Current Affairs - Indian Art, Culture & Heritage

Ministry of Tourism Unveils National Competitions to Boost Rural Tourism

On 3rd December, 2023, the Ministry of Tourism introduced the National Best Tourism Village Competition 2024 and the National Best Rural Homestay Competition 2024 to bolster the promotion and development of Rural Tourism across India, building on the success of the 2023 edition that recognized 35 villages.

Key Points

  • Collaboration: These initiatives, in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management, aim to enhance Rural Tourism in India.
  • Role of Competitions: The National Best Tourism Village and National Best Rural Homestays Competitions are strategic initiatives to implement the national strategies.
  • These competitions foster collaboration among governments, industry stakeholders, NGOs, and local communities, synergizing efforts to strengthen rural economies.
  • Objective of Competitions: The competitions seek to instill healthy competitiveness among villages and rural homestays, recognizing outstanding contributions to Rural Tourism.
  • Goal: The goal is to incentivize communities and individuals for active involvement in achieving sustainable development goals.
  • Nodal Agency: The Ministry has established the Central Nodal Agency Rural Tourism and Rural Homestay (CNA RT & RH) to effectively implement initiatives for Rural Tourism.
  • CNA RT & RH is conducting capacity-building sessions for states to create Master Trainers for spreading awareness at the village level.
  • Impact on Tourism: The competitions are expected to boost tourism in lesser-explored regions, encouraging community participation, preserving cultural authenticity, and promoting sustainable and responsible practices in the tourism sector.

'Ladakh Sea Buckthorn' Receive GI tag

Recently, the Geographical Indication Registry, under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, has recently awarded the GI tag to 'Ladakh Sea Buckthorn,' marking a significant milestone for the region's farmers.

Key Points

  • GI Tag for Ladakh Sea Buckthorn: In a noteworthy development, the Department of Industries & Commerce, Ladakh, is now the Registered Proprietor for 'Ladakh Sea Buckthorn' in Class 31.
  • Farmer Enthusiasm in Kargil: Farmers in Kargil express excitement over the special recognition for Sea Buckthorn, a highly profitable crop in UT Ladakh, with 90% of the production originating from the region.
  • Focus on Agriculture Sector: Post the Union Territory status for Ladakh, the Agriculture Sector has witnessed significant progress, with special attention from the government. Out of the four GI tags granted, two are directly linked to the Horticulture Sector, providing a boost to farmers.

Definition and Purpose of GI Tag

  • Geographical indication rights empower authorized users to prevent third parties from using the indication if their product does not meet relevant standards.
  • A geographical indication is a label affixed to products originating from a specific geographical area, known for unique qualities attributed to that origin.
  • Application across Sectors: Geographical indications are commonly applied to agricultural products, foods, wine and spirits, handicrafts, and industrial products.
  • Duration of Registration: Geographical indications can be registered for ten years, with the possibility of renewal for an additional ten years.

Geographical Indications (Background)

  • Legislation and Enforcers
    • The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, enacted in December 1999, aims to enhance the registration and protection of geographical indications in India.
    • Enforced by the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trade Marks, serving as the Registrar of Geographical Indications.
  • Registry Location and Commencement
    • The Geographical Indications Registry is situated in Chennai.
    • The Act came into effect on September 15, 2003.

Accords and Regulates GI

  • International Level
    • The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property recognizes geographical indications.
    • The World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) governs geographical indications.
  • In India
    • Geographical Indications registration is governed by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.

Significance of GI Tags

  • Protection Mechanism
    • Geographical indication rights allow authorized users to prevent unauthorized use, ensuring adherence to specified standards.
    • Example: Darjeeling tea producers can restrict the term "Darjeeling" for tea meeting defined standards.
  • Impacts on Rural Development
    • Supply chain organization around shared product reputation.
    • Price increases and stability for GI products.
    • Value addition at all supplies chain levels.
    • Preservation of natural resources.
    • Preservation of traditions and expertise.
    • Potential enhancement of tourism.


