‘Durga Puja of Kolkata’ is now a World Heritage site. Bengal’s biggest festival was inscribed on the representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at a meeting of a Unesco committee in Paris on Wednesday. This is the first festival in Asia to receive the recognition.
Durga Puja joins other Indian cultural practices and expressions, such as Kumbh Mela, Chhau dance from Bengal and Odisha, Sankirtana from Manipur, Yoga, Ramlila, Buddhist chanting in Ladakh and Nawruz on the ICH list. Globally, Baul songs of Bangladesh, Tango in Argentina and Uruguay, Samba de Rode and Frevo of Brazil, Royal Ballet of Cambodia, China’s Dragon Boat Festival and Flamenco of Spain are among those listed as ICH by Unesco.
The news was greeted with euphoria. “A matter of great pride and joy for every Indian!...,” tweeted PM Narendra Modi. CM Mamata Banerjee tweeted her happiness: “Proud moment for Bengal! To every #Bengali across the world, Durga Puja is much more than a festival, it is an emotion that unites everyone…”
For festival organisers, including Forum for Durgotsav that represents the leading 500 Durga Pujas of Kolkata, it was a long-cherished dream to see the event find a prominent space on the global map. “The recognition as a world heritage will not only attract more international tourists to Bengal, I believe it will also lead to foreign investment in the festival,” said forum founder Partho Ghosh.