Kumbh Mela 2019: World’s largest religious and cultural human congregation begins in UP

The world’s largest religious and cultural human congregation, ‘Kumbh 2019’ began at Prayagraj (erstwhile Allahabad), Uttar Pradesh on January 15, 2019, and will go on till March 4, 2019.

This 7-week event began with the holy dip at Sangam, the confluence of three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna, and mythical Saraswati. The first bathing was taken by saints and seers of different Akharas.

About Kumbh Mela:

  • The Kumbh Mela (the festival of the sacred pitcher) is anchored in Hindu mythology.
  • It is the largest public gathering and collective act of faith, anywhere in the world.
  • Crowds gather at the sacred confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the mystical Sarasvati. Primarily, this congregation includes Ascetics, Saints, Sadhus, Sadhvis, Kalpvasis, and Pilgrims from all walks of life.
  • The Mela was included in the list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2017.

Celebration:

  • Kumbh Mela is celebrated four times over a course of 12 years.
  • The geographical location of Kumbh Mela spans over four locations in India and the Mela site keeps rotating between one of the four pilgrimage places on four sacred rivers as listed below:
  • Haridwar on the Ganges in Uttarakhand.
  • Ujjain on the Shipra in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Nashik on the Godavari in Maharashtra.
  • Prayagraj at the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Sarasvati in Uttar Pradesh.

Selection of site:

Each site’s celebration is based on a distinct set of astrological positions of the Sun, the Moon, and the Jupiter. The celebrations occur at the exact moment when these positions are fully occupied, as it is considered to be the holiest time in Hinduism.

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ASI declared 6 monuments of national importance in 2018

The 125-year-old Old High Court Building in Nagpur, Maharashtra, and two Mughal-era monuments in Agra — Haveli of Agha Khan and Hathi Khana — are among the six monuments declared protected and of national importance by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in 2018.

The ancient Neemrana Baori in Rajasthan’s Alwar district; the Group of Temples at Ranipur Jharail in Odisha’s Bolangir district; and the Vishnu Temple in Kotali, Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand, are the three other monuments that have been listed.

In 2016 and 2017, no new monument was included in the list of sites of national importance. The last monument to be included in the list, in 2015, was the Vishnu Temple in Nadavayal in Kerala’s Wayanad district.

The list was presented in the Lok Sabha on December 24, 2018, by the Ministry of Culture in response to a question by the Shiv Sena MP from Ramtek, Krupal Balaji Tumane. Replying to the question, the Ministry said that the ASI takes up a survey for documenting/reporting ancient monuments/sites through exploration and that a village-to-village survey and conservation of monuments is a continuous process.

According to the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958, an “Ancient Monument means any structure, erection or monument, or any tumulus or place of interment, or any cave, rock-sculpture, inscription or monolith which is of historical, archaeological or artistic interest and which has been in existence for not less than 100 years.”

There were 3,686 centrally protected monuments/sites under the ASI in the country; the number has now increased to 3,693. Uttar Pradesh (745 monuments/sites), Karnataka (506) and Tamil Nadu (413) have the highest number of ASI-maintained sites.

According to information available with the Ministry of Culture, 321 of these sites have been encroached upon.

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10 monuments adopted under the ‘Adopt A Heritage’ project

The ‘Adopt A Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan’, scheme launched on 27th September 2017 is a collaborative effort by Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), State/UTs Governments and envisages development and maintenance of tourist amenities at heritage sites and making them tourist friendly, to enhance tourism potential and cultural importance in a planned and phased manner. The project primarily focuses on providing basic amenities that include cleanliness, public conveniences, safe drinking water, ease of access for tourists, signages, illumination, Wi-fi etc.

The aim of the project is to provide basic amenities that include cleanliness, public conveniences, safe drinking water, ease of access for tourists, signages, illumination, Wi-fi etc.

Funding of the Project:

The project envisages involvement of Private/Public Companies/Organizations and Individuals to adopt Monuments, Natural Heritage Sites and other Tourist Sites, primarily under CSR. No fund is given by Ministry of Tourism.

Other Information:

Archaeological Survey of India has identified 100 monuments as “Adarsh Smarak” for upgradation of existing facilities/amenities like Wi-Fi, cafeteria, interpretation centre, brail signage, modern toilets etc.

