Project ‘Mausam’

Secretary, Ministry of Culture Shri Ravindra Singh on 20th June, 2014 presented ‘Mausam’, a Ministry of Culture project to an international audience at the 38th session of the World Heritage Committee at Doha, Qatar. One of the main deliverable of this project is nomination of maritime cultural landscapes across the Indian Ocean as a trans-national property on the World Heritage List of UNESCO.

Project ‘Mausam’ is a Ministry of Culture project with Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi as the nodal coordinating agency. As an initial idea, the project was proposed by Mr. Ravindra Singh, Secretary, Ministry of Culture and now has been taken up as a prelude to its nomination as a transnational inscription on the World Heritage List of UNESCO.

‘Mausam’ or Arabic ‘Mawsim’ refers to the season when ships could sail safely. This distinctive wind-system of the Indian Ocean region follows a regular pattern: southwest from May to September; and northeast from November to March. The English term ‘Monsoon’ came from Portuguese ‘Monção’, ostensibly from Arabic ‘Mawsim’. The etymology of this word signifies the importance of this season to a variety of seafarers. This intertwining of natural phenomena such as monsoon winds and the ways in which these were harnessed historically to create cultural networks form the building blocks of Project ‘Mausam’.

The endeavour of Project ‘Mausam’ is to position itself at two levels: at the macro level it aims to re-connect and re-establish communications between countries of the Indian Ocean world, which would lead to an enhanced understanding of cultural values and concerns; while at the micro level the focus is on understanding national cultures in their regional maritime milieu.

The central themes that hold Project ‘Mausam’ together are those of cultural routes and maritime landscapes that not only linked different parts of the Indian Ocean littoral, but also connected the coastal centres to their hinterlands. More importantly shared knowledge systems and ideas spread along these routes and impacted both coastal centres, and also large parts of the environs.

Project ‘Mausam’ is an exciting, multi-disciplinary project that rekindles long-lost ties across nations of the Indian Ocean ‘world’ and forges new avenues of cooperation and exchange. The project, launched by India in partnership with member states, will enable a significant step in recording and celebrating this important phase of world history from the African, Arab and Asian-world perspectives.

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