Baguette — the staple French bread — was recently inscribed into the UN’s list of intangible cultural heritage (ICH).

 

What is it?

  • The baguette is a long and thin loaf made of flour, water, salt and yeast, and is consumed as a staple in France. Some believe that it was invented by August Zang, a baker and an entrepreneur from Vienna in 1839.
  • In March 2021, France nominated the baguette as its candidate for consideration within the UNESCO ICH list. It drew attention to the steady decline in the number of bakeries in the country as around 20,000 of them have closed down since 1970.

 

What is ‘Intangible cultural heritage’?

  • UNESCO defines “intangible” as “expressions that have been passed from one generation to another, have evolved in response to their environments and contribute to giving us a sense of identity and continuity…”
  • ‘Intangible cultural heritage’ includes “oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.”

 

Criteria for the selection

There are three criteria for an intangible cultural heritage to be inscribed in the United Nations list. The entity must —

  • be recognised by communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals as part of their cultural heritage
  • be transmitted from generation to generation and be constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history and
  • provide them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity,”

 

India’s intangible cultural symbols on the UNESCO list

  • This year, India nominated Garba, a traditional dance form that originated in the state of Gujarat, for inscription on UNESCO’s ICH list.
  • The elements which have been on the representative list of intangible cultural heritage from India in the past decade include Kolkata’s Durga Puja (2021), Kumbh Mela (2017), Navroz (2016), Yoga (2016), traditional brass and copper craft of utensil-making among coppersmiths of Punjab (2014), Sankirtana, a ritual musical performance of Manipur (2013), and the Buddhist chanting of Ladakh (2012).
  • Before 2011, the list included Chhau dance, Kalbelia folk songs and dance of Rajasthan, and Mudiyettu, a dance drama from Kerala (2010), Ramman, a religious festival and theatre performance of Garhwal in the Himalayas (2009), and Kutiyattam or Sanskrit theatre, and Vedic chanting (2008), Ramlila( 2008), a traditional performance of Ramayana.
  • Sangeet Natak Akademi is the nodal organisation which looks after this function, and files nominations of intangible cultural entities from India, for evaluation by the international body.