Name of Monument                                                                                         State

  1. Red Fort                                                                                                                Delhi
  2. Gandikota Fort                                                                                             Andhra Pradesh
  3. The area surrounding Gangotri Temple and Trail to Gaumukh   Uttrakhand
  4. Mt. Stok Kangri Trek, Lakakh                                                      Jammu and Kashmir
  5. Jantar Mantar                                                                                                      Delhi
  6. Surajkund                                                                                                             Haryana
  7. Qutub Minar                                                                                                        Delhi
  8. Ajanta Caves                                                                                                      Maharashtra
  9. Leh Palace, Leh                                                                                   Jammu & Kashmir
  10. Hampi (Hazara Rama Temple)                                                              Karnataka

Background:

Archaeological Survey of India –

Founder: Alexander Cunningham

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under Ministry of Culture, is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage of the nation.

The prime objective is the maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains of national importance.

It regulates all archaeological activities in the country as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 along with the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.

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Prayagraj Kumbh Mela 2019: All you need to know about the world’s biggest religious festival

India is recognised globally as a country that celebrates its traditions and cultural heritage. And Kumbh Mela, which is the largest peaceful gathering of pilgrims on the planet, is one such event that marks the celebration of Hindu heritage. The Kumbh Mela is held every three years in Haridwar, Prayagraj, Ujjain, and Nasik. The mela returns to each of these cities after 12 years.

The Kumbh Mela (the festival of the sacred pitcher) is anchored in Hindu mythology. It is the largest public gathering and collective act of faith, anywhere in the world. The Mela draws tens of millions of pilgrims over the course of approximately 55 auspicious days to bathe at the sacred confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the mystical Sarasvati. Primarily, this congregation includes Ascetics, Saints, Sadhus, Sadhvis, Kalpvasis, and Pilgrims from all walks of life.

Kumbh Mela is a religious pilgrimage that is celebrated four times over a course of 12 years. The geographical location of Kumbh Mela spans over four locations in India and the Mela site keeps rotating between one of the four pilgrimage places on four sacred rivers as listed below:

  • Haridwar on the Ganges in Uttarakhand.
  • Ujjain on the Shipra in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Nashik on the Godavari in Maharashtra.
  • Prayagraj at the confluence of the Ganges, the Yamuna, and the mythical Sarasvati in Uttar Pradesh.

Each site’s celebration is based on a distinct set of astrological positions of the Sun, the Moon, and the Jupiter. The celebrations occur at the exact moment when these positions are fully occupied, as it is considered to be the holiest time in Hinduism.

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Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurates 4th edition of Kochi Muziris Biennale

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated the fourth edition of the Kochi Muziris Biennale, a 108-days long celebration of contemporary art featuring close to 90 artists from across the globe.

The Biennale this year has a specialty – it has its first woman curator in Anita Dube, an accomplished contemporary artist who has chosen the theme ‘Possibilities for a non-alienated life’ for the projects this year.

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale is an international exhibition of contemporary art held in Kochi, Kerala. It is the largest art exhibition in India and the biggest contemporary art festival in Asia. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale is an initiative of the Kochi Biennale Foundation with support from the Government of Kerala. The exhibition is set in spaces across Kochi, with shows being held in existing galleries, halls, and site-specific installations in public spaces, heritage buildings and disused structures.

Indian and international artists exhibit artworks across a variety of mediums including film, installation, painting, sculpture, new media and performance art. Through the celebration of contemporary art from around the world, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale seeks to invoke the historic cosmopolitan legacy of the modern metropolis of Kochi, and its mythical predecessor, the ancient port of Muziris.

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UNESCO adds Jamaican reggae, Georgian wrestling and Japanese rituals to ‘intangible heritage’ list

 

The Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage is meeting until December 1 in Mauritius, inscribing new elements to its much coveted-list.

Japan’s Raiho-shin rituals, used to admonish laziness and teach children good behavior, was another winner. Stemming from folk beliefs that deities visit communities and usher in the new year or season, local people dress in outlandish costumes and visit houses as deities.

Practiced across many areas of Jordan, As-Samer, another new inscription, consists mainly of dancing and singing. Performed on various occasions, most commonly during weddings, UNESCO explained that poetry forms an integral part of the tradition, “expressing feelings of joy, peace, intimacy, and empathy” among those in attendance.

A historic joint bid was made by both Koreas, to include traditional Korean wrestling known as ssirum/ssireum. Fundamentally linked to land and agriculture, UNESCO’s chief was instrumental in persuading North and South to combine cultural forces, embracing both a national sport and a very popular cultural practice.

With the aim of ensuring better protection of important intangible cultural heritage across the world and in order to create awareness of their significance, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris (UNESCO) established the intangible cultural heritage list.  UNESCO General Conference adopted the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage as an international treaty acknowledging that cultural heritage is more than tangible objects, monuments, and places. It also encompasses living expressions and traditions. Intangible cultural heritage means the skills, knowledge, expressions, representations, practices – as well as the artifacts, objects, instruments, and cultural spaces associated with them that various groups, communities and in certain cases individuals recognize as a part of their cultural heritage. This list is published by the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Its members are elected by State parties meeting in the United Nations General Assembly. It aims at drawing attention to the importance of safeguarding the cultural heritage and is a repository of cultural diversity and creative expression.

