Leveraging Rajasthan’s rich intangible cultural heritage

Project name :

Promoting Intangible Cultural Heritage of Rajasthan

Budget :

1M$ - 5M$

Project duration :


Location :

New Delhi, India
Culture is both a means and end to sustainable development. UNESCO is the only UN agency with a mandate in the field of culture works with a mission to develop understanding on the role of culture in sustainable development transversely across all its three pillars, economic, social  and environmental.

Culture is both a means and end to sustainable development. UNESCO is the only UN agency with amandate in the field of culture works with a mission to develop understanding on the role of culture in sustainable development transversally across all its three pillars, economic, social and environmental. Globally, the wealth that intangible heritage offers is one of the principal motivations for travel, with tourists seeking to engage with new cultures and to experience the variety of performing arts, handicrafts, rituals and cuisines. Thus cultural tourism offers a powerful incentive for safe guarding and enhancing intangible cultural heritage, since the resources it generates can be channeled back to the community of tradition bearers for their sustainable development.

Since 2011 UNESCO has a partnership with Contact Base for national replication of its Art for Life model which revives and revitalises traditional knowledge and skills for socio economic empowerment of the communities. The model has been proven with 28000 families of indigenous communities in West Bengal and Bihar and has been recognized as a good practice by the Bihar Innovation Award (2014). The 'Art for Life' model empowers both the artists and the artist communities as multi pronged actions are taken to revitalise the cultural skills, strengthen skill transmission and create eco systems supporting heritage education and cultural enterprise. Based on a rapid appraisal study in Jodhpur, Barmer, Jaisalmer and Bikaner districts in April 2019, this concept note suggests an approach for promoting community based responsible tourism showcasing ICH in the 4 districts while safeguarding the art and craft forms and bringing pride and benefits to the communities.

The state of Rajasthan has a rich cultural heritage of beautiful palaces, forts, memorials, museums, vibrant and colourful art and craft along with majestic desert and rocky landscapes and also forests. All this makes Rajasthan or the Land of Royals one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world. In 2017, around 2.4 million tourists visited Rajasthan of which 28% were from other countries. The industry has grown more than 1.6 times with reference to year 2010 having steady rise in foreign tourist footfall. At the same time it is also noted that average duration of stay in the tourist hotspots like Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Bikaner is between 1.5 to 1.6 days and much lower in Barmer. Tourists generally visit popular destinations like forts, palaces, museums, temples, market areas, fairs and exhibitions etc. However the intangible cultural heritages like the songs of Langas, Manganiyars, Mirs and Bhopas, Kalbelia and Gair dances, eclectic pottery, textile, duree making and appliqué work strewn across the villages in the districts of Jodhpur, Barmer, Jaisalmer and Bikaner can be leveraged to create a win-win situation, both for tourism sector in new product development and benefitting rural artists communities & safeguarding the
art forms.

The project will cover Jodhpur, Barmer, Jaisalmer and Bikaner districts of Western Rajasthan.

A partnership agreement signed between UNESCO and Government of Rajasthan

On 5 September 2019, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between UNESCO New Delhi and the Department of Tourism, Government of Rajasthan, to promote community-based responsible tourism based on the rich Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of the state. The project will be implemented in the districts of Jodhpur, Barmer, Jaisalmer and Bikaner and seeks to spur the socio-economic growth of selected artist communities.

After signing the partnership agreement, Eric Falt, Director, UNESCO New Delhi, said: "India is second to none when it comes to Intangible Cultural Heritage and Rajasthan undoubtedly constitutes its number one asset. We are very pleased to sign this agreement, which aims at promoting long standing Rajasthani traditions and adding new cultural destinations for tourists to visit".
The Hon’ble Minister of Tourism, Mr Vishvendra Singh said, "This agreement represents a historic moment because it is the first time we are signing such a document with an International organization. Most importantly, it will revive traditional cultural heritage and improve livelihoods."
While tourism is an important source of revenue in Rajasthan given its numerous palaces, forts, and museums, the average tourist usually stays only 1 or 2 days in the state. The project agreed today, which will be implemented with the NGO Contact Base, aims to identify appropriate Intangible Cultural Heritage practices which are unique to the state and add one extra day to the stay in Rajasthan of each tourist.
It will focus on intangible cultural heritage traditions such as pottery, weaving and other crafts, as well as music traditions, in order to create community-led and community-benefitting tourism opportunities. The project plans on developing 10 cultural hubs across the 4 districts, which will help promote diverse types of cultural heritage through the organization of events, performances and the sale of handicrafts. It will also build capacities of local communities to manage and promote their intangible heritage.

The Rajasthan project is based on a model successfully developed by UNESCO and Contact Base over the last six years in the state of West Bengal. It has rejuvenated 22 different art forms, provided clear economic benefits to 15,000 artists and households and converted 18 marginalized villages into vibrant cultural destinations.
Rajasthan is also home to 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites in India. The Walled city of Jaipur was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, last July.