UNESCO names Kumbh Mela Intangible Cultural Heritage
New Delhi:On Friday, India’s KumbhMela has been recognised by UNESCO(United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) as an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” and held up as the world’s largest peaceful gathering of pilgrims.
The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage under UNESCO has inscribed ´KumbhMela´ on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during its 12th session being held at Jeju, South Korea from 4-9 December.
This inscription is the third in two years following the inscriptions of ‘Yoga’ and ‘Nouroz’ in December.
The annual congregation of pilgrims was one of the 33 new additions to the list this year. The list includes forms of expression that testify to the diversity of the intangible heritage and raise awareness of its importance.
The list describes KumbhMela as “the festival of the sacred Pitcher” where pilgrims bathe or take a dip in a sacred river. “The congregation includes ascetics, saints, sadhus, aspirants-kalpavasis and visitors. The tradition plays a central spiritual role in the country, encapsulating a diverse range of cultural customs. Knowledge and skills relating to KumbhMela are mainly imparted through the teacher-student relationship, but transmission and safeguarding are also ensured through oral traditions and religious and historical texts,” the statement reads.
Other additions on the list include Bangladesh’s traditional art of ShitalPati weaving, which basically refers to the art form of weaving strips of green cane into a handcrafted mat, usually used for prayer purposes.
“This intangible cultural heritage is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity. It is not valued because it is unique but rather because it is relevant for the community practicing it.
Furthermore, its importance is not in the cultural manifestation itself, but in the wealth of knowledge, know-how and skills that are transmitted from one generation to the next,” read the MEA note after UNESCO decision.
On this, Prime Minister NarendraModi tweeted that it is “a matter of immense joy and pride for India”.
Also, reacting to the recognition, Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said it was a proud moment for India.“A very proud moment for us as sacred KumbhMela is just inscribed as the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO,” he tweeted.
About Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage:
Practices, expressions, representations, as well as skills and knowledge that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage are defined as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO’s Convention for Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage. Intangible Cultural Heritage comprises oral traditions, social practices, performing arts, rituals, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, festive events and traditional craftsmanship knowledge and techniques.
The convention was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in 2003 and came into force in 2006.
Surprising Things about the Kumbh Mela:
Hindus all around the world are known to celebrate festivals with much passion and fervour. In the same way, KumbhMela alsois one such festival; a pilgrimage of faith for Hindus looking to wash their past sins. The mela, which is the world’s largest gathering of its type, draws lakhs of bhakts (devotees) from all over the country and around the globe.The mela creates approximately 650,000 jobs and was estimated to earn every time around Rs 12,000 crore.
The KumbhMelais held every three years, and switches between four different locations – Haridwar (river Ganga), Prayag (Trivenisangam of Yamuna, Ganga and Saraswati), Ujjain (river Kshipra), and Nasik (river Godavari). And, the mela returns toeach location after a span of 12 years.
Hindus believe that those who bathe in the sacred waters during the Kumbh are eternally blessed by the divine. All their sins are washed away and they come one step closer to salvation.
Surprisingly, the festival is over 2000 years old! The first written evidence of the melacan be found in the accounts of the Chinese traveller Xuanzang, who visited India during the reign of King Harshavardhana.
Now, considered the world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims; thisKumbhMelawill joins new elements from Botswana, Colombia, Venezuela, Mongolia, Morocco, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates on the UNESCO list.