The national body charged with the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage is the Ministry of Culture, which has appointed certain autonomous bodies that specifically work with intangible cultural heritage. Primary among these is the Sangeet Natak Akademi, an autonomous body engaged in the work of safeguarding and promoting the traditional cultural heritage of India’s performing arts of classical dance, music, theatre, puppetry, crafts and folk arts. The Akademi has been designated as the nodal agency for coordinating India’s nominations for various lists as well as for other actions such as developing and maintaining the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage (see below). It is also the nodal agency for implementing the ‘Scheme for Safeguarding the Intangible Heritage and Diverse Cultural Traditions of India’ (see below). Sangeet Natak Akademi has also established various ‘Kendras’ (Centres) for the enhancement, training, dissemination and safeguarding of elements inscribed on the Representative List. The Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts is another prominent body with national scope and responsibilities in all aspects of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.
Training and documentation are carried out by these two agencies and many others. The Documentation Unit of the Akademi was set up in 1953 with the aim of safeguarding the heritage of the performing arts through the medium of audio, video, and photographic documentation. The Akademi’s Documentation Unit is perhaps the first and only one of its kind which exclusively specializes in the audio-video documentation of performing arts traditions. Numerous other institutions at the national or local level (listed in the report submitted by India) are also active in documenting inscribed elements and intangible cultural heritage more generally.
As far as inventorying is concerned, the Sangeet Natak Akademi has also been designated as the nodal centre responsible for developing and maintaining the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage (the Inventory). As a first step, the National Database of Intangible Cultural Heritage was established, which provides links to documentation and audio-visual materials for each of the inscribed elements, as well as other intangible cultural heritage. Intangible cultural heritage information is part of a larger database culled from regional institutions all over India and is a product of the community’s knowledge. A web link connects the links of archives and other databases of various subordinate offices, attached offices and autonomous bodies of the Ministry of Culture.
The criteria for inclusion of intangible cultural heritage in the National Inventory are directly related to recording performances: A written record of the event is produced, which also includes the participating artists, scholars and stakeholders. The inventory does not take into account the viability of intangible cultural heritage under threat of disappearance or in need of urgent safeguarding. Cultural communities are involved in identifying and defining the element during the preparation of the inventory and during its periodic updating. A number of specialized governmental agencies as well as non-governmental organizations (most related to specific inscribed elements) are active in identifying and defining intangible cultural heritage for the inventory. Other regional-level inventories focus on the respective inscribed elements of that particular region.
Among other safeguarding measures, the ‘Scheme for Safeguarding the Intangible Heritage and Diverse Cultural Traditions of India’ is of major importance. The objective of this financial assistance programme, which is administered by Sangeet Natak Akademi, is to reinvigorate and revitalize various institutions, groups, individuals, non-MOC institutions, non-government organizations, researchers and scholars to allow them to engage in activities or projects for strengthening, safeguarding and promoting intangible cultural heritage. This is one of several grant-in-aid schemes, which encourage artists, practitioners, researchers and stakeholders related to the inscribed elements to develop new performances, organize seminars, conduct workshops and embark on independent studies. Such schemes are initiated every six months and proposals by artists, researchers and scholars are invited throughout the year. For each scheme, an expert committee is set up which scrutinizes the viability of the projects proposed; the amount sanctioned varies from scheme to scheme. Particularly relevant here is the Inter-State Cultural Exchange Programme, which provides opportunities for cultural exchanges between people from different parts of India to learn more about each other’s performing arts and culture. It also helps to promote mutual understanding and appreciation among people with different traditions, customs and cultures.
A system of Zonal Culture Centres aims to network and disseminate cultural activities in rural India, promoting the diversity of its arts and crafts. They place a special emphasis on people’s participation and the revival of dying art forms and crafts. The West Zone Cultural Centre (WZCC) in Udaipur, which was established in 1986-87 to provide facilities for the creative development of performing arts, visual arts, literary work, folk, traditional and tribal art forms in western India, is a leading example. It operates with grant-in-aid funding from the Ministry of Culture (e.g. for documentation activities, a young artists’ scheme) and with funds generated through money raised via other sources (e.g. exhibitions, festivals, educational workshops etc.). The WZCC also offers the Guru Shishya Parampara scheme to provide financial assistance and other support to masters in imparting knowledge to their disciples and hosts the museum of the Tribal Research Institute.
