Durga Puja in Kolkata has now become world heritage. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has accorded heritage status to the mega festival. UNESCO inscribed “Durga Puja in Kolkata” on the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”, bringing immense joy and pride to the people of the state.
Posting a photograph of goddess Durga, UNESCO said in a tweet: “Durga puja in Kolkata has just been inscribed on the intangible heritage list. Congratulations India.” It also used the hashtag #livingheritage.
According to UNESCO, Durga Puja was the only Indian festival to make it to its list of 20 events and traditional activities.
The decision to include Durga Puja in the list was taken during the 16th session of the annual convention of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage held online from December 13 to December 18.
After receiving the news, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was ‘beaming with joy’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also hailed the UNESCO move and says it is a ‘matter of great pride for every Indian’.
Expressing her joy, Banerjee said to “every Bengali across the world, Durga Puja is much more than a festival. It is an emotion that unites everyone.” Taking to Twitter, the TMC supremo wrote: “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. And now, #DurgaPuja has been added to the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. We are all beaming with joy!”
Modi said Kolkata’s Durga Puja is an experience everyone must have. “A matter of great pride and joy for every Indian! Durga Puja highlights the best of our traditions and ethos. And, Kolkata’s Durga Puja is an experience everyone must have,” the PM tweeted.
Suvaprasanna, the chairman of the State Heritage Commission, said the Red Road Puja Carnival, which sees the participation of foreign delegates and tourists from across the world, strengthens Bengal’s position globally. “Bengalis all over the world today will be proud of this heritage status. The festival brings everyone together,” he said. The Red Road Carnival, which is held at the end of the 10-day festival, is an initiative of Mamata Banerjee.
Poet and lyricist Srijato said: “Durga Puja is not just a festival. It’s an emotion. The feeling cannot be expressed in words”
Renowned Bengali author Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay said Bengal should have got this recognition long ago. “I don’t know why we had to wait for so long for this recognition to come our way. Durga Puja should have been given the heritage status long back. However, this fills me with extreme joy.”
In an official statement, the Bengal department of State Information and Cultural Affairs thanked the people of West Bengal and the UN Agency for the heritage status. Calling it a red-letter day for Bengal, it said: “UNESCO also commended the concerned organisations in Kolkata for their initiatives to involve marginalized groups and individuals as well as women in their participation in safeguarding the intangible cultural heritage.”
Now, India has 14 intangible cultural heritage elements on the UNESCO list. Yoga and the Kumbh Mela were inscribed on the list in 2016 and 2017, respectively.