The Kumbh Mela was declared as India’s ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ by UNESCO on 8 December 2017. The event was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the UN body. 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 Kumbh Mela 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 Kumbh Mela 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.
The decision was taken by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage meeting in Jeju, South Korea. Other additions on the list include Bangladesh’s traditional art of Shital Pati weaving, which basically refers to the art form of weaving strips of green cane into a handcrafted mat, usually used for prayer purposes.