In the earlier unit, we discussed the relationship between tourism and heritage sites. The challenges of preservation and conservation of these sites and the compromising of cultures in favor of profit were the major themes. In this unit, we shall try to define cultural heritage and elaborate on the difference between tangible and intangible heritage. Case studies would be used as illustrations for understanding the differences as well as the relationship between these two.


At present, the word Heritage includes both cultural and natural heritage. If we want to understand the cultural diversities that exist in the world, we cannot separate culture from nature, as to some extent although not totally, human cultures are adaptations to the natural environment. However, as pointed out by anthropologists such as Daryll Forde (reference), environment or nature plays a limiting rather than a determining role in culture. The objectives of the study of cultural heritage are too. 

  • Reflect on the significance of Cultural Heritage and the need to preserve it.
  • Explain the types of cultural heritage.
  • Understand the contribution of cultural heritage to tourism in India.
  • Explain the role of Institutions in the conservation and protection of cultural heritage.

Cultural heritage allows people to connect with their values, norms, beliefs, customs, and sacred resources and allows communities to better understand their ancestors and their past. In the case of an entire nation, these values enhance a sense of identity and unity by the presence of cultural property within its borders. The presence of these heritage sites signifies the link between the artifact and its geographical and historical milieu. 

For example, in India, the presence of heritage sites like the Taj Mahal and the Konarak temple creates a sense of pride and being connected through a common heritage, uniting the past and the present. Such heritage sites create a sense of common ownership responsibility as a nation to preserve and promote them. As social scientists like Benedict Anderson (reference) have defined the nation as a construct, cultural heritage is one mechanism that contributes towards such a construct, as it identifies some objects as common property, an object that has collective ownership that belongs to the entity called nation. 

When we say that the Taj Mahal belongs to India, we are also helping to create India through this statement. For a nation to maintain this identity, it is imperative that the preservation and dissemination of knowledge about such collectively owned objects should be seen as a state enterprise and not left to individuals. The state works through its formal institutions like the Archaeological Survey of India. In addition, local volunteers and community residents play important role in the conservation and protection of heritage sites. 

They arouse a sense of common responsibility and self-awareness that gets translated into action of the local populace, who are in turn motivated to act as citizens of a nation to which they feel they belong. The sense of ownership and responsibility is directly proportional to the sense of identification with the nation. To utilize the power of the local people, the government and non-governmental organizations (N.G.Os’) must respect the cultural rights of local people and their perception of development so as to effectively protect the heritage while simultaneously not putting into jeopardy the legitimate rights and interests of local people. If the people feel marginalized, they will lose their sense of responsibility in the same proportion as they feel disenfranchised. If local people are told that they have no right over a certain object or site, they will feel no compulsion to take care of it. Towards this end, the role of experts should be to advice and gently point out the ways and not to show coercion or impose. 

Heritage Cycle Diagram

It gives an idea of how to make the part of our future (Simon Thurley, 2005). In a clockwise direction, the wedges and arrows read: 

Art as Cultural Heritage

Dr. Kiran Seth the founder of SPIC MACAY is credited with taking classical arts to young people in schools, colleges, and other institutions. He worked tirelessly for the last 42 years. He reflects on the relationship between arts and science, and art as an intangible cultural heritage. Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, the great maestro of Sarod, is of the opinion that “Our Hindustani classical music has the gait of an elephant- slow steady and dignified, it is not a horse race “. What is meant is that classical arts take a long time to learn and even to appreciate them, one has to devote time and show dedication. Heritage appreciation should therefore begin at a young age. 

In India, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, (INTACH), looks after the conservation, preservation, and maintenance of art forms. It has a conservation laboratory and a knowledge center that contains books and various art and craft products. It also provides Heritage education and communication service and conducts courses on heritage tourism. It also has Heritage Academy where intangible cultural programmes are conducted. The cultural affairs division provides scholarships and holds seminars, workshops, and discussions by eminent people in relevant fields. 

