Garba of Gujarat makes it to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list

The popular dance form is the 15th cultural item from India to make it to UNESCO list two years after Kolkata’s Durga Puja was last added to the prestigious list

December 06, 2023 10:12 pm | Updated December 12, 2023 03:30 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Artists perform Garba dance on the Maha Navami of Navatatri festival at Mandvi, Bodakdev in Ahmedabad. FILE

Artists perform Garba dance on the Maha Navami of Navatatri festival at Mandvi, Bodakdev in Ahmedabad. FILE | Photo Credit: ANI

Gujarat’s traditional dance form ‘Garba’ was on December 6 included in the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) .

The popular dance form is the 15th cultural item from India to make it to the UNESCO list. Kolkata’s Durga Puja was the last one added two years ago.

“Today, the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage inscribed ‘Garba of Gujarat’ on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during its 18th session, taking place in Kasane, Botswana from 5 to 9 December 2023,” the UNESCO said in a statement.

The inclusion has been made under the provisions of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The international cultural body described the ‘Garba’ as a ritualistic and devotional dance performed throughout the State of Gujarat and across India.

‘Worship of feminine energy’

“Garba is celebrated for nine days during the festival of Navaratri. The festival is dedicated to the worship of the feminine energy or Shakti. The cultural, performative, and visual expressions of this feminine energy are expressed through the Garba dance. The performative and visual celebration of Garba takes place within homes and temple courtyards, public spaces in villages, urban squares, streets, and large open grounds. Garba thus becomes an all-encompassing participatory community event,” the statement said.

The Garba is a unique manifestation of worshipping the divine feminine — the primordial goddess, it added.

Tim Curtis, Director of UNESCO New Delhi Regional Office for South Asia and UNESCO Representative for Bhutan, India, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka said, “I hope this inscription helps ensure the viability of this tradition and inspires the community, particularly young people, to continue with the knowledge, skills and oral traditions associated with Garba.”

To celebrate this remarkable occasion, a troupe of eight dancers from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) showcased Garba at the UNESCO meeting venue. In India, the Government of Gujarat organised several curated ‘Garba’ events across the State to celebrate this milestone.

PM’s joy

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed happiness over the global honour. “Garba is a celebration of life, unity and our deep-rooted traditions. Its inscription on the Intangible Heritage List showcases to the world the beauty of Indian culture. This honour inspires us to preserve and promote our heritage for future generations,” he posted on X.

Apart from ‘Garba of Gujarat,’ some of the new inscriptions include Rickshaws and Rickshaw painting in Dhaka from Bangladesh, Songkran in Thailand, traditional Thai New Year festival from Thailand; Hiragasy, a performing art of the Central Highlands of Madagascar; Junkanoo from the Bahamas, and the Procession and celebrations of Prophet Mohammed’s birthday in Sudan, among others.

The list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage currently has some 704 elements corresponding to 5 regions and 143 countries. It includes forms of expression that testify to the diversity of intangible heritage and raises awareness of its importance.

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