Ramayana, Buddhist dance at India’s southeast Asian fiesta

IANS | New Delhi
February 4, 2014 Last Updated at 22:20 IST

Stories of epic Ramayana narrated through ballet dance, Buddhist sacred dance and chants, different cuisines of India, traditional “mehndi” art, yoga and a film festival — these are some highlights of the cultural ministry’s festival in four southeast Asian countries.

With a view to facilitate and encourage cooperation in the realms of art and culture, education and mass media, “Festival of India”, organised under the aegis of ministry of culture will be taking a delegation of 75 artistes to numerous cities of Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar in February and March, where they will use various platforms to showcase Indian culture.

“It is one of the biggest delegations that we (culture ministry) will be taking to southeast Asia. We have focussed on elements of Buddhism and Ramayana because these two have a strong cultural resonance in these countries,” V. Srinivas, joint secretary, ministry of culture, said at a press conference Tuesday.

“Ministry of external affairs wanted us to focus on ASEAN countries, hence the choice of these countries,” he said, adding the festival will travel to China, South Africa, South Korea and Japan in the coming months.

In 2013, the festival went to Peru and Cuba where more than 20,000 people enjoyed it.

As part of the festival, a Buddhist exhibition and a “mahotsav” will be organised where sand “mandalas” and butter sculptures will be constructed, and monks from the Himalayan region will perform sacred dance and lama chants.

Chennai-based Kalakshetra Foundation will perform Ramayana in ballet form for three days in Laos.

The ministry took two months to put together this ambitious project and is now hoping to present what is “culturally and ethically” authentic India.

Visitors will get a taste of Indian cuisines and an interesting mix of movies, with English subtitles, like “Jodha Akbar”, “Dil Chahta Hai”, “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” and “Chashme Buddoor” at the film festival.

“Movies were selected after we learnt a lesson during the festival in Cuba and Peru,” Srinivas pointed out candidly.

“It was important for us to have a collection that will interest and engage the audience,” he added, admitting: “‘Raja Harischandra’, a 1913 Indian silent film, wasn’t received well there.”

The festival dates are: Laos (Feb 9-11), Cambodia (Feb 14-19), Vietnam (March 6-15) and Myanmar (March 17-21).

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