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HISTORIAN PUTS CALCUTTA’S DURGA PUJA ON UNESCO HERITAGE LIST

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The latest feather in the cap of Calcutta is the recognition of its iconic Durga Puja as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. This wouldn’t have been possible without the sheoric efforts of Dr Tapati Guha Thakurta. “During the event, the divides of class, religion and ethnicities collapse as crowds of spectators walk around to admire the installations,” writes UNESCO in describing Durga Puja while recognizing it as “Intangible Heritage.” Purulia’s Chau dance is another such hertigage from Bengal per UNESCO.
WHO IS TAPATI GUHA THAKURTA
Tapati Guha-Thakurta is a historian who has written about the cultural history and art of India. She is a director and professor in history at the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, and was previously a professor at Presidency College, Kolkata. In 2019, she was assigned by the Indian Ministry of Culture to prepare a dossier proposing the inclusion of Durga Puja in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
HERITAGE ISN’T JUST MONUMENTS
The term ‘cultural heritage’ has changed content considerably in recent decades, partially owing to the instruments developed by UNESCO. 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, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.
WHAT IS INTANGIBLE HERITAGE
While fragile, intangible cultural heritage is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization. An understanding of the intangible cultural heritage of different communities helps with intercultural dialogue, and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life.
The importance of intangible cultural heritage is not the cultural manifestation itself but rather the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next. The social and economic value of this transmission of knowledge is relevant for minority groups and for mainstream social groups within a State, and is as important for developing States as for developed ones.

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