The media and internet are playing a crucial role in the promotion of the intangible cultural heritage of art, literature, and culture. ManyArt Blogs have started featuring Arts and Business, Arts and Healing, Arts Education, Arts Marketing, Community Engagement, Public Art, Art, and social change Technology in the Arts. These kinds of blogs and organizations promote, cultivate, sustain and support art heritage all around the world. Concerned about the “disappearance”, of many intangible legacies of India over time, the United Nations launched a project on creating an inventory of art forms and craftsmanship of the country under its UNESCO program.

According to the project director of UNESCO in India, a simple tradition of producing hand-crafted sarees in a small town, a folk song in a village in a corner of the country, or a recipe crafted by someone’s mother or grandmother may be disappearing because the next generation has migrated to other big cities; this project sought to capture them in a capsule of sorts, for the posterity. Towards this end the technology of sounds, sights, techniques, and styles through photography, and other audio-visual medium are being used.

From the point of view of anthropology, the preservation of cultural heritage keeps alive the sense of unity in plurality, a sense of identity, and a sense of belongingness for the people of a nation. Since the nation is a constructed identity (Anderson reference), such common heritage plays a critical role in making substantive, an identity that is abstract. Cultural transmission is an important aspect of identity maintenance and preventing anomie. Therefore, transmission is an integral aspect of safeguarding heritage. Not only the material artifacts but the skills, knowledge, and meanings need to be transferred over generations. The Department of Culture, Government of India, is a nodal agency for commemorating significant events and celebrating centenaries of great artists.

Arts, in the plural, refers to individually or collectively created products of value, the expression or application of creative skill and imagination in the various branches of creative activity such as painting, sculpture, music, dance, theatre, films, and graphic arts. Arts is a broader term than ‘Art’ which means only visual arts, art comes from the word ‘ars’ meaning the arrangement act of making works or artworks which use the human creative impulse and which have meaning beyond simple description.

Prose writing, poetry dance, acting or drama film, music, sculpture, photography, illustration architecture, collage painting, craft, and fashion. Art may also be understood as relating to creativity, aesthetics, and the generation of emotion. Anthropologists have regarded Art as a subdivision of culture, composed of many creative endeavors and material and non-material products of the human mind. In the very early period of anthropology, art was a matter to which attention was paid, like the classic work by Franz Boas, on Primitive Art and in India, the works of Verrier Elwin on the art and crafts of the Indian tribes.

Festivals Holi: A case study of Intangible Cultural Heritage

The celebration of Holi represents the interconnectedness of this world and the other world as per the Hindu mythological story of the demon King, Hrinyakashyap, who having attained near immortality, and drunk on this new power, demanded that he be worshipped as God. Prahalad, the demon king’s son, a devotee of Lord Shiva, refused to acknowledge his father as a God and was much tortured. However, nothing could change the determination of the boy. Enraged at being unable to convert Prahlad’s devotion towards him, the king sought the help of his sister, Holika (after whom the festival is named) to get rid of the son and also set an example to the non-devotees.

In an attempt to send a strong message to the masses and set an example for anyone who dared to defy the King, Holika planned to kill Prahlad. She made him sit in her lap on a pyre. However, the other world’s gods, on seeing Prahlad’s devotion to them, came to his rescue while Holika was burned to ashes, even though she was supposed to be immune to fire. Traditionally, holi celebrations begin with the burning of a pyre on the eve of the festival, symbolizing the victory of good over evil (Bhandari 2017). However, in different parts of India, there are different connotations and meanings attached with the celebration of Holi.

Holi is also known as Lath Mar (beat (mar) with a (lath) stick) Holi in some places. Legends suggest that once Krishna was trying to smear Radha with Holi and her friends came out with sticks to protect her and thus, it is enacted every Holi in some place, more so in Barsana the birthplace of Radha, in Uttar Pradesh. While others see it as an act of role reversal, where the women express themselves when otherwise suppressed and subjugated in their everyday lives in a patriarchal society. In his work Bhandari, (2017) explores the festival of colors Holi in a village Chilkiya in the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, India.

