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Sankirtana gets Unesco heritage tag

Imphal, Dec. 5: Manipur has something to cheer about its rich culture and tradition with Unesco giving recognition to Sankirtana, a tradition and a way of life for Manipuri Vaishnavites.

Sankirtana, a ritualistic singing and dancing, has been selected among 14 elements inscribed on the Representative List of Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The UN body inscribed the list yesterday during its ongoing Intergovermental Committee’s eighth session under way at Baku, Azerbaijan.

Unesco said the list served to raise awareness about the heritage of communities across the world and their cultural diversity.

“Sankirtana encompasses an array of arts performed to mark religious occasions and various stages in the life of Vaishnavites. Drummers and singer-dancers enact the lives and deeds of Krishna through devotional songs and often produce an ecstatic reaction among devotees. Sankirtana takes place on public festivals and religious occasions that unite the community and also performed to commemorate individual life-cycle ceremonies. The whole society is involved in its safeguarding, with the specific knowledge and skills traditionally transmitted from the mentor to the disciple,” the Unesco inscription said.

Unesco, however, said the list did not attribute or recognise any standard of excellence or exclusivity.

“We are very happy that Unesco has given recognition to our culture and tradition. Sankirtana carries forward our rich cultural heritage for the present and future generations and hence deserves recognition,” Wareppa Naba, a scholar on Sankirtana, said.

He said the recognition for Sankirtana tradition would definitely lead to recognition of our culture and identity by the international community. “This (recognition) will help us preserve our culture, tradition and way of life as well as our identity,” Naba said.

He said Sankirtana believes “all human beings are one” and also promotes peace. It is also included in the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Sangeet Natak Akademi.

Sankirtana is performed on occasions like marriages and practised on the temple premises, where performers narrate the lives and deeds of Krishna through songs and dances.

Usually, two drummers and about 10 singer-cum-dancers perform in a hall or courtyards encircled by seated devotees.

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