  • Methods of Protection
    • sui generis systems (special protection regimes)
    • Collective or certification marks
    • Business practices (e.g., administrative product approval schemes)
    • Unfair competition laws
  • Diverse Approaches
    • Approaches vary on conditions for protection and the scope of protection.
    • Sui generis and collective or certification mark systems share similarities, establishing rights for collective use by those meeting defined standards.
    • Protection is implemented across countries and regional systems, employing a combination of approaches based on legal traditions and historical contexts.

PM Flags Off Gujarat's First Heritage Train to Statue of Unity

On 31st Oct, Prime Minister inaugurated Gujarat's maiden heritage train service, connecting Vadodara to Ahmedabad and ferrying tourists to the Statue of Unity, a tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

Key Points

  • Heritage Train: The heritage train consists of three coaches hauled by an electric engine. The locomotive has been aesthetically designed to resemble a steam engine, complete with foggers producing exhaust-like fumes and a sound system mimicking a steam locomotive's sound.
  • Blend of Heritage and Modern Comfort: The launch took place during the Ekta Divas (Unity Day) celebrations in Ekta Nagar (Kevadiya), located in Narmada district.
  • Tourist-Friendly: The train's three coaches offer 48 seats each. Additionally, a 28-seater air-conditioned dining car provides passengers the opportunity to enjoy tea and snacks.
  • The dining car features teak wood dining tables and cushioned two-seater sofas.
  • Frequency and Route: Initially, the heritage train will operate as a weekly service on Sundays, starting from November 5, 2023.
  • The frequency may be adjusted based on the response from travellers.
  • The train will travel directly between Ahmedabad and Ekta Nagar, omitting any stoppages during the 182-kilometer journey.
  • Rich Railway Heritage: Vadodara has a significant historical connection to Indian railways.
  • The region witnessed the early development of rail services, including an attempt in 1862, and by 1880, regular locomotives were operating on an eight-mile track between Dabhoi and Miyagam.
  • Statue of Unity Visit: The train's schedule facilitates visits to the Statue of Unity, which stands near Ekta Nagar in the reservoir of the Sardar Sarovar Dam.
  • Tourists can plan their return journey to Ahmedabad after experiencing the light and sound show and other late evening attractions in the vicinity.

Kozhikode and Gwalior Earn UNESCO Recognition for Cultural Contributions

Recently, Kozhikode in Kerala and Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh have achieved the prestigious honour of being designated UNESCO Creative Cities for their noteworthy contributions in the fields of literature and music, respectively.

Key Points

  • Creative Cities Network: The newly designated cities were commended for their strong dedication to incorporating culture and creativity into their development strategies, as well as implementing innovative approaches in human-centric urban planning.
  • Prime Minister's Congratulatory Message: On November 1, Prime Minister congratulated Kozhikode and Gwalior for joining the esteemed UNESCO Creative Cities Network.
  • Expanded Creative Cities Network: With the addition of Kozhikode and Gwalior, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network now comprises 350 cities from more than one hundred countries.
  • These cities represent seven creative fields, including Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music.
  • Cultural Significance: Kozhikode hosts the annual Kerala Literature Festival and several other literary events. Gwalior boasts a diverse musical heritage, encompassing classical Hindustani music, folk music, and devotional music. The city is home to prestigious music institutes and hosts popular music festivals.
  • Further Additions: Other cities added to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network include Bukhara for Crafts and Folk Art, Casablanca for Media Arts, Kathmandu for Films, and Rio de Janeiro for Literature.
  • 2024 UCCN Annual Conference: The newly designated Creative Cities have been invited to participate in the 2024 UCCN Annual Conference, scheduled for July 1-5, 2024, in Braga, Portugal, under the theme "Bringing Youth to the table for the next decade."

Amritsar and Kapurthala Included in Swadesh Darshan 2.0 Scheme

The Union Ministry of Tourism has recently selected Amritsar and Kapurthala, two cities in Punjab, as part of the Swadesh Darshan 2.0 scheme, which encompasses 30 cities of historical and religious tourism significance across 15 states in India.

