13 Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements from India Inscribed on UNESCO’S List Till Date (Download PDF)


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Paying tribute to the legacy of diverse cultures, UNESCO has inscribed a list of Intangible Cultural Heritage that does not limit itself to monuments, collections of objects or a particular places; it also includes traditions that have been passed through generations as a way of life.

Image of 13 Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements from India

Image of 13 Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements from India

Image of 13 Intangible Cultural Heritage Elements from India

  • UNESCO Intangible cultural heritage in India include performing arts, festive events, social practices, rituals, oral traditions, knowledge, practices and particular skills to produce traditional crafts.
  • In the face of changing times, the intangible cultural heritage is being lost. To preserve this vast wealth, UNESCO lists these cultural practices. Indian has a total of 13 such representative ones in the list of the Intangible cultural heritage of Humanity

List of Intangible Cultural Elements (ICH)

  1. Koodiyattam, Sanskrit Theatre, Kerala: It is India’s oldest existing classical theatre. Inscribed on 2008 by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage of India is a dying art that needs preservation.

  2. Mudiyett: Mudiyett is a ritual theatre of Kerala that re-enacts the tale of Goddess Kali and Demon Darika, performed for purification, the 4-day festival is a part of the Bhagwati cult performed by members of the Marar and Kuruppu communities in Thrissur, Ernakulam, Kottayam and Idukki districts of Kerala.

  3. The Tradition of Vedic Chanting

  4. Ramlila –is the traditional performance of the Ramayana, basically the life of Lord Rama till his victory over the Demon King Ravana. UNESCO inscribed Ramlila on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage on 2008.

  5. Ramman: religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas, UNESCO inscribed Ramman on the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in India on 2009

  6. Kalbelia: UNESCO inscribe Kalbelia, a form of folk songs and dance in Rajasthan as an Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2010. This incredible dance and music performance comes from actually an untouchable community from Rajasthan who led nomadic lives. Traditional known as snake charmers, the community relied on trading of snakes and snake poison.

  7. Chhau dance: a tradition from eastern India, is semi-classical form of tribal dance, combining martial arts, storytelling, martial arts, mock combat, acrobatics, and athletics and story-telling based in eastern India- Orissa, Jharkhand & West Bengal The unique dance form is inscribed in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.

  8. Buddhist chanting of Ladakh: recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in the trans-Himalayan Ladakh region, Jammu and Kashmir, India: Chanting of sacred texts is said to have positive affect on both performers and listeners, taking the soul towards spiritual enlightenment. Chanting has always been an auspicious ritual of Buddhism.

  9. Sankirtana, ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur: is an art form of ritual singing, drumming and dancing that has spiritual origins in the North East Indian province of Manipur. The unique tradition has been inscribed on the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of India on 2013.

  10. Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru, Punjab: The art of making these utensils were praiseworthy. The ancient practice is almost lost except the group of people- the Thanteras of Jandiala Guru in Punjab. The olden tradition of brass and copper utensils making had made its name on the list of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in India.

  11. Navroz- Parsi New Year: is the New Year day, a start for the two week festivities. India celebrates Jamshed Navroz. Exchanging of gifts, feasts with family and friends are common celebrations while some countries also have street performances of music and dance, public rituals involving water and fire, traditional sports and the making of handicrafts and merry-making.

  12. Yoga: is ancient tradition of health and wellness that has gained international recognition. It does not come as a surprise that on 2016, Yoga was inscribed on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The ancient Indian practice is based on unifying the mind with the body and soul to allow for greater mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing.

  13. Kumbh Mela: is reputed as “the world’s most massive act of faith. ” Now, the UNESCO has recognized the spiritual festival as an “intangible cultural heritage of humanity” in 2017. Kumbh Mela plays a central spiritual role in the country. The event summarizes the science of astronomy, astrology, spirituality, ritualistic traditions, and social and cultural customs and practices, making it extremely rich in knowledge.

Every 12 years, devotees gather at either of the four locations—Haridwar, Allahabad, Nashik-Trimbakeshwar, and Ujjain Simhastha—to bathe in the holy waters of River Ganga, Triveni Sangam (confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati), River Godavari and Kshipra River respectively.

Major Organizations for ICH Are

The major organisations involved in preservation of propagation of ICH are named below:

  • Sahitya Akademi, Lalit Kala Akademi, Sangeet Natak Akademi

  • Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts

  • National School of Drama

  • Centre for Cultural Resources & Training

  • Zonal Cultural Centres (seven in number)

  • Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya

  • Anthropological Survey of India


  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris.

  • Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter.

  • It is the successor of the League of Nations’ International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.

  • UNESCO has 195 member states and ten associate members. Most of its field offices are “cluster” offices covering three or more countries; national and regional offices also exist.

Intangible Cultural India

  • Intangible Cultural Heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage.

- Published/Last Modified on: July 26, 2018


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