Kumbh Mela Marked as Intangible Cultural Heritage by Unesco

Kumbh Mela joins Indian cultural traditions such as Kalbelia folk performance of Rajasthan, Chhau dance, and Buddhist chanting of Ladakh on Unesco list.


The Hindu pilgrimage congregation of Kumbh Mela has been marked as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco). The Kumbh Mela, an event that sees thousands of people coming together to a holy site in India to wash away their sins, joins heritage elements in the United Arab Emirates, Botswana, Mongolia, Morocco, Turkey and others, on the list that was released on Dec. 7.

The Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years at Nashik, Ujjain, Haridwar, and Allahabad by rotation.

According to Unesco, cultural heritage 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.

The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage under the UN body inscribed Kumbh Mela on the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” at its 12th session at Jeju in South Korea.

Thirty two other new elements were inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during the meeting, including Bangladesh’s traditional art of Shital Pati weaving of Sylhet and the art of Neopolitan pizza-making from Italy.

The Kumbh Mela is the latest intangible cultural heritage to be included from the country.

India’s yoga was added to the list in 2016. “Designed to help individuals build self-realization, ease any suffering they may be experiencing and allow for a state of liberation, [yoga] is practiced by the young and old without discriminating against gender, class or religion,” Unesco tweeted last year.

The other elements from India that feature on the list are:

  • The tradition of Vedic chanting
  • Ramlila, the traditional performance of the Ramayana
  • Kutiyattam, the Sanskrit theater of Kerala
  • Ramman, a religious festival and ritual theater of the Garhwal Himalayas
  • Kerala’s ritual theatre of Mudiyettu
  • Kalbelia folk performances of Rajasthan
  • Chhau dance of Jharkhand and Odisha
  • Buddhist chanting of Ladakh
  • Sankirtana, the singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur
  • Traditional craft of brass and copper utensil-making among Thatheras of Jandiala Guru in Amritsar, Punjab
  • Nawrouz, the Iranian New Year

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