On Wednesday, UNESCO gave heritage status to the auspices Durga Puja Festival of Kolkata. The decision brought glory to India’s culture, while PM Modi and West Bengal CM Mamta Banerjee lauded the decision.
“Durga Puja in Kolkata has just been inscribed on the intangible heritage list. Congratulations India,” the organization said in a tweet. The tweet was attached with a photo of the goddess and the hashtag ‘living heritage’.
The PM termed the decision as a matter of pride and joy for Indians. He further said that the Durga puja highlights the finest of our culture and essence. Everyone must experience the festival. CM Mamta Banerjee said that Durga Puja is not just a festival, rather it’s an emotion. It is a matter of pride for every Bengali that unites the people.
The Ministry of culture also extended its wishes on the occasion through Twitter. It congratulated all the residents of the city and state. “Overjoyed that ‘Durga Puja in Kolkata’ joins the @UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Many congratulations! It is a confluence of the rich heritage and culture of the county’s art, crafts, rituals, and practices. Jai Maa Durga!” the ministry wrote.
The department of state information and cultural affairs in Bengal also made a statement of congratulations. It congratulated the people of the state as well as the country. The department further highlighted that it is the first festival in Asia to get this recognition.
The chairman of the West Bengal Heritage Commission said that the annual Red Road carnival exhibits the craftsmanship behind making the Durga Puja pandals. It has more people across the world aware of the splendour that is attached to the festival.
Welcoming the decision, Indologist, and academician Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri said Durga Puja is a “universal festival” uniting millions of people. He further added that the festival should have been accorded the status much earlier. The annual Red Road carnival, organized ahead of the immersion ceremony, was last held in 2019. It was cancelled in 2020 owing to the pandemic.
What is Durga Puja?
Durga puja is an annual Hindu festival that pays homage to the Hindu goddess Durga. The festival marks the Victory of Durga Maa over Mahishasur. It is a 10-day festival, with the latter 5 days of the highest significance. The puja is performed at home as well as in public Pandals. The Public Pandals have temporary stage decorations, scripture recitations, performance arts, revelry, gift-giving, family visits, feasting, and public processions. It is an important festival in the Shaktism tradition of Hinduism. It symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
At the same time, it’s a harvest festival that celebrates the goddess as the motherly power behind all the creations. The Durga puja festival coincides with Navratri and Dussehra festival celebrations by other traditions of Hinduism. Durga Puja is an old tradition of Hinduism, but its originals are still not clear. Goddess Durga is an ancient deity of Hinduism as per the archaeological and textual evidence. She is associated with protection, strength, motherhood, destruction, and wars.
The surviving old manuscripts suggest the guidelines for celebrating the festival. At least from the 16th century, royal and wealthy families have been sponsoring prominent Durga puja festival celebrations. In modern times, the significance of Durga Puja is more as a social and cultural event than a regional event. It has become an inseparable part of Indian culture, with a diverse group of people uniquely celebrating the festival.