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Definitions at a Glance

India is a rich repertoire of cultural heritage and we should be proud of this gift of our ancestors to us. Its our duty to take care of this ancestral property. But the question is what comes under Cultural Heritage and to answer these questions, some definitions are provided for your convenience below. UNESCO defines Culture as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, that encompasses, not only art and literature, but lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs (UNESCO: 2001). Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. The term Heritage stresses the conservation and transfer from generation to generation (UNESCO). Cultural Heritage is the legacy of physical artefacts and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations. Cultural heritage is not limited to material manifestations, such as monuments and objects that have been preserved over time. This notion also encompasses living expressions and the traditions that countless groups and communities worldwide have inherited from their ancestors and transmit to their descendants, in most cases orally (UNESCO). The term Cultural Heritage comprises both tangible, intangible cultural heritage and environments. Tangible Cultural Heritage is that part of cultural heritage that can be touched physically or stored like monuments, buildings and sites while the Intangible Cultural Heritage cannot be touched physically like rituals, songs, legends, myths, beliefs, dances, festivals, art and craft and languages of different communities. The environment here means natural landscape. The term cultural heritage encompasses several main categories of heritage (UNESCO): Cultural heritage Tangible cultural heritage: Movable cultural heritage (paintings, sculptures, coins, manuscripts) Immovable cultural heritage (monuments, archaeological sites, and so on) Underwater cultural heritage (shipwrecks, underwater ruins and cities) - It encompasses all traces of human existence that lie or were lying under water and have a cultural or historical character. Recognizing the urgent need to preserve and protect such heritage, UNESCO elaborated in 2001 the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.

Intangible cultural heritage: oral traditions, performing arts, rituals Natural Heritage: natural sites with cultural aspects such as cultural landscapes, physical, biological or geological formations. Heritage in the event of armed conflict- It implies the protection of cultural heritage in the event of armed conflict e.g Destruction of Bamiyan Buddhist sculptures, Afghanistan.


Tangible cultural heritage includes buildings and historic places, monuments, artefacts, etc., which are considered worthy of preservation for the future. These include objects significant to the archaeology, architecture, science or technology of a specific culture (UNESCO).


The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO: 2003) Article 2 defines Intangible Cultural Heritage as:The intangible cultural heritage means the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity. For the purposes of this Convention, consideration will be given solely to such intangible cultural heritage as is compatible with existing international human rights instruments, as well as with the requirements of mutual respect among communities, groups and individuals, and of sustainable development. The intangible cultural heritage, as defined in the paragraph above, is manifested inter alia (a) oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage; (b) performing arts;

(c) social practices, rituals and festive events; (c) knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; (d) traditional craftsmanship. Intangible cultural heritage can only be heritage when it is recognized as such by the communities, groups or individuals that create, maintain and transmit it without their recognition, nobody else can decide for them that a given expression or practice is their heritage.

Built Heritage is the part of our tangible cultural heritage which can be physically touched and stored. It includes monuments (like Ajanta Caves, Red Fort, Qutub Minar and Taj Mahal), archaeological sites (like Rakhigarhi, Dholavira and Sravasti), secular and religious buildings (like Rashtrapati Bhavan and Churches of Goa). It should have historical, aesthetic, archaeological, architectural, scientific, ethnological or anthropological value. The following shall be considered as Built Heritage. Monuments: architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science. Groups of buildings: groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science. Sites: works of man or the combined works of nature and man, and areas including archaeological sites which are of outstanding universal value from the historical, aesthetic, ethnological or anthropological point of view. Note: The 1972 Convention of UNESCO concerning, The Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage defines cultural heritage as above referred exclusively to the monumental remains of cultures, heritage as a concept has gradually come to include new categories such as the intangible, ethnographic or industrial heritage. A noteworthy effort was subsequently made to extend the conceptualization and description of the intangible heritage. So, for better understanding the earlier definition of cultural heritage is included in Built Heritage here.

Natural Heritage designates outstanding physical, biological and geological features (like Western Ghats, Aravalis mountains, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Ganges River and Thar desert) ; habitats of threatened plants or animal species and areas of value on scientific or aesthetic grounds or from a conservation perspective (like Kaziranga National Park, Valley of Flowers and other National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries). The following shall be considered as Natural Heritage. Natural features consisting of physical and biological formations or groups of such formations, which are of outstanding universal value from the aesthetic or scientific point of view; Geological and physiographical formations and precisely delineated areas which constitute the habitat of threatened species of animals and plants of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation; Natural sites or precisely delineated natural areas of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty.

Performing Arts cover a wide range of themes like classical, semi classical dances, folk dances, vocal and instrumental music and the theatre performances. The performing arts range from vocal and instrumental music, dance and theatre to pantomime, sung verse and beyond. They include numerous cultural expressions that reflect human creativity and that are also found, to some extent, in many other intangible cultural heritage domains (UNESCO: 2003)


Art and Craft are characterized by skilled craftsmanship and includes traditional handicrafts, paintings, pottery making, weaving, puppetry, basket making etc.

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