While visiting the Golden Triangle and seeing the ‘must see’ monuments is on many a bucket list, there is so much more to India.

One of the reasons why India is becoming a ‘must go to’ destination in 2023 is due to the emerging trend of understanding more about and preserving the cultures and traditions that have been passed from generation to generation, known as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’.

UNESCO has recognised the need to preserve ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’ and we’d like to share  what Intangible Cultural Heritage is and how travellers can enjoy the different experiences in India.

According to 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.

‘While fragile, intangible cultural heritage is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalisation. An understanding of the intangible cultural heritage of different communities helps with intercultural dialogue, and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life.’

The UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements1. Durga Puja, Kolkata (2021)

This 10-day annual festival is held in honour of the Hindu mother goddess Durga and is celebrated in September or October in Kolkata and other parts of India. It is a wonderful combination of religion and art.2. Kumbh Mela, North India (2017)

Kumbh Mela is the world’s largest spiritual congregation, where millions of devotees bathe in the holy Kshipra (Shipra) river to gain freedom from the cycle of birth and death and absolve their sins. Translated as the ‘festival of the sacred Pitcher’, visitors attend from all over the world.3. Traditions of Nawruz (Parsi New Year) (2016)

Nawruz means ‘New Day’ and it is celebrated on March 21 to mark the start of the year in India. For around two weeks, a variety of ceremonies, rituals and cultural events take place including music and dance, rituals involving fire and water, traditional sports and handicraft making.4. Yoga (2016)This ancient physical art is made up of a set of postures, meditation, controlled breathing, chanting and other practises that can aid the development of self-realisation, alleviate pain and attain liberation.5. Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab, India (2014)The Thatheras of Jandiala Guru is a community of skilled craftsmen who are specialists in the traditional technique of hammering brass and copper sheets into traditional utensils. The copper, brass and alloys used are believed to have marvellous health benefits.6. Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur (2013)Sankirtana encompasses a variety of art forms to celebrate religious occasions and the various life stages of the Vaishnava people of the Manipur plains. Through song and dance, two drummers and around ten singer-dancers tell the tales of the lives and deeds of Krishna.7. Buddhist chanting of Ladakh: recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in the trans-Himalayan Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir, India (2012)Teachings of Buddha are chanted for people’s moral and spiritual well-being, for peace of mind and purification, to invoke blessings of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and deities and to appease the wrath of evil spirits.8. Chhau dance (2010)Hailing from eastern India, Chhau is a traditional dance form where episodes from local folklore, abstract themes and epics including the Mahabharata and Ramayana are enacted through indigenous dance forms and martial practices with movements mimicking combat techniques, animals and birds and housewife chores.9. Kalbelia folk songs and dances of Rajasthan (2010)The Kalbelia are a snake charming tribe from the Thar Desert in Rajasthan, and their songs and dances are an expression of their traditional way of life. Kalbelia dances are performed by women in flowing delicately embroidered outfits who twirl to replicate the movements of a serpent.10. Mudiyettu, ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala (2010)Mudiyettu is a dance drama from Kerala dating back to the 9th or 10th century which has no rehearsal or preparation. It is a community ritual based on the mythological tale of a battle between the goddess Kali and the demon Darika after the summer crops have been harvested.11. Ramman, religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas (2009)Ramman is a religious festival in honour of the guardian god, Bhumiyal Devta, that takes place in late April in the twin villages of Saloor-Dungra in Uttarakhand. This multicultural event represents the environmental, spiritual and cultural concept of the community and combines music, theatre, historical reconstructions and traditional oral and written tales.12. Kutiyattam dance form, KeralaDating back over 2,000 years ago, Kutiyattam is one of India’s oldest living theatrical traditions. Practised in Kerala, it features eye expression (neta abhinaya) and gestures (hasta abhinaya) which focus on the main character’s thoughts and feelings.13. Tradition of Vedic chanting (2008)The chanting of passages from the Vedas, Sanskrit poetries, philosophical dialogue, myth, and ritual incantations composed over 3,500 years ago and thought of by Hindus as the sacred foundation of their religion and the primary source of knowledge.14. Ramlila, the traditional performance of the Ramayana (2008)Performed across northern India during the annual Autumn festival of Dussehra, Ramlila, is a performance of the Ramayana epic in a series of scenes that include dialogue, narration, recital and song. Translating literally as “Rama’s play”, this sacred text is devoted to the glory of Rama, the hero of the Ramayana. More detailed descriptions are available in our blog postExperience India’s Intangible Cultural Heritage with Authentic India ToursA tailor-made trip to India from Authentic India Tours can include some of these experiences to give the traveller an authentic India experience and the opportunity to think beyond the ‘must see’ bucket list of places to visit.
More about Authentic India ToursAuthentic India Tours is a specialist travel company offering private tailor-made tours and small group holidays to India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.All holidays are ABTA-protected and ATOL-protected if flights are included.www.authenticindiatours.com