He presents the significance that holi encompasses: the mythological, folk, cultural, and social and gives insight into the gender relations in the context of Holi. Thus, the tourists who are interested in the history and culture of the people, find this aspect of Holi very fascinating. The uniqueness of the colors makes it one of the most attractive avenues for tourism. The festival of colors celebrated across India is a boon for tourism, as many tourists like to join in the festivities. Tourists from all over the world make advance bookings to be a part of this festival and many others like the Konark Dance Festival etc.

Chhau Dance: Also called Paiku Nritya (battle dance). The name chhau is derived from Chhavani (military camp). This folk dance traditionally emerged as a victory dance, performed by the warriors from the eastern part of India including Odisha, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. Traditionally, in Bihar, the dance form depicted scenes from the epics - Mahabharata and the Ramayana, folklores etc. Its three distinct styles hail from regions of Seraikella, Purulia and Mayurbhanj in Eastern India. “The Chhau is one of the earliest indigenous forms of dance in India. These practices demonstrate that in India living continuity with the past is an important criterion for its heritage” (Mukherjee 2015).

Edible Identities

Food as Heritage 

Cuisine as Heritage is considered both a socio -cultural construction – which can symbolically represent an identity and a value-added industry. It can be stated that all the knowledge and practices related to the transformation, distribution and consumption of food that are transmitted across generations within a region or community make up a collective heritage. Anthropologists have studied the various dimensions of food that is related to tourism. Belasco and Scranton, 2002 have analysed the shaping of consumer tastes and using of cuisines for the purpose of constructing national identities. While some had focused on the historical role of external forces in the creation of food identity. The history of the Kolkata Biryani which is different from the Awadhi, Lucknavi, and Hyderabadi versions is a fine example.

The Kolkata Biryani is known for the addition of potatoes and boiled eggs in it by the Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (1856) and his cook as experimentation, which was flaunted by the British rulers of that time as a case of the Nawab’s diminishing riches that pushed him to replace the mutton with potatoes (Bhandari 2020 Hindustan Times). Food is an important aspect to understand the ethos of a culture. The concept of food as a heritage entity had allowed the entry of many stakeholders in the tourism industry. Anthropological studies have also looked at how “food demarcates social boundaries, especially if and when they become objectified as intellectual property or intangible cultural heritage” (Palmié 2009:54). In one of the cases in the Indian context the geographical indication (GI) Tag for the sweet ‘rasgulla’ can be cited.

The GI Tag was given to the state of West Bengal as they claimed it to be a delicacy created by Nabin Chandra Das, a renowned sweet maker in the nineteenth century. This was, however, challenged by the State of Odisha who tagged it as a part of the traditional ritual offerings made to Lord Jagannath in Puri, a temple that dates back to the 12th century CE. They wanted the name of the sweet changed from ‘Bangalore Rasgulla’ to ‘Jagannath Rasgulla’ based on their claim. The two states were in a bitter battle for GI tag which lasted for almost two years and as the case was decided in favor of West Bengal, the government declared 30th July as ‘Rasgulla Dibasa’ to celebrate its origin. The historical connotations attached to food make it an attraction for tourists.


Today, when we talk of heritage, it is assumed that it includes old buildings and monuments, ancestral properties and historical sites. But heritage is not an entity that is limited to only “brick and mortar” and the way a building looks and how ancient it is. Heritage refers to places, objects, and ideas that are culturally and socially valued and which have been passed from one generation to the next (Prentice 1994).

The heritage list of UNESCO includes both Tangible and Intangible forms of heritage. While buildings, monuments, and material objects are included in the tangible list; festivals, languages, music, handicrafts, particular culinary expertise (recipes), textiles, a particular lifestyle (tribal, nomadic), and performing arts are also classified as Intangible Heritage. The 2003 UNESCO convention marked the endorsement of “safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage focusing on the non-material cultural heritage.

