Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of India and its significance.

Updated November 10, 2022

Partially by the virtue of the instruments developed by UNESCO, in recent decades, the term ‘cultural heritage and art heritage’ has changed content considerably. Monuments and collections of objects do not sum up Cultural heritage. Intangible cultural heritage such as traditions, value, ethics, customs or living gesture we have received from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as rituals, festive events, social practices, knowledge, performing arts, oral traditions, and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts is also a part of cultural heritage.

Today every part of the globe is moving towards globalization. And, intangible cultural heritage plays an important part in maintaining cultural diversity through growing globalization. Every community has its own cultural heritage and their understanding of different intangible cultural heritage helps with intercultural dialogue and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life.

The cultural demonstration itself doesn’t reflect the importance of intangible cultural heritage but the transmission of the wealth of knowledge and skills from one generation to the next does reflect. From the social and economic value perspective, the transmission of knowledge is relevant for both minority groups as well as for mainstream social groups within a State. It’s important not only for developing States but also for developed ones.

National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of India

The Tradition of Vedic Chanting

Chanting of Vedic mantras or religious mantras of India is the art of expressions of hymns from the Vedas and ancient scriptures of Hinduism. It is practiced from at least 3,000 years and is probably the oldest continuously vocal tradition in the world.

Ramlila, the Traditional Performance of the Ramayana

Ramlila is a drama based on the life of Lord Rama, which shows the importance of dignity, how truth triumphs over untruth etc. It is a performance of the epic Ramayana consisting of lyrics, narration, singing, and dialogue. Ayodhya, Ramnagar, and Banaras, Vrindavan, Almora, Satna, and Madhubani are the representatives where it is performed in a grand way.


Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. In Hindu philosophical traditions, Yoga is considered as one of the six Astika (orthodox) schools. Yoga is one of the intangible cultural heritage of India which is also on the intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO.

Kumbh Mela

Among the major pilgrimage and festival in Hinduism, Kumbh Mela or Kumbha Mela is one. It is celebrated in a cycle of approximately 12 years at four river-bank pilgrimage sites, the Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain. The festival is marked by a ritual dip in the waters, but it is also a celebration of community commerce with numerous fairs, education, religious discourses by saints, mass feedings of monks or the poor, and entertainment spectacle. It is also listed on the intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO.


Nawrouz means a new day is celebrated on March 21st in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iran (the Islamic Republic of), Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. For a period of about two weeks, a variety of rituals, ceremonies, and other cultural events take place in the event of Nawrouz. March 21 marks the start of the year in these countries. It is referred to as Nauryz, Navruz, Nawrouz, Nevruz, Nowruz, Novruz, Nowrouz, or Nowruz. UNESCO has officially recognized it as a masterpiece of cultural heritage.

Chhau Dance

In the region of Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Odisha during festivals, the Chhau dance is performed. It becomes quite special during the spring festival of Chaitra Parva because the whole community participates in it. The Purulia Chhau dance is celebrated during the Sun festival.

Kutiyattam, Sanskrit Theatre

Koodiyattam (Kutiyattam in Malayalam) is a traditional performing art in the state of Kerala, India. It is a blend of the theater of ancient Sanskrit, with elements of Kuthu, ancient performance art of the Sangam era. UNESCO has officially recognized it as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity.

Religious Festival and Ritual Theatre of the Garhwal Himalayas (Ramman).

For the Garhwal region of India, Ramman is a religious festival and ritual theater. In the state of Uttarakhand, it is practiced in the village of Salur Dungra in the Dalkhand Valley in the Chamoli district by the Hindu community.

Ramman is practiced to please the village deity, the Bhumil deity (Bhumi Devi). The festive and important art is offered to the goddess in the village courtyard. Ramman is considered as unique to the village because it is neither copied nor performed elsewhere in the Himalayan region.

Mudiyettu, Ritual Theatre and Dance Drama of Kerala

In the state of Kerala Mudiyettu is performed. It is a ritual dance drama based on the mythological tale which portrays a battle between the goddess Kali and the demon Darika. It is performed after the harvesting of summer crops. Mudiyettu is a community ritual in which the entire village participates. On an appointed day, they gathered at the temple in the early morning. To perform Mudiyettu, performers have to purify themselves through fasting and prayer. Kalam, a huge image of the goddess Kali is drawn on the temple floor with colored powders to invoke the spirit of the goddess.

Kalbelia Folk Songs and Dances of Rajasthan

The Kalbelia dance is an important essence of Kalbelia culture and is performed as a celebration. Kalbelias dances and songs are reflections of their pride and symbol of identity. They represent the creative adaptation of this community from snake charmers to a changing socioeconomic element and their own role in rural Rajasthani society.

Buddhist Chanting of Ladakh 

In the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India, recitation of sacred Buddhist texts in the trans-Himalayan Ladakh region is performed. Buddhist lamas (priests) chant sacred texts representing the spirit, philosophy, and teachings of the Buddha in the monasteries and villages of the Ladakh region.

Sankirtana, Ritual Singing, Drumming, and Dancing of Manipur

It is a practice that holds an array of arts performed to mark religious occasions and various stages in the life of the Vaishnava people of the Manipur plains. Sankirtana is performed on the center of the temple, where performers narrate the lives and deeds of Krishna through song and dance.

The Traditional Technique of Making Brass and Copper Utensil 

The craft of the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru is basically a traditional technique of manufacturing brass and copper utensils in Punjab. It shows the importance of metals used utensils like copper, brass and certain alloys. It also defines the benefits of these metal regarding our health.

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