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Garba grooves reach UN: Gujarat’s traditional dance form makes it to UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list

A wonderful delight during the Navratri festival, the Garba dance, is now a part of UNESCO’s `Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’, Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel announced on Wednesday.
The dance form is widely popular in Gujarat and different parts of the country during the Navratri festival. “The age-old tradition of devotion to Goddess Mother in the form of Garba is alive and growing. Garba which has become the identity of Gujarat has been approved by UNESCO under its intangible cultural heritage list,” Patel said in a post on X.

“This is a moment of pride for Gujaratis spread all over the world. This is a result of importance being given to the heritage of the country under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership and such heritage being taken to the world. Congratulations to the people of Gujarat,” Patel further said in his post.

Few hours later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated for the latest addition from India to the UNSECO list. “This honour inspires us to preserve and promote our heritage for future generations. Congrats for this global acknowledgement,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The recent addition of the Indian dance form to the list was made under the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage during the 18th meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage which began in Kasane, Botswana, on Tuesday.

Gujarat’s Garba dance is the fifteenth Intangible Cultural Heritage element from India to join this list. The addition highlights Garba’s pivotal role as a unifying force that fosters social and gender inclusivity, according to an official press release.

Garba also has a connection with the Hindu festival and its rituals. Its devotional roots connect people from all walks of life and help it to thrive as a vibrant living tradition bringing communities together, the release added.

Garba is a “ritualistic and devotional dance” that is performed on the occasion of the festival of Navratri which is dedicated to the worship of the feminine energy or ‘Shakti’, the UNESCO website said.

The dance takes place around a perforated earthenware pot lit with an oil lamp or an image of the mother goddess Amba. The dancers wearing colourful dresses, move around the centre in a counter-clockwise circle. Simple dance steps including hoping and clapping hands in unison make the dance more energetic and jubilant, according to the UNESCO website.

The dance begins with slow circular movements to let the tempo slowly build up to a frenzied whirling. The practitioners and bearers of Garba are broad, from the dancers to the musicians, social groups, craftspeople, and religious figures involved in the festivities and preparations, it said.

The UNESCO list also features India’s famous cultural phenomena like Ramlila, Vedic Chants, Kumbh Mela, and Durga Puja.

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