Kozhikode Becomes India’s First UNESCO ‘City of Literature’

Kozhikode, located in northern Kerala and renowned for its rich cultural heritage, has been officially declared as India’s first UNESCO 'City of Literature'.
Kozhikode Becomes India’s First UNESCO ‘City of Literature’

Kozhikode, located in northern Kerala and renowned for its rich cultural heritage, has been officially declared India’s first UNESCO 'City of Literature'. The announcement was made during an official event on Sunday by M B Rajesh, the State Local Self Government Department (LSGD) Minister. Kozhikode earned this prestigious recognition in October 2023, becoming part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) under the 'Literature' category.

Minister Rajesh praised Kozhikode, describing it as a city with a soul, known for its humanity, harmony, justice, and freedom of expression. He highlighted that these core values have nurtured Kozhikode's vibrant artistic scene. The minister also credited the efficient functioning of the Kozhikode city corporation for securing the 'City of Literature' title, surpassing cities with rich cultural histories, such as Kolkata.

In celebration of this achievement, the state government announced that June 23 will be celebrated annually as 'City of Literature' Day in Kozhikode. This day will honor the city's literary heritage, which includes literary giants like the late S K Pottakkad and Vaikom Muhammed Basheer. Special awards in six categories will be announced on this day, according to an LSGD statement. Additionally, Tourism Minister P A Mohammed Riyas unveiled the official 'City of Literature' logo by UNESCO during the event.

Rajesh also visited the home of Jnanpith awardee M T Vasudevan Nair to present him with the Diamond Jubilee award, instituted by the Kozhikode city corporation. Historically known as the city of Zamorins and as Calicut during British rule, Kozhikode served as a significant gateway for Persians, Arabs, Chinese, and Europeans centuries ago. It played a crucial role in Kerala's freedom movement and has been a prominent venue for book festivals for many decades. The city boasts over 500 functioning libraries and has been a hub for the literary activities of the legendary Malayalam writer M T Vasudevan Nair.

Alongside Kozhikode, Gwalior from India also joined the UCCN in the 'Music' category. The new cities were announced on World Cities Day, October 31, and were recognized for their strong commitment to leveraging culture and creativity in their development strategies, as well as for their innovative practices in human-centered urban planning.

These additions bring the total number of cities in the UCCN to 350 across more than 100 countries, representing seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music. Other notable cities in the network include Bukhara for Crafts and Folk Art, Casablanca for Media Arts, Chongqing for Design, Kathmandu for Film, Rio de Janeiro for Literature, and Ulaanbaatar for Crafts and Folk Art.

The newly designated Creative Cities, including Kozhikode, are invited to participate in the 2024 UCCN Annual Conference, scheduled for July 1-5, 2024, in Braga, Portugal. The conference, themed 'Bringing Youth to the Table for the Next Decade', aims to foster discussions on integrating youth into urban cultural development.

Kozhikode’s designation as a UNESCO 'City of Literature' not only highlights its rich literary heritage but also positions it as a cultural beacon on the global stage, promoting literature and creative arts as essential components of urban development.