Unesco honours Kumbh Mela with ‘intangible cultural heritage’ status

Italy’s art of making Neapolitan pizza was among others to feature on the list.

India’s Kumbh Mela on Thursday found a place in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s list of “intangible heritage”, with the organisation saying that the festival is the “largest peaceful congregation of pilgrims on earth”.

The decision to include the festival in Unesco’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity was taken at the ongoing meeting of the organisation’s World Heritage Committee in South Korea.

Unesco said Kumbh Mela plays a central role in India’s spirituality, “exerting a mesmeric influence” on the people of the country.

“Knowledge and skills related to the tradition are transmitted through ancient religious manuscripts, oral traditions, historical travelogues and texts produced by eminent historians,” Unesco said on its website. “However, the teacher-student relationship of the sadhus in the ashrams and akhadas remains the most important method of imparting and safeguarding knowledge and skills relating to Kumbh Mela.”

Unesco has also honoured other cultural traditions this year, including Italy’s art of making Neapolitan pizza, Al-Qatt Al-Asiri – a female traditional interior wall decoration from Saudi Arabia, and traditional folk dances of Serbia and Armenia.

Unesco also listed a range of traditions that require urgent safeguarding, including Ak Azi, the UAE’s art of performing poetry, Mongolian practices of worshipping sacred sites and whistled language of Turkey.

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