals as well as women in their participation.
Durga Puja in Kolkata is marked by idols of the Mother Goddess Durga installed in thousands of decorated pavilions erected across the city.
“During the event, the divides of class, religion and ethnicities collapse as crowds of spectators walk around to admire the installations,” Unesco further added.
India now has 14 intangible cultural heritage elements on the Unesco list. Other Indian entries that were previously inscribed include Nowrouz (2016), Ramlila (2008), Yoga (2016) and Kumbh Mela (2017).
Durga Puja, also known as Durgotsava or Sharodotsava, is an annual Hindu festival originating in the Indian subcontinent which reveres and pays homage to the Hindu goddess Durga and is also celebrated because of Durga’s victory over Mahishasur. It is particularly popular and traditionally celebrated in the Indian states of West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tripura, Assam, Maharastra, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Uttrakhand and the country of Bangladesh.
The festival is observed in the Indian calendar month of Ashwin, which corresponds to September–October in the Gregorian calendar. Durga Puja is a ten-day festival, of which the last five are of utmost significance. The puja (worship) is performed in homes and public, the latter featuring a temporary stage and structural decorations (known as pandals). The festival is marked also by scripture recitations, performance arts, revelry, gift-giving, family visits, feasting, and public processions.
Durga Puja is an important festival in the Shaktism tradition of Hinduism.