The Intangible Culture Heritage of India

India has a vast cultural heritage, including monuments, ancient pottery, performing arts, and social practices. UNESCO aims to protect this rich heritage through its lists of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Let us understand what these lists mean? And, what are the different cultures included in it?

What is the meaning of Intangible Cultural Heritage?

It means the practices, representations or knowledge of some skills related to objects, instruments, and artefacts. These skills are generally associated with some particular community or group. The UNESCO has categorised such lists into the following two types:

1.   The list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in need of urgent safeguarding: This list includes those elements that are vulnerable and require immediate measures to keep them alive.

2.   The Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: This list includes different cultural practices and expressions. It helps to raise awareness about culture and heritage. Currently, India has 13 items in the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

Let us now learn about 13 items included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.


Koodiyattam is a dance-drama form of Kerala. Chakyars and Ambalavasi Nambiar caste perform it. The drama and dance performance lasts from 6 to 20 days. It was included in the UNESCO list in 2008. The main features are Vidushaka, who explains the story in simple Malayalam in the background. A unique instrument, Mizhavu, is also used in the performance.


Ramlila was also included in 2008 in the UNESCO list of Intangible Culture of Humanity. It is a folk theatre of Uttar Pradesh. The theatre starts before Dussehra. Male actors usually perform in the theatre. The one of most common Ramlila is Bakshi ka Talab near Lucknow. It has been staged since 1972.

The culture promotes communal harmony. As lead characters like Rama, Lakshman and Hanuman are played by Muslim Youths.

The tradition in Vedic Chanting

The tradition of the Vedas was included in the UNESCO list in 2008. It is considered the oldest unbroken oral tradition. UNESCO has put Vedic chanting as a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.


Ramman was included in the Intangible list in 2009. It is a religious festival and ritual theatre of the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. The festival is celebrated by the communities of Saloon – Dungra villages. The villagers worship Bhumiyal Denta, a local deity, by singing Jaguar tribal music.


Mudiyettu is a ritual theatre of Kerala. It was included in the Intangible list in 2010. The theatre depicts the fight scene between Goddess Kali and demon Darika. The performers signature heavy make-up and facial painting.


Kalbelia was included in UNESCO intangible list in 2010. It is a tribal dance form of the serpent community of Rajasthan. The performance is accompanied by poongi chang and cymbals.


Chhau is also a tribal dance form of Odisha, Jharkhand and West Bengal. In Odisha. It is famous as Mayurbhanj Chhau, in Jharkhand as Seraikella – Chhau, and in West Bengal as Purulia Chhau. The dance form is performed during the celebrations of the spring festival each year. It is combined with some combat techniques and is generally performed by male dancers.

Buddhist chanting of Ladakh

The recitation of sacred Buddhist texts was included in UNESCO intangible list in 2012. They symbolise sub-sects of Buddhism, Mahayana and Vajrayana.


Sankirtana is a ritual singing and dancing form of Manipur. Originated in 1500 AD, it was included in the UNESCO list in 2013. Vaishnavites perform it. The performers praise the life and deeds of Lord Krishna through dances and songs. Cymbals and dance accompany the performance.

Traditional Brass and Copper Craft of Utensil Making

This is an oral tradition passed from generation to generation. It includes tribal communities especially, Thatera.

This art of utensil making was included in the list in 2014. It consisted of the regions of Punjab and was encouraged by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the 19th century.


Nowrouz is also known as the New Year for the Parsis. It was included in UNESCO intangible list in 2016. Zoroastrian community prays on this day for wealth, prosperity and happiness.


Yoga was included in a UNESCO Intangible list in 2016. It consists of poses, meditation, chanting and other techniques to build self-reliance.

Kumbh Mela

Kumbh Mela was included in the UNESCO list in 2017. It is a mass Hindu pilgrimage to bathe in a sacred ring. It is celebrated in Prayagraj Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain.


Protecting the significant cultures of India is vital as they define the authenticity of the country. UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List provides them worldwide recognition and dignity.