Durga Puja joins UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list

West Bengal’s biggest festival aims for global recognition

Culture

December 11, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Durga Puja joins UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list

Durga Puja is the second major spiritual and cultural festival for which India has gotten the tag of intangible cultural heritage (MIG Photos/Varsha Singh)

As the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) met in Paris on December 15 to consider applications for the Representative List of Intangible Culture Heritage from around the world, India’s application for the Durga Puja has been accepted.

India had applied for Bengal’s biggest cultural and spiritual festival, Durga Puja, to be included in UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Culture Heritage for the meeting that began on Monday. West Bengal government had earlier asked the central government for the festival which is celebrated across various states of India and Bangladesh, with its epicentre in Kolkata, to be added to this list.

Durga Puja becomes the second major spiritual and cultural festival in India with the tag of intangible cultural heritage. In 2017, the Kumbh Mela was recognised during UNESCO’s 12th session held in Jeju, South Korea.

Durga Puja, West Bengal’s annual cultural extravaganza

West Bengal government in 2013 introduced Biswa Bangla Sharad Samman awards as a token of appreciation to the celebrations held across the state, to recognise the efforts of the regional committees (MIG photos/Varsha Singh)

Durga Puja celebrates the victory of Goddess Durga over the demon Mahisasur. Each year during October, a 10-day grand celebration is held all over the state of West Bengal, especially in the state capital, Kolkata. During the season or pujo, millions of people from all over the country travel to the city to experience the vibrant culture and food the city has to offer.

The ten-day worship of the Hindu mother-goddess Durga and her ten incarnations marks her victory over the demon Mahishashur in her divine form of Mahishashurmardini. As per belief, the goddess descends from her husband Shiva’s home in the Himalayas to her parent’s home in the mortal world. She descends to earth with her four children Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati. The worship begins from the inaugural day of Mahalaya with the ritual of Chokudan, drawing of eyes on the idols of the respective gods and goddesses.

The orders for idols are given well in advance of the pujo season. The idols are specially handcrafted by local artists using clay from the River Ganga. The craftsmanship displays cross-cultural influences. The finished idols in many places are then decorated with precious gems and ornaments made of gold and silver.

The puja is a cumulative effort of several groups. For ages, the puja has been organised by families with the help of their savings and crowdfunding in form of donations from the community. Special committees are set up within apartment complexes and the head of the committees are democratically elected among the members of the group.

Multiple tents or pandals, housing the goddess and her children, are put up across the city by these committees allowing people to come and pay their respect. In these pandals, seasonal workers such as dhakis or rural drummers are employed to provide ritualistic music for the goddess and a musical ambience to the attendees. Purohits or priests are also employed to carry out ceremonies for the gods and goddesses.

The West Bengal government in 2013 introduced Biswa Bangla Sharad Samman awards as a token of appreciation to the celebrations held across the state, to recognise the efforts of the regional committees. Under this initiative, awards are given to various hosts as per different categories.

With the increase in popularity of the festival, various organisations provide media coverage to it. For the past few years, various corporates and commercial organisations have been sponsoring the festival at various locations.

Traditionally, a festival celebrated in the Bengal region now has spread across the borders of the state and country thanks to the probashi or non-resident Bengalis. Probashi Bengalis living in various states as well as overseas also organise the puja in their respective cities.

The organising committees of the Puja outside West Bengal and also outside India often invite major Bengali singers, bands and musicians to perform in their functions. For these artists, pujo season is the busiest and an opportunity to showcase their talent to the world.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

0 COMMENTS

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *