Gujarat’s cultural tapestry is poised to be adorned with global recognition as UNESCO gears up to declare Garba, the traditional dance originating from the state, as Intangible Cultural Heritage. The announcement is expected to be made at the UNESCO convention in Botswana on December 6, 2023, at approximately 6 pm Indian time.
Garba, a vibrant and rhythmic dance form, derives its name from the Sanskrit term “Garba,” meaning womb. Traditionally performed in a circular arrangement around a centrally lit lamp or an image of the goddess Shakti during the nine-night Hindu festival of Navratri, Garba celebrates divinity in its feminine form.
The international acclaim for Garba began with its nomination by India in 2022, and the nomination files are currently undergoing technical treatment by the UNESCO Secretariat. The Intergovernmental Committee of UNESCO’s 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage had examined the nomination mid-2023, with a decision on inscription expected today..
Cultural celebrations across Gujarat
Anticipating the UNESCO declaration, Gujarat is gearing up for widespread celebrations. Live screenings of the announcement will take place in all districts of Gujarat, bringing the joyous moment to communities across the state. Special cultural programs, featuring traditional Garba performances, are scheduled at four iconic locations in Gujarat. Simultaneously, live streaming will be available in 29 districts, allowing people to partake in the historic event.
The declaration of Garba as Intangible Cultural Heritage is not only a recognition of the dance form but also a source of immense pride for millions of Gujaratis. The dance, deeply rooted in the state’s cultural and religious traditions, holds significant importance during the festive period of Navratri.
UNESCO’s acknowledgment of India’s rich heritage
This potential inclusion of Garba adds to India’s impressive tally of 14 elements on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Previous inclusions range from the ancient practice of Vedic chants to the vibrant spectacle of Kolkata’s Durga Puja, which was added to the list in the previous year.
Tim Curtis, Secretary of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, commended India for its diverse cultural heritage and expressed admiration for the “breadth and diversity” reflected in the country’s nominations. He highlighted the ongoing technical treatment of the Garba nomination file, indicating the meticulous evaluation process.
Eric Falt, Director and UNESCO Representative for the UNESCO New Delhi Office, emphasised India’s unique offering of diverse intangible cultural heritage practices. He spoke about the collaborative efforts between UNESCO and the Indian government to preserve both monumental and intangible cultural heritage.
As the countdown begins for the UNESCO convention in Botswana, Gujarat stands on the cusp of global acknowledgment for its iconic Garba dance. The potential inscription of Garba as Intangible Cultural Heritage not only signifies a cultural triumph for Gujarat but also reinforces India’s rich and varied cultural legacy on the international stage. The impending UNESCO declaration is poised to resonate as a moment of pride for the people of Gujarat and all those who cherish the cultural heritage of the region.