Yoga, the physical, spiritual and mental discipline or practised that originated in ancient India, is now part of UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Yoga received global recognition when all the 24 members of Intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, during its session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, unanimously supported India’s proposal to include yoga in the list. The committee included members from countries like Palestine, Korea and Cuba. Yoga was inscribed on the list in recognition of its positive impact on Indian society. UNESCO said, “Designed to help individuals build self-realization, ease any suffering they may be experiencing and allow for a state of liberation, yoga is practised by the young and old without discriminating against gender, class or religion”.
As per the Ministry of Culture, yoga is India’s 13th intangible cultural heritage with UNESCO so far. Other entries include the making of traditional copper and brass utensils among the Thatheras of Jandiala Guru of Punjab, which was inscribed in 2014; the traditional drumming, singing and dancing of Manipur called Sankirtana, which was listed in 2013; Ladakh’s Buddhist chanting was included in the list in 2012; the Chhau dance in 2010 and Ramlila, inscribed in 2008.
The dossier to nominate Yoga for the intangible cultural heritage list was sent to the UNESCO by the ministry soon after the celebration of first International Yoga Day, which was in June 2015. It stressed upon the health benefits of yoga along with its global and pan-Indian expanse and how people from all the communities practised it. Ruchira Kamboj, who led the delegation from India and is the representative of the country to UNESCO called it a ‘diplomatic triumph’.
The intangible cultural treasures list started compiling the list primarily to raise awareness about the unique cultural heritages of the world. Technical or financial support is also offered by UNESCO sometimes to the countries struggling to safeguard them. This year’s list also includes Belgium’s beer culture and Cuba’s rumba dance along with Peruvian scissors dance, Peking opera and Mediterranean diet.
UNESCO also created a list of cultural and natural world heritage, which includes physical properties like the Grand canyon of the US and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. There are 203 natural sites, 814 cultural ones and 35 sites with both cultural and natural qualities in the list.