Cultural Heritage and Bangladesh

Intangible Cultural Heritage, which is made up of all immaterial manifestations of culture, represents a variety of living heritage of humanity with their uniqueness and distinctiveness. It includes the oral traditions, expressions and language, performing arts, social practices, ritual and festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, traditional craftsmanship practices, representations, skills, folk knowledge , wisdom, manners, and customs, ideas, stories, riddles and proverbs, songs, tales, ballads, charms, beliefs, traditions, myths, legends, folk art and designs, folk drama and dance, spirits, ghost/monsters, occult practices, luck charms and actions, superstations, taboos and fears and others. It is very much associated with the economic, social, ethnic and ecological conditions of a country and it is the creation of people’s  artistic mind. It embraces the simple, natural, happy and lively spirit of the local people and reflects the creative and imaginative nature of its communities and art and culture of the past. Knowledge, beliefs and practices associated with agriculture, health, environment, birth and pregnancy, weeding, death and dying, maladies, animals, medicine, plants, food, houses, colors and others are also part of this intangible culture.

Both Historical and anthropological perspectives are important to understand the dynamics of various intangible cultural properties or folklores of the present-day Bangladesh. Most of the intangible cultural properties produced and possessed by the rural and ethnic communities of Bangladesh are based on a complete knowledge system with its own concepts of epistemology and local validity. Indigenous knowledge is an important element of these intangible cultural properties.

The general conference of UNESCO adopted in 2003 at its 32nd session, the convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage. The adaptation of the convention became a milestone in the evolution of international policies for promoting cultural diversity. The main goal of the 2003 convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage is safeguard to the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills that communities, groups in some case individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. Bangladesh ratified the 2003 convention in 2009 and has 3 elements inscribed on the representative list.

Intangible Cultural Heritage

Convocation: The convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage is defined as the practices, representations, expressions, as well as the knowledge and skins that communities, groups and in some cases individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. According to UNESCO intangible cultural heritage are the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills as well as the instruments, objects, artifacts and cultural spaces associated therewith –that communities, groups and in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. Intangible cultural heritage transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups and it provides them with a sense of identity and continuity.

List of intangible cultural heritage:

UNESCO established its lists of intangible cultural heritage with the aim of important intangible cultural heritages worldwide and the awareness of their significance. From 4 to 8 november 2008 at the 3rd session of inter-governmental committee for intangible cultural heritage in istambul, Turkey, 90mintangible cultural heritage was conference in addis ababa, twenty new events have been added to this list. Now the number of UNESCO’S intangible cultural heritage is 365.

Intangible Cultural Heritage and Bangladesh

Bangladesh has been a repository of tangible cultural heritage for many centuries,. Starting from the third century, the rule of Mouryas, Guptas, Pals, Senas and Mughals grafted the way of their life and cultural traits on the indigenous population of Bangladesh. Subsequently, Portuguese, French and English anchored ships in the harbours of Bnengal and left nt only their mercendise but customs behind too. British rule again left interesting variety of intangible culture and folk properties in this land. It is good that 3 Bangladeshi cultural properties – the traditional songs of Baul , the traditional art of Jamdani and Mangal Shobhajatra as cultural heritage have been inscribed on the UNESCO representative list of intangible cultural heritage of humanity. No doubt that it has laid the foundation stone for us to work for inscribing more properties on the list.

UNESCO’s Representative List:

There are three Bangladeshi cultural properties such as ; the traditional songs of baul , the traditional art of Jamdani and Mangal Shobhajatra  on pohela Boishakh have been inscribed on the UNESCO representative list of intangible cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Baul Songs: Near about 80% of the population of Bangladesh lives in the rural areas where people are very fond of folk and Baul songs. It’s very easy to reach them through the folk and baul song for awareness rising.  People here are traditionally much open minded and cultured.

UNESCO has enshrined Bangladesh’s Baul songs in its representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of Humanity. A newer window of opportunities has been created through this declaration.

Jamdani: Quality and reputation of Bangladeshi jamdani is well –known not only in our local markets but also in the world market 8th UNESCO Conference of the intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage held at baku, Azerbaijan in 2013 has endorsed the historical link of Jamdani to Bangladesh. It has declared Jamdani handicraft as sole tradition and intengable cultural heritage of Bangladesh.

In this respect, historical exploration would show that Jamdani has its roots in different areas of Bengal that currently comprise of the Dhaka district. During Mughal regime, there were handloom in almost all villages in Dhaka district.

Mangal Shobhajatra: The traditional procession brings out on pahela Boishakh, the first day of the Bangla New year has got recognition of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The recognization was given at the 11th session of the UNESCO’S inter-govermental committee on safeguarding intangible cultural Heritage held in Addis Ababa, Ethopia, 2016. The main event for celebrating the Bangla New Year, known as Mangal Shobhajatra is organized every year by the students and teachers of Dhaka University’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

The UNESCO noted, the Mangal Shobhajatra festival symbolized the pride of the people of Bangladesh have I their folk heritage , as well as their strength and courage to fight against sinister forces and their vindication of truth and justice. The UN body also said that the New Year’s procession represents solidarity and a shared value for democracy, uniting people irrespective of cast, creed, religion, gender or age. Knowledge and skills are transmitted by students and teachers within the community. The tradition of Mangal Shobhajatra began in 1989 when students frustrated with having to live under military rule, wanted to bring people in the community hoping for a better future. As a country of rich folklore, indigenous knowledge and heritage, we need to develop an integrated plan to preserve its various cultural properties, allocated funds for recognizing the individual groups /community holders, give subside for training of successors and opening the properties to the public providing training for performing arts and to do audio-visual documentation of important intangible cultural properties for our future generation.

Tags: Bangladesh, Dhaka.