Indian cultural gala to wow Europe

Brussels, Oct 4 (IANS) India is mounting one of its most ambitious cultural galas abroad in recent times with the launching here of a nearly four-month long festival that will be an eloquent and colourful demonstration of the country's soft power.

The festival - called the europalia.india festival and widely advertised in the Belgian capital - is being jointly inaugurated Friday by visiting Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and King Philippe, an India lover who has been several times to India.

It will include over 300 events showcasing India art and antiquities, music and dance, performances, cinema, theatre, literature, thought and cuisine, spanning the spectrum of the country's traditional and contemporary cultural history.

The main event will be at the Bozar, the Palais des Beaux Arts (Centre for Fine Arts), a complex spanning 30,000 square metres spread over eight levels in the heart of Brussels' museum district. The rest of the festival would be spread across 200 partner venues across this pluralist nation of ten million people, located at the interface of major European hubs and capital of the European Commission, the seat of the European Parliament and NATO, the western military alliance.

Belgium, like India, is a federal state comprising three large communities - the French community, the Flemish (Dutch-speaking) community and the German-speaking community) who all have proportional representations in the national parliament.

This festival is being co-organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Europalia International with the aim of bringing the cultural and spiritual essence of India - a country 107 rpt 107 times the size of Belgium - to the heart of Europe. The European Union and India are close trading partners and have elevated their ties to the status of a strategic partnership.

"The festival aims to offer an overview of India's evolution from ancient times to its most contemporary expression," ICCR president Karan Singh told IANS here. "Its a grand carnival of India's pluralist and multifaceted culture."

It will focus on seven themes and each of the themes like 'India tomorrow', 'Bollywood and Beyond' and 'Diaspora' will be illustrated and demonstrated by events of all artistic disciplines - exhibitions, music, dance, theatre, literature, conferences and films.

One of the most fascinating shows would be centred around an art exhibition exploring the significance of the human body in India thought. It has been curated by Naman Ahuja, associate professor of ancient Indian art and architecture at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. The exhibition will have over 350 objects selected from 55 museums and private collections all over the world and will show the body as contemplated in Indian culture.

Ahuja has been quoted as saying here: "There are works in terracotta, ivory, bronze, different types of stones, objects from Gandhara, Mathura, Chola and Pallava sculptures.

"When you enter the exhibition it will like you are entering Banaras (Varanasi) and the first gallery is on death because in India - unlike in Europe where the body is celebrated - the body is only a temporary vessel..."

The entire show is costing Rs 20 cr (over 2 million euros) and will, besides Belgium, travel to Holland and France.

(Tarun Basu can be contacted at tarun.basu@ians.in)

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