Manipuri Sankirtana Inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage List


Ajit Kumar AJIT KUMARWISDOM IAS, New Delhi.


 
“Sankirtana: Ritual singing, drumming and dancing of Manipur” nominated from India is among the 14 elements inscribed on the Representative List of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

This was announced at the eighth session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee in Baku, Azerbaijan, held from December 2 to 7, 2013.

Sankirtana encompasses an array of arts performed to mark religious occasions and various stages in the life of the Vaishnava people of the Manipur plains. Sankirtana practices centre on the temple, where performers narrate the lives and deeds of Krishna through song and dance

The Representative List seeks to create awareness about the intangible heritage of a community, provide recognition to its tradition and how it is reflected in the community’s cultural diversity.
The Intergovernmental Committee consists of 24 representatives from the State Parties elected by the General Assembly.

Sankirtana is maintained by the Sangeet Natak Akademi. It encompasses an array of arts performed to mark religious occasions and various stages in the life of the Vaishnav people of Manipur plains.
It is practised at the centre of a temple, where performers narrate the lives and deeds of Krishna through songs and dance.

In a typical performance, two drummers and about ten singer-dancers perform in a hall or domestic courtyard encircled by seated devotees. The dignity and flow of aesthetic and religious energy is unparalleled, moving audience members to tears.

Sankirtana brings people together on festive occasions throughout the year, acting as a cohesive force within Manipur’s Vaishnav community. It establishes and reinforces relationships between the individual and the community through life-cycle ceremonies. It can also be regarded as a vibrant practice promoting an organic relationship with people. The whole society is involved in its safeguarding, with the specific knowledge and skills traditionally transmitted from mentor to disciple. Sankirtana works in harmony with the natural world, whose presence is acknowledged through its many rituals.

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