Revisiting the Basics

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9 Indian Arts in the UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage


What’s an intangible heritage?

As defined by UNESCO, cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants.

Per UNESCO, Intangible cultural heritage is:

  1. Traditional, contemporary and living at the same time
  2. Inclusive – contributes to social cohesion, encouraging a sense of identity
  3. Representative – skills and customs passed on to the rest of the community, from generation to generation
  4. Community-based

9 Indian Arts forms which found their way into the UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

#1. Koodiyattam, Sanskrit Theatre, Kerala

  1. Koodiyattam is the oldest existing classical theatre form in the entire world, having originated much before Kathakali and most other theatrical forms
  2. Koodiyattam was traditionally a part of the temple rituals
  3. Traditionally, Koodiyattam is presented by Chakyars, a temple caste of Kerala, and Nangiars, the women of Nambiar caste

#2. Mudiyett: a ritual theatre of Kerala

Kerala again!

  1. A traditional ritual theatre and folk dance drama from Kerala that enacts the mythological tale of a battle between the goddess Kali and the demon Darika
  2. Mudiyettu is a communal undertaking in which each caste of the village plays a specific role
  3. Being a community based art form it is the community that has traditionally encouraged and trained the next generation to preserve the art form

#3. The Tradition of Vedic Chanting

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The traditional way of reciting the Vedas is called Vedic chanting. Vedas are the primary source of knowledge on Hindu traditions. They comprise of the Hindu philosophy, myth, poetry and dialogue. The Vedas go back to about 3,500 years to the time of the Aryans, though they were written down much later. There are four chief Vedas – Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva.

#4. Ramlila – the Traditional Performance of the Ramayana

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

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The Ramman is a religious festival manifested in the form of ritual theatre annually held at Saloor Dungra village, in the Painkhanda Valley of Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, India.

The Ramman is not replicated or performed at any other site in the Himalayas, being specific to both location and time.

#6. Kalbelia: folk songs and dances of Rajasthan

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  1. Kalbelia is actually an untouchable community from Rajasthan who has always lived on the outskirts of villages and relied on entertaining people for their livelihood
  2. They are also the community who are traditionally snake charmers
  3. Most famous for their sensuous form of dancing, also called Kalbelia, which mimics the movements of snakes in some sense

#7. Buddhist chanting of Ladakh

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#8. Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur

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Performed to mark religious occasions and various stages in the life of the Vaishnava people of the Manipur plains

#9. Traditional brass and copper craft – Thatheras

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The craft of the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru constitutes the traditional technique of manufacturing brass and copper utensils in Punjab.

Did we miss out on something important? Do let us know in comments here or add to the existing knowledge base!

Questions, suggestions and comments


  1. Profile photo of Ashis Sahu Ashis Sahu

    List as of 2016

    UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists
    1. Koodiyattam, Sanskrit Theatre, Kerala
    2. Mudiyett: a ritual theatre of Kerala
    3. The Tradition of Vedic Chanting
    4. Novruz, which is the observance of the Persian or Parsi New Year in India
    5. Ramlila – the Traditional Performance of the Ramayana
    6. Ramman: religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas
    7. Kalbelia: folk songs and dances of Rajasthan
    8. Chhau dance: a tradition from eastern India
    9. Buddhist chanting of Ladakh: recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in the trans-Himalayan Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir, India
    10. Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur
    11. Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab
    12. Yoga

  2. Profile photo of girendra yadav girendra yadav

    Chhau Dance of jharkhand

  3. Profile photo of Avadhesh Singh Avadhesh Singh

    ThanQ. Team CivilsDaily.

  4. Profile photo of Ratika Tiwari Ratika Tiwari

    wow loved it 🙂

  5. Profile photo of Akshay Thakur Akshay Thakur

    Crisp

  6. Profile photo of Simran Bains Simran Bains

    This post is amazing! 🙂

  7. Profile photo of Raveena Raveena

    Yoga is now a cultural intangible heritage of India

  8. Profile photo of Shubh Yadav Shubh Yadav

    thanks alot sir

  9. Profile photo of Srishti Srivastava Srishti Srivastava

    Chhau and Navroz are missing. Navroz is common to India, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan.

    1. Profile photo of K Vishnuvardhanreddy Reddy K Vishnuvardhanreddy Reddy

      GOOD NOTE

  10. Profile photo of shubham tiwari shubham tiwari

    Sir can u expln in hindi medium.
    Of this article..

    1. Profile photo of Root Root

      Would you want to give it a try to convert this into hindi? We can then push it and it would be helpful for all. Right now, we are constrained with our bandwidth and only newscards and some major blogs are converted in hindi.

      1. Profile photo of shubham tiwari shubham tiwari

        Sir if u can plz do it.??

  11. Profile photo of Praveen “VSR” Kumar Praveen “VSR” Kumar

    Thanks for the article. Chhau Dance is also on the list.

    http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/RL/chhau-dance-00337

  12. Profile photo of Bala Murali M Bala Murali M

    Chhau dance is missing here

    1. Profile photo of Mritunjay Sachdev Mritunjay Sachdev

      Mayurbhanj Chhau

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