Key Points

  • Other Cities: In addition to Amritsar and Kapurthala, earlier selections in 2018-19 included cities such as Sri Anandpur Sahib, Sri Fatehgarh Sahib, Chamkaur Sahib, Ferozepur, Khatkar Kalan, Patiala, and Kalanaur in Punjab.
  • Goal: The primary objective of the Swadesh Darshan Scheme is to create an enjoyable and memorable experience for tourists by enhancing basic facilities in cities with historical and religious importance.
  • Finance: An allocation of 70 crores of rupees will be invested in development projects for Amritsar and Kapurthala, aimed at encouraging tourists to extend their stays in these cities and gain deeper insights into their historical and cultural heritage.
  • Merit: This initiative is expected to stimulate the tourism industry in Amritsar and Kapurthala, further promoting their rich cultural and historical significance.

Kerala Tourism Launches Project to Enhance Amenities at Edakkal Caves

Recently, Kerala Tourism has initiated a ₹2.9-crore project aimed at enhancing civic amenities surrounding the renowned Edakkal Caves in Wayanad, celebrated for its prehistoric rock art.

Key Points

  • Preserving Cultural and Historical Significance: The project, granted administrative approval by the government, reflects the growing importance of Wayanad as a prominent tourism destination.
  • Significance: Edakkal Caves, situated at an altitude of 3,900 feet on the Ambukuthi hills, are renowned for their Neolithic-era pictorial writings, believed to date back to at least 6,000 BCE.
  • The caves feature depictions of human and animal figures, symbols, and letters, making them of immense historical and cultural significance.
  • Enhancing the Visitor Experience: The objective of this project is to create an enjoyable and enriching experience for tourists visiting Edakkal Caves.
  • The works will include the construction of concrete roads, installation of paver blocks, platform renovation, handrails, seating arrangements, gateway construction, electrification, and landscaping.
  • Additionally, three CCTV cameras will be installed to enhance security.
  • Timely Completion: The project is slated for completion within 18 months, as per a recent government order.
  • The Department of Tourism recognized the site's potential to attract visitors but emphasized the need for improved infrastructure.
  • Edakkal Caves are located 12 kilometers southwest of Sulthan Bathery, nestled along the Western Ghats.

Dhordo Village in Gujarat Honored as Best Tourism Village

Recently, Dhordo, a village situated in Gujarat's Kutch district, renowned as the gateway to the Great Rann of Kutch, has recently received the esteemed title of Best Tourism Village from the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).

Key Points

  • Cultural Significance: Dhordo village holds cultural significance and is particularly known for being the launch site of Rann Utsav in 2005. Over the years, it has gained recognition for its cultural impact.
  • UNWTO Award: Dhordo was awarded the title of Best Tourism Village in 2023 during an award ceremony organized by the UNWTO in the historic city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on October 19, 2023.
  • Criteria for the Award: This prestigious award is bestowed upon villages that demonstrate exceptional contributions to rural development, preservation of the natural landscape, cultural heritage, diversity, local values, and culinary traditions.
  • Evaluation Factors: Villages are evaluated based on their cultural and natural resources, promotion and conservation of cultural heritage, economic sustainability, social stability, environmental sustainability, tourism potential and development, and value chain integration.
  • Dhordo's Achievement: Dhordo in Gujarat has excelled in these aspects, earning the recognition and appreciation it deserves.
  • Unique Landscape: The Rann of Kutch, where Dhordo is located, is one of India's most unique geographical features.
  • This vast salt desert covers an area of 27,454 square kilometers, offering a breathtaking, otherworldly landscape, especially under the moonlight.
  • Cultural Festival: The Rann of Kutch is home to semi-nomadic tribal communities and serves as the backdrop for the annual Rann Utsav, a cultural festival that attracts tourists from around the world.

Indian Railways to Operate Special Trains for 'Meri Maati, Mera Desh' Campaign

Recently, Indian Railways is set to run special trains to facilitate the transportation of volunteers carrying soil from various State capitals and major stations across the nation.

  • These volunteers will converge in New Delhi on October 29 as part of the 'Meri Maati, Mera Desh' (My soil, my country) campaign, organized by the Ministry of Culture.