The keyword of the Convention was ‘Safeguarding’ which has been defined as ‘‘measures aimed at ensuring the viability of the intangible cultural heritage, including the identification, documentation, research, preservation, protection, promotion, enhancement, transmission, particularly through formal and non-formal education, as well as the revitalization of the various aspects of such heritage”. UNESCO’s definition of Intangible Heritage is as follows “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 recognized as part of their cultural heritage”.

Intangible cultural heritage, as the word itself suggests, is that part of the culture that is not material, for example, values, norms, beliefs, folklores, dance, and music which do not have a definite shape but are part of our cultural practices. These elements do not survive on their own but are kept alive in the day-to-day practices of people in society. For example, dance as an art form has its origin in society and its structures, as in the temple culture of India. There is an association between monuments and the cultural practices that make up the cultural space. The temple dance traditions that were a part of most Indian temples in India were banned by the Madras Devdasi Act, of 1947.

This led to the dwindling away of the art form and it almost went into oblivion. Today, however, the temple dance forms have been revived, revised, and reconstructed to meet the requirements of the modern world by dedicated scholars and dancers like Rukmini Devi Arundale, Kelucharan Mahapatra, PadmaSubrahmaniyam and many others. The dances are no longer viewed only as part of the temple tradition but as the classical heritage of our country and have assumed iconic status as identity markers. They have made the transition from the temples to being an aspect of public culture.

In this way, they have also assumed legitimacy and recognition as a respectable and accepted part of the middle-class lifestyle. Likewise, there are many folklores and traditions which are on the brink of being extinct, thus, bringing in the need for safeguarding and preserving such cultural heritage. The UNESCO list of intangible heritage has been a boon to the tourism industry; its adoption of the conservation and safeguarding of intangible heritage in 2003 has made some of the art forms, in danger of death across the globe come to life.

In the Indian context, the Kalbelia dance and songs of the Kalbelia tribe of Rajasthan who were earlier snake charmers were listed in UNESCO's list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity, in 2010. The Kalbelia dance represents the serpents and their movements. The women dressed in black and with heavy embroidery work, tattoos, and jewelry, present the mythological stories of their ancestors the snake charmers. The menfolk play the percussion instrument (Khanjari) and the woodwind that is used to charm the snakes. The popularity of the art form has increased after its listing by UNESCO.

The tribal group was also encouraged to continue its traditions in the wake of the newfound interest in their performing art. Therefore, the tribal group that was fast changing its occupation to adapt to a changing world, was persuaded to keep their art and culture alive. This is a positive example of tourism actually sustaining a lifestyle although now in a more commercial form. These dances are no longer performed ritually as they used to be but as staged performances and to the tribal people the dance form is now a means of earning a livelihood and not a way of life.

But at least by enacting the dances, they are recreating their myths and ancestral narratives. “India is a treasure trove of intangible world heritage artifacts.” (reference). In July 2018, a cluster of 94 buildings in South Mumbai, India, built in the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco styles, were declared as world heritage sites at the UNESCO Conference in Manama, Bahrain. This is the third site after Ajanta and Ellora (Aurangabad), Elephanta (Mumbai) and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus building (Mumbai) to be recognized as a UNESCO-certified World Heritage Site.

With the inclusion of these clusters of buildings, the number of UNESCO-certified World Heritage sites in India go up to thirty-seven. Since we are talking about intangible cultural heritage, it is to be understood that it is not the physical building alone that is a heritage site, but the style and the architecture that is embedded in it, that is the real heritage. In 2013-2014 a scheme was inaugurated titled ‘Scheme for Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage and Diverse Cultural Traditions of India’ for safeguarding, promoting, and propagating it systematically.

