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Exploring India’s diverse cultural heritage through GI tags

  • Published
    10th Jan, 2024
Context

Over 500 products across all the States have been given GI tags so far.

The products ranged from handicrafts such as the Dongaria Kondh shawl from Odisha, to agricultural products such as the Sundarban Honey from West Bengal. A GI tag is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.

What is a GI tag?

  • A GI tag is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
  • Any trader’s body, association, or organisation can apply for a GI tag. The applicants need to prove the uniqueness of the item with historical records and a complete breakdown of how the product is made.
  • GI tags are also not meant just for popular products. There are hundreds of GI tags across States.
  • Every GI tag recognises a particular region and product and brings it to the public eye.
  • It is important to note that the raw materials for such products do not have to come from that region (unless it is an agricultural tag).
  • For instance, the leaf that gives the Banarasi paan its identity is not grown in Varanasi; it comes from Bihar, West Bengal, or Odisha.
  • The mulberry silk used in Kancheepuram sarees comes from Karnataka and the gold zari from Surat.
  • The products ranged from handicrafts such as the Dongaria Kondh shawl from Odisha, to agricultural products such as the Sundarban Honey from West Bengal.

GI tags across States

  • Every State in India has at least one GI tag. While GI tags are a proxy for unique cultural items, they are by no means exhaustive.
  • If a State has more GI tags compared to another, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is more culturally rich; it just means that more items have been registered, with more to probably follow.
  • Tamil Nadu (61) has the highest number of GI tags compared to other States. Uttar Pradesh has the second highest number of GI tags. (56).
  • These include leather footwear from Agra, saddles from Kanpur, and the traditional embroidery art form of Chikankari from Lucknow.
  • Karnataka with 48 GI tags is ranked third, Kerala with 39 is ranked fourth, and Maharashtra with 35 is fifth.
  • The Coimbatore wet grinder (to make batter for idlis) was given a GI tag under the “manufactured” category.
  • Ancient cultural centres such as Banaras (Varanasi) are steeped in culture and tradition. Banaras offers 11 unique crafts and agricultural items (the highest from a single place), including the famous Banarasi paan.
  • The heritage city of Mysuru, ruled for centuries by the Wodeyars, has 10 unique items, including the special variety of jasmine (Mysore mallige) and the fragrant sandalwood soap.
  • Paintings from Thanjavur in Tamil nadu and the Thanjavur’s iconic bobblehead dolls find a place among the five GI tags.
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