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. While fragile, intangible cultural heritage is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization.
Thus in 2003, the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage came into being which identified five broad ‘domains’ in which intangible cultural heritage is manifested:
- Oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;
- Performing arts;
- Social practices, rituals and festive events;
- Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
- Traditional craftsmanship.
(a) The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity comprises cultural "practices and expressions [that] help demonstrate the diversity of this heritage and raise awareness about its importance." This is the longer of the two lists.
(b) The List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding is composed of those cultural elements that concerned communities and countries consider require urgent measures to keep them alive. Inscriptions on this List help mobilize international cooperation and assistance for stakeholders to undertake appropriate measures.
Prior to this, a project known as the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity had already been active in recognizing the value of intangibles through a Proclamation. Started in 2001, 90 forms of intangible heritage around the world were recognized. The 90 previously proclaimed Masterpieces have been incorporated into the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Subsequent elements will be added following the assessment of nominations submitted by national governments
INDIA and ICH
- Currently no cultural heritage items of India are listed in the "List of ICH in need of Urgent Safeguarding".
- Eight items from India were listed as Masterpieces and now included in the Representative List. These are:
- Chhau Dance, Eastern India (three distinct styles hail from Seraikilla, Purulia and Mayurbhanj)
- Kalbelia folk songs and dances of Rajasthan
- Mudiyettu, ritual theatre and dance form of Kerala
- Navroz, Parsi new year festivity. It is celebrated on 21 March every year, a date originally determined by astronomical calculations. Novruz is associated with various local traditions, such as the evocation of Jamshid, a mythological king of Iran, and numerous tales and legends.
- Ramman, religious festival and ritual theatre of Garhwal hills (Chamoli, Uttarakhand)
- Kutiyattam, Sanskrit Theatre from Kerala
- Ramlila, traditional performance of Ramayana
- Tradition of Vedic chanting
For details on the Indian theatre forms mentioned above visit: Traditional Indian Theatre.