Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 18.COM 8.B.32

The Committee

  1. Takes note that India has nominated Garba of Gujarat (No. 01962) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Garba is a ritualistic and devotional dance that is performed on the occasion of the Hindu festival of Navaratri, which is dedicated to the worship of the feminine energy or ‘Shakti’. The dance takes place around a perforated earthenware pot lit with an oil lamp, or an image of the mother goddess Amba. The dancers move around the centre in a counter-clockwise circle, using simple movements while singing and clapping their hands in unison. Starting with slow circular movements, the tempo slowly builds up to a frenzied whirling. The practitioners and bearers of Garba are broad and inclusive, from the dancers to the musicians, social groups, craftspeople and religious figures involved in the festivities and preparations. Garba is transmitted across generations in urban and rural areas through practice, performance, imitation, and observation. Many schools and universities offer professional courses and workshops in dance, music, costume and ornament design, landscape planning, sound and light design, all of which contribute to Garba creations. The practice is also transmitted by NGOs, government agencies, choreographers, musicians and the media. Garba fosters social equality by diluting socio-economic, gender and religious structures. It continues to be inclusive of diverse and marginalized communities, thus strengthening social bonds.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   Garba was previously only danced by women, but is performed today by people of all genders and ages. Participants are also involved in planning and organizing related events. Devotees of female energy, priests, musicians, poets and writers, event organizers and the artisan community are all bearers and practitioners of the element. Skills are transmitted orally and via documentation. Practice, performance, observation and imitation are important aspects in the transmission process of Garba. Schools and universities provide professional courses and arrange extracurricular activities, and research and documentation activities are widespread. A means of collective celebration, Garba promotes unity in diversity and fosters social equality by bringing together people of all genders, religions and socio-economic backgrounds. Every generation redefines Garba through new performing styles, lyrics and dress while keeping the circle of feminine energy/Shakti intact.

R.2:   Inscription would promote pride, foster innovation, and spread awareness about the urgency of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. It would increase knowledge and appreciation of the many traditions that are associated with Garba. Inscription would lead to recognition of Garba throughout India and its characteristics, including dialogue and respect for diversity. It would also encourage exchange among performance groups. The Indian diaspora would be prouder of their cultural traditions and would share Garba with the world, thus encouraging participation and awareness about intangible cultural heritage. Inscription would highlight the diversity of the practice and encourage dialogue across generations and rural and urban communities of all sizes. The element’s continuous renewal attests to its adaptability and creativity.

R.3:   The ongoing practice of the element ensures its viability in terms of costume-making, music, pottery and dance. Workshops, lectures, discussions and performances occur in India and abroad, with the involvement of NGOs, media houses, universities and scholars. The Gujarat government provides logistical support, organizes promotional activities and competitions, hands out awards, accommodates festivals, and conducts preservation activities. Planned safeguarding measures include: (a) conducting research; (b) showcasing Garba worldwide; (c) mapping and recording community performances; (d) creating an inventory of practitioners and digital archives; (e) including Garba in school curricula; and (f) establishing a cohesive body focused on safeguarding Garba. The State Party will encourage research, conduct national and international promotional activities, identify talent and train artists, provide grants, and create and update inventories.

R.4:   The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Gujarat, the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Ministry of Culture of the Government of India prepared the nomination. Communities of artists, experts, scholars, dancers, singers, instrumentalists, organizers, students and craftspeople were identified and actively consulted throughout the process. A consultative meeting was held with a wide range of community stakeholders of all genders from various parts of Gujarat. The meeting aimed to inform participants and collect their input for the nomination. The file includes many letters of consent from different stakeholders, such as government officials, performers, musicians, scholars, NGOs and other organizations. They demonstrate broad support for the nomination.

R.5:   Garba of Gujarat has been included in the ‘National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of India’ since 2022. Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s national academy for music, dance and drama and an autonomous body of the Ministry of Culture, is responsible for the inventory. Identification and definition was carried out by Sangeet Natak Akademi, with the assistance of the Performing Arts Faculty of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda. A large body of information and material was collected from practicing communities, groups and individuals. The National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage is updated every year.

  1. Decides to inscribe Garba of Gujarat on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the submitting State Party for an excellent supporting video and for nominating an element that promotes unity in diversity and fosters social equality among diverse communities.