What does ‘intangible cultural heritage’ mean? Let us explain it briefly. All ancient civilizations and societies carry with them a huge baggage of history in the shape of written or documented record. This record becomes the source for future generation to know about who they are and what their history is. However, there are innumerable things that are not recorded or written and just pass on from one generation to another generation by word of mouth. This is also called oral history. We cannot underestimate the importance of oral history if we want to present complete history of a given nation. The fear that this oral history may be lost or drastically reduced in volume with the passage of time has prompted the policy planners at the Academy of Art, Culture and Languages and the Department of Culture to follow the instructions of the Chief Minister given while she was chairing the meeting of the Academy’s Central Committee.
Traditions and rituals, totems and rites are all intangible. These cannot be felt or touched, it is a situation of feeling and vision and the love to carry them onwards. It is true that for thousands of years these intangible cultural manifestations were carried on from one generation to another. More importantly, the intangible culture is essentially the experiences made by our forefathers that shaped the life style and social interaction. All this has come under the strain of modernity. Science and technology have improved to the extent that there is hardly any walk of life on which its impact is not felt. Speed and suspense are the two main components of present day life. We want to move forward with speed and catch up with the developed world because modern life provides many facilities and comforts and at the same time places many demands on the human beings. In this great melee, we are shedding much intangible cultural baggage that we had been carrying on our backs. A day will come when most of this intangible heritage will be forgotten and thus a society bereft of its vast unrecorded experience will become shallow and insignificant.
It is, therefore, very significant that the idea of documenting our intangible cultural heritage has been floated. A Committee has been constituted comprising experts from different fields of art and culture to sit and lay down the policy frame defining the aims and structure of an effort at the level of the Academy of Art, Culture and Languages how intangible cultural heritage can be documented. It is a continuing process and one time recording does not make any real sense.
However, we are disappointed to find that although more than four months have passed when the decision of constituting a committee was made and actually has been constituted yet so far not a single meeting of the committee has been held. This is a sad reflection on the J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages.
Our State is a cultural mosaic when we talk of the entire State meaning all the three regions. These regions are diverse from one another in many ways so much so that sometimes we begin to feel that we are altogether different from one another. But the truth is that diversity gives us strength, colorfulness and also great practical wisdom. All the three regions have their respective intangible cultural heritage and this has to be preserved and documented. This is a big project and perhaps when sincerely handled it would mean creating an independent institution. Actually, intangible cultural heritage is preserved in the literary output of a given society. For example, greet French novel Le Miserable is not just a novel but a comprehensive cultural history of France. It is the duty of our Cultural Academy to encourage writing of historical novels that embody a great fund of intangible cultural heritage. We don’t have even comprehensive and detailed history of our State in any of the three languages namely Kashmiri, Dogri and Ladakhi what to say of great literature of international level. Why has not the Cultural Academy taken any step towards that end, is a question that must be answered.