Key Points

  • Campaign Overview: The 'Meri Maati, Mera Desh' campaign aims to honour the sacrifices of Veers and Veeranganas (bravehearts) for the country.
  • Approximately 20,000 volunteers, each carrying an urn (kalash) filled with soil, will reach Delhi to participate in events concluding the year-long Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav.
  • Soil Collection: Volunteers will collect soil from households as a mark of respect for those who sacrificed their lives.
  • In cases where soil is unavailable, people can contribute a grain of rice.
  • The collected soil will be used in the 'Amrit Vatika,' a special garden in Delhi, and the 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' memorial.
  • Railway Assistance: The Ministry of Railways will operate special 'Amrit Kalash Yatri' trains, add extra coaches to scheduled trains, and release berths from the Emergency Quota to facilitate volunteer transportation.
  • These trains will make halts at major stations for volunteers to meet local Members of Parliament, celebrities, and officials. The return journey from Delhi to respective destinations will occur on November 1.
  • Role of Railways: The Railways clarified that the program is organized by the Ministry of Culture, and the Railways' role is to provide transportation and food for the volunteers.
  • The absence of participants from certain states might be due to a lack of coordination with nodal officers in those regions.

Arunachal Yak Churpi Receives GI Tag

Recently, Arunachal Pradesh has achieved Geographical Indication (GI) certification for its unique yak milk product, Arunachal Yak Churpi.

Additionally, two other distinct products from the state, Khaw Tai (Khamti rice) and Tangsa textile, have also obtained GI certifications.

Key Points

  • Yak Milk Product - Arunachal Yak Churpi: Arunachal Yak Churpi, the first-ever yak milk product, has been granted a Geographical Indication tag.
  • This product is prepared from the milk of Arunachali yaks, a unique breed found in the West Kameng and Tawang districts of the state.
  • It is reared by tribal yak pastoralists known as Brokpas.
  • These pastoralists migrate with their yaks to higher altitudes (above 10,000 ft) during summers and descend to mid-altitude mountainous regions in winters, as yaks cannot survive in lower altitudes during the summer.
  • Khaw Tai - Khamti Rice Variety: Khaw Tai, a unique chewy sticky rice variety cultivated in the Namsai region, has also received GI certification.
  • Traditional Khampti tribal farmers grow this rice.
  • It has various culinary uses, including the preparation of "khautoum" by steaming and wrapping it in a leaf, "khautek" as a ball-shaped variant blended with molasses, and "khaupuk," a staple Khampti snack made from sticky rice and sesame seeds.
  • Tangsa Textile: The Tangsa tribe's textile products from Changlang district, known for their exotic designs and colors, have been recognized with GI certification.

Rationalization of Centrally Protected Monuments

A recent parliamentary committee report on the 'Functioning of Archaeological Survey of India' has suggested significant changes to the management of India's cultural heritage.

Key Points

  • Rationalizing Protected Monuments: The committee suggests reevaluating the list of centrally protected monuments in India based on their national significance and unique architectural and heritage value.
  • Archaic Era: The report points out that a substantial number of these monuments lack national importance, including colonial-era graves with minimal historical or architectural significance.
  • Government's Proposed Legislation: This recommendation aligns with the government's intention to reintroduce the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) (Amendment) Bill, aiming to redefine monuments and their surrounding areas.
  • Aim of Legislation: The legislation aims to modernize the criteria for protected monuments, possibly moving away from the current 100-year-old benchmark, in line with efforts to disassociate from India's colonial past.
  • Review of Prohibited Areas: The AMASR Act currently imposes construction restrictions up to 100 meters around protected monuments, extending to 200 meters as regulated areas.
  • The report anticipates potential amendments to relax these restrictions, especially for less significant monuments, such as statues, cemeteries, and cannons.
  • ASI Restructuring: To enhance the Archaeological Survey of India's effectiveness, the committee recommends dividing it into two wings: the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the India Heritage Development Corporation (IHDC).
  • Twin Objectives: ASI would focus on exploration, excavation, and conservation, while IHDC would manage revenue-related activities like ticket sales, auctions, and cafe operations.
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