India, known for its heritage and cultural diversity has 13 cultural heritages in the UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list. “Kumbh Mela” was the latest addition to the list. Kumbh Mela was inscribed on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity during the 12th session held at Jeju, South Korea.

UNESCO intangible cultural heritage from India

  • Koodiyattam – a Sanskrit theatrical tradition practiced in a province of Kerala, traditionally performed in theatres called as Kuttampalams located in the Hindu temples.
  • Vedic Chanting – the tradition of Vedic chanting, chanted during sacred rituals and recited daily by the Vedic communities known not only for the rich content of its oral literature but also for the ingenious techniques employed by the Brahmin priests.
  • Ramlila – The traditional performance of Ramayana performed across North India during the festival of Dussehra. Most representatives are those performed in Sattna, Vrindavan, Varanasi, and Ramnagar.
  • Ramman – A religious festival in honor of the tutelary god, Bhumiyal Devta practiced in the villages of Saloor-Dungra in the state of Uttarakhand. Each of the caste and occupational groups has distinct roles in the festival.
  • Mudiyett – A ritual dance drama from the state of Kerala based on a mythological tale of the battle between Darika – the demon and goddess Kali.
  • Kalbelia – A folk song and dance form of Rajasthan. ‘Khanjari’ percussion instrument and the ‘Poongi’, a woodwind instrument are used during the performance. Kalbelia songs disseminate mythological knowledge through stories. At times, the lyrics are spontaneously composed and improvised during the performance.
  • Chhau Dance – A tradition from eastern India that enacts episodes from epics including the Mahabharata and Ramayana, local folklore and abstract themes. It is closely connected to the regional festivals specifically the Chaitra Parva.
  • Buddhist Chanting – The sacred texts chanted by the Buddhist lamas (priests) in the Ladakh region. Each of the Buddhist sects has several forms of chanting.
  • Sankirtana – Includes a set of arts performed to mark religious occasions and various stages in the life of the Vaishnava people of the Manipur plains.
  • Traditional brass and copper craft of utensil making – The craft of the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru constitute the traditional technique of manufacturing brass and copper utensils in Punjab.
  • Yoga – The art of unifying the mind with body and soul for greater spiritual, mental and physical well-being. It consists of a series of poses, meditation, controlled breathing, word chanting etc.
  • Nawrouz – The Persian New year celebrated worldwide. It involves street performances of music and dance, public rituals involving water and fire, traditional sports and the making of handicrafts.
  • Kumbh Mela – The festival of a sacred pitcher where the pilgrims bathe or take a dip in the sacred river. It is one of the largest human congregations in the world. It is held in four pilgrimage places on the sacred rivers in Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik, and Prayag.
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Manipur Sangai Festival

The beautiful North Eastern state of Manipur is all set for the Annual Manipur Sangai Festival. The Festival over the years has been showcasing the rich culture, heritage, and culture of the pristine land.

Sangai Festival is an annual cultural extravaganza in Manipur. The festival is labeled as the grandest festival of the State today and helps promote Manipur as a world-class tourism destination. Every edition of the festival showcases the tourism potential of the state in the field of Arts & Culture, Handloom, Handicrafts, Indigenous Sports, Cuisine, Music and Adventure sports of the state etc.

The ‘Festival’ is named after the State animal, Sangai, the brow-antlered deer found only in Manipur. It started in the year 2010 and has grown over the years into a big platform for Manipur to showcase its rich tradition and culture to the world.

The festival will reflect the State’s proud cultural heritage and the love for art which is inherent amongst various tribes inhabiting the State of Manipur. The State’s classical dance form, ‘Ras Leela’ is quite famous all over the world for its distinctiveness from any other dance forms in India. The Ras Leela will form an important part of the dance performances at the Manipur Sangai Festival besides the various other folk dance performances like the Kabui Naga dance, Bamboo dance, Maibi dance, Lai Haraoba dance, Khamba Thoibi dance etc. which will be showcased at the festival.

Indigenous sports will also be a major highlight of the State’s biggest tourism festival this year. Manipur’s famous martial arts- Thang Ta (a combination Spear & Sword skills), Yubi-Lakpi (a game played with greased coconut like rugby), Mukna Kangjei (a game that combines hockey and wrestling), and Sagol Kangjei- Modern Polo (believed to have evolved in Manipur) will all form part of the festival.

