Durga Puja Festival recognised by UNESCO

The Durga Puja festival held annually in Kolkata, India, is among those added to UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage list.

Durga Puja Recognised by UNESCO

"a matter of great pride and joy for every Indian."

The annual Durga Puja festival in Kolkata, India has been added to UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage list.

The event takes place in September or October and marks the ten-day worship of the goddess Durga.

It is most notably celebrated in the West Bengal capital but also in other parts of India and among the Bengali diaspora.

In the months leading up to Durga Puja, images of the goddess and her family are created using unfired clay from the River Ganges.

Worship then officially begins on the inaugural day of Mahalaya, whereby eyes are painted onto the clay portraits to bring Durga to life.

On the festival’s final day, the images are immersed into the sacred and longest Indian river, where the clay had originally been extracted from.

Therefore, the festival has come to symbolise homecoming or the seasonal return to one’s roots.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) made the announcement on December 15, 2021.

They said: “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.

“The festival is characterised by large-scale installations and pavilions in urban areas, as well as by traditional Bengali drumming and veneration of the goddess.

“During the event, the divides of class, religion and ethnicities collapse as crowds of spectators walk around to admire the installations.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the recognition was “a matter of great pride and joy for every Indian”.

Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, added:

“Durga Puja is much more than a festival, it is an emotion that unites everyone.”

“And now, Durga Puja has been added to the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”

Durga Puja was also joined by several others on the Intangible Heritage list such as Ceebu Jën, a culinary art of Senegal, the embroidery of Palestine and the Xòe dance from Vietnam.

There are currently 492 items on the list in total, with 13 specifically from India.

These include Koodiyattam, a Sanskrit theatre of Kerala, Kalbelia, folk songs and dances of Rajasthan, and the recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in Ladakh.

The Durga Puja gathering in the Red Road area of Kolkata had to be cancelled in both 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic but it is hoped that it will take place again at the beginning of October 2022.

Naina is a journalist interested in Scottish Asian news. She enjoys reading, karate and independent cinema. Her motto is "Live like others don't so you can live like others won't."