Insofar as education is concerned, artists – whether professionals or beginners – enjoy the Fundamental Right to Education in accordance with the Constitution of India (Eighty-Sixth) Amendment Act on 12 December 2002; Article 21A was amended in order to introduce the Right to Education as a fundamental right. This legal mandate allows any citizen of India who wishes to do so to pursue training in the art and knowledge of an inscribed element. As mentioned above, various schemes offered by the Government of India facilitate research projects submitted by scholars and practitioners. Various non-formal education programmes address specific circumstances. One example of education for the protection of natural spaces and places of memory is the programmes of the institution Kerala Kalamandalam, which is considered as a university. In 1976, the Kalamandalam constructed a traditional Koothambalam or Natyagriha, the sacred performance space within a temple complex. Today, this continues to be used for performances of the Kutiyattam Sanskrit theatre, and it hosts the Kutiyattam Kendra.
Among the measures in place to ensure the recognition of, respect for and enhancement of intangible cultural heritage, the Government provides support for some inscribed elements (e.g. Ramlila, Vedic Chanting) through: various schemes to raise awareness among the younger generation; educational training programmes; capacity building; and the protection of natural spaces of the element. State Governments and non-governmental organizations also provide support for raising awareness, educational training programmes and capacity building for safeguarding. Various related web portals and websites have also been created on social media networking platforms to promote intangible cultural heritage. In order to recognize the work of practitioners of intangible cultural heritage, the Sangeet Natak Aakdemi Award has been awarded to some exponents (e.g. of Chhau Dance, Kutiyattam, Sanskrit Theatre), thereby raising their social standing.
Bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation is also important. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) provides a forum for cooperation on intangible cultural heritage; its objectives include promoting active collaboration and mutual assistance in the cultural field. At its 13th Summit (2005), the crucial role of culture in bringing the people of South Asia closer was recognized, as was the vital role that that cooperation in the area of culture plays in reinforcing and projecting the distinct identity of South Asia. An SAARC Museum of Textiles and Handicrafts is to be established in India and the Agenda for Culture, Protection, Conservation and Maintenance of South Asian Cultural Heritage includes intangible cultural heritage in South Asia. Within the ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA, 2010), Indian experts have been sent to two ASEAN heritage-related festivals. International cooperation also takes place under the aegis of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, which helps to formulate and implement policies pertaining to India’s external cultural relations and to promote cultural exchanges. Cultural exchange agreements have been concluded with the Netherlands and China, for example, which cover intangible cultural heritage and its practitioners.
India reported here on eight elements inscribed on the Representative List. Chhau Dance (inscribed in 2010) is being promoted through the organization of performances, lectures and a film and the Kalbelia folk songs and dances of Rajasthan (also inscribed in 2010) are also being promoted through public performances. Since the temple associated with Ramman (inscribed in 2009) is the pivot of this ritual theatre, local people and state Government agencies contribute towards its safeguarding, and ensure the recognition for, respect and enhancement of the element. In relation to Mudiyettu, a ritual theatre and dance drama of Kerala (inscribed in 2010), efforts are being made to promote the value of education for the protection of natural spaces and places of memory. The major Mudiyettu performing troupes also encourage the younger generation to take up the responsibility on their own initiative. The national school of drama offers classes on the technique, music, costumes and make-up of Kutiyattam, Sanskrit theatre (incorporated in 2008, after being declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001) and on mask-making for Chhau dance (inscribed in 2010), taught by renowned practitioners. The aforementioned schemes to offer financial support to cultural activities give priority to inscribed elements, and the Zonal Cultural Centres are key intermediaries at the regional level