The sangai is an endemic and endangered subspecies of brow-antlered deer found only in Manipur, India. It is found in its natural habitat only at Keibul Lamjao National Park over the floating biomass locally called “phumdi” in the southeastern part of Loktak Lake.

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Nanak’s 550th birth anniversary, PM constitutes NIC

Prime Minister Narendra Modi constituted a National Implementation Committee (NIC), under the Chairmanship of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Minister of State for Culture as Members, to commemorate the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak in the country and abroad.

The central government has also decided to celebrate the event with a series of activities in and outside the country with the help of various ministries and departments.

As per the central government, commemorative coin and postage stamps will be released by the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Department of Posts.

Apart from that, Sultanpur Lodhi, where Guru Nanak spent much of his life, will be developed as a heritage city, also incorporating Pind Babe Nanak Da, by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in collaboration with the State Government of Punjab. Ministry of Railways will upgrade Sultanpur Lodhi railway station with modern amenities.

A National Institute of Inter-Faith Studies will also be set up by Ministry of Human Resource Development in Punjab for which the state government will provide land for free of cost. Besides, a high powered telescope in India for the devotees to view Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan has also been planned to install by the Ministry of Electronic and IT.

An international seminar on the life and teachings of Guru Nanak in New Delhi will also be organized by the Ministry of Culture as part of the celebration.

UNESCO will be requested to translate and publish an anthology of Guru Nanak Dev’s writings in world languages and publication of Gurbani in different Indian languages will be made by National Book Trust (NBT).

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UN postal agency issues special Diwali stamp

India thanked the UN Postal Administration for issuing special postal stamps to commemorate Diwali, the Indian festival of lights.

The United Nations Postal Administration issued a special event sheet on October 19 to commemorate the festival of Diwali.

The sheet in the denomination of USD 1.15 contains ten stamps and tabs featuring festive lights and the symbolic lamps known as diyas.

Key Facts:

The special event sheet (stamps) issued by UNPA are in denomination of US $1.15.

It contains ten stamps and tabs featuring festive lights and symbolic lamps known as diyas.

The background of sheet features United Nations Headquarters building illuminated with a message of “Happy Diwali” to celebrate the spirit of the festival.

The description accompanying information about stamps mentioned that Diwali, also known as Deepawali is a joyous and popular festival of lights, which is celebrated in India and by followers of many faiths across the world.

It also said that during celebration clay lamps known as diyas are lit to signify the victory of good over evil. The festival also symbolizes the start of new year for many communities.

About the United Nations Postal Administration (UNPA):

It is the postal agency of the United Nations. It issues postage stamps and postal stationery, denominated in United States dollars for United Nations offices in New York, in Swiss francs for offices in Geneva and in euros for the offices in Vienna. Postage rates charged are identical to those of the host nation.

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‘Experiencing North East’ festival

The ‘Experiencing North East’ festival depicting the uniqueness of North Eastern culture is being organised at India International Centre (IIC), New Delhi.

‘Experiencing North East’ Festival:

The event which is a part of ‘Destination North East’ series aims at showcasing the diverse culture and heritage of North East all under one roof.

The festival is being organised by North Eastern Council (NEC), Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) in collaboration with India International Centre.

The festival will showcase the vibrant strengths of North East India and display its art, handicraft, handlooms, tourism, food, culture etc.

There will be special performances daily by eminent cultural troupes, bands and artistes from North East, including Nise Meruno, classical pianist and vocalist.

NEC was established under the North Eastern Council Act, 1971 as an apex level body for securing balanced and coordinated development and facilitating coordination with the States.

Subsequent to the Amendment of 2002, NEC has been mandated to function as a regional planning body for the North Eastern Area and while formulating a regional plan for this area, shall give priority to the schemes and projects benefiting two or more states provided that in the case of Sikkim, the Council shall formulate specific projects and schemes for that State.

The Union Cabinet, in June 2018, approved the proposal of Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) for the nomination of the Union Home Minister as ex-officio Chairman of North Eastern Council (NEC). The Cabinet has also approved that Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of DoNER would serve as Vice Chairman of the Council.

Under the new arrangement, Home Minister shall be the Chairman and Minister of DoNER as Vice Chairman, NEC and all the Governors and Chief Ministers of North Eastern States will be Members.

Destination North East event is one of the steps taken by Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region to bring North East closer and help assimilate the diverse cultural heritage of India while encouraging investment in priority sectors like Tourism, Handloom, Handicrafts, Food Processing etc.  Other steps taken by Ministry of DoNER towards assimilation of North Eastern Region, are funding Business Summits, Seminars, Buyers & Sellers meets to attract investors in North Eastern Region and supporting participation of weavers/artisans of NER in Craft Bazaars and exhibitions all over India to promote their Handloom and Handicrafts and give them exposure to the National Market.

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