With the recognition of various cultural products such as dance forms, architecture, and music as intangible cultural heritage, these kinds of schema can work in a more inclusive way and expand their frontiers of action. It is to be understood that the ideas, concepts, and symbols that are manifested in these art forms, performances and materials represent the core of the intangible cultural heritage. This heritage emphasizes the products of the human mind and imaginations rather than the physical and material aspects they are embodied in.


Tourism, anthropology, and museums are closely interconnected. Urry has stated that a. tourism, anthropology, and museums are “journeys” intended to change perceived images and symbols, b. which share a common “gaze”. To understand this statement let’s see how a particular community gets reflected through a tourist, an anthropologist, and a museum.

A tourist would look at a culture and its practices and click a few photographs that would become a part of the memories of a place visited, on the other hand, an anthropologist would try to gain insight into the culture- its beliefs and practices, record the findings through a detailed ethnographic account, while a museum would preserve the material culture for eternity. Through museums preservation of the cultural relics takes place. However, the question of authenticity looms large as to whether what has been preserved is really a part of the culture or just a model to attract tourism. 

The International Council of Museums (ICOM) believes that museums play a vital role in the protection of intangible cultural heritage and is committed to the defense of this vulnerable heritage – the traditions of living expressions. The ICOM definition of Museum recognizes the role of museums in the preservation and protection of both ‘the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity; they can significantly use their mandate, infrastructures, and resources to develop creative initiatives about its preservation Over the last two decades museum priorities have been characterised by a shift from the preservation of collections to the satisfaction of audiences.

The New museology (Vergo 1989) acknowledged the occasionally exclusive character of museums and underlined the need for more inclusive museum practice. Museums now have a social, educational and cultural responsibility towards their public and for this reason, special attention should be given to the satisfaction of the educational and cultural needs of audiences. Hooper Greenhill (2000) announced the event of the ‘post museum’. This is the opposite of the traditional ‘modernist museum’ that has dominated western museum practice over the last centuries. The ‘modernist museum’ was primarily focused on the accumulation of objects that were displayed “harmonious, unified, and complete”, narrative. 

As a consequence, it began to stand for the dominant, upper-class ideology. The postmodernist museum questions grand narratives' continuity and truth. Static and monolithic knowledge now is replaced by vibrancy of creation and discovery fostering cultural diversity and constructive learning. Witcomb (2003) says that this is a new way of perceiving museums, asking them to move “beyond the mausoleums” and to reinvent their role and functions in contemporary, heterogeneous societies to engulf diversity and dialogue new ideas like ‘feminization of the museums’ or ‘cacophony of voices’ are floating about.

But concern is expressed by Keene that the postmodern museum is primarily focused on events and outreach programs and shows little interest for museum collections. Pinna (2003:3) locates intangible heritage in expressions embodied in physical forms and related objects e. g. theatrical performances, masks, costumes or in non-physical or tangible forms e. g. dances and songs or in the symbolic meaning of objects, an additional dimension of oral history as an expression of memory and identity.

Thus, the notion of intangible heritage in museums enables a wider and deeper interpretation and contextualization of artifacts. Museum collections can be comprised of video and sound recordings of cultural expressions and practices. In this way, the processes and conditions that lead to the creation and use of objects can be made present in the context of museums. Franz Boas complains that ethnographic objects are incapable of presenting the psychological as well as historical relations of cultures (1907:928) is dealt with through the use of new technologies e. g. oral history programs, collection of stories, museums of performing arts are a further category of musicians. London theatre museum safeguards their theatrical heritage, recording, documentation, and transforming cultural expressions into new museum objects to be conserved for the future. 

Exhibitions are the main aspect of museum practice. Exhibition models with features like music, special lighting effect, and live performances. It gives the objects a wider circle of meaning 

Communities are a fundamental constituent of the concept of intangible cultural heritage. Community partnership programmes can help identify and safeguard expressions of intangible heritage (Vanttuy 2003:28). E.g. Papa Tongerewa Museum in New Zealand. The National Museum of the American Indian in the U.S.A.

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