Durga puja is to be recommended for the UNESCO heritage inclusion. West Bengal has been keen to see it’s state festival enlisted for the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). Durga puja has been celebrated by the Bengalis in West Bengal, Tripura and certain parts of Bangladesh for ages. The Bengali diaspora celebrates this festival where ever they have settled down like in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia and other parts of south east and fast east Asia. No matter where ever the puja is celebrated, the centre stage lies in West Bengal.
In order to justify the enlisting of the Durga puja festival in the UNESCO’s list, it is necessary to understand Intangible Cultural Heritage. According to UNESCO, cultural heritage refers to any kind of performing arts like singing, dancing, acting, playing musical instruments; oral arts like recitation or story telling; creative arts like weaving, modeling, painting, sculpturing, wrapping or manufacturing any object of utility or artistic in nature or any kind of practice like worship or paying respect to some object of respect, or remembering a past event that has a important role in the community identity.
Now the intangible cultural heritage encompasses much more than the inherited traditions. It includes all the contemporary practices and observances that diverse cultural and linguistic groups take part. When diverse cultural groups take part in the same activity it leads to inclusivity. This inclusivity removes the sense of alienation and isolation. The majority includes the minorities and they become a part of the great one community. These activities are practiced over generations they become the identity of the community.
Durga puja represents the Bengali community in a big way. Wherever, Bengalis have settled or remained scattered they come together to celebrate the festival. Durga puja is a cohesive force that binds the Bengali and other communities who are invited to celebrate it.
The essence of the Durga puja is not confined to the religious part only. It is neither celebrated by the few joint families who were the traditional conductors of the puja but local clubs or associations who conduct the pujas in a big way. They are the ones who make the pujas vibrant and popular. The make shift shrines, pandals as they are called are the object of great attraction, the lighting, fountains, and the idols. Creative people have given their touches though adding various themes of social causes to make the people aware of the latest issues. The themes may include health alerts, cyclone disasters, earthquakes, wars, football, cricket, child education or any other themes for funds raising.Millions of people from all the country throng to west Bengal to see the festival in full grandeur. A sense of belongingness encompasses us all.
It was put forward by the West Bengal government to make the Durga puja under the ICH much earlier but it was refused by the UN body as it did not have the proper justification. So the government was advised to come back with the proper presentation. Sangeet Natak academy of the Union Ministry of Culture formally announced the nomination of Durga puja as the ICH. Representatives of the UNESCO will visit the city and will collect the information and on their feedback , probably it will make it to the ICH by 2020.