The Center for Soft Power’s Namaste 2020 spanning over 30 sessions, including 147 speakers (35 non-Indians) and 11 diplomats, was an attempt to move beyond the study of Indian Soft Power merely in terms of what India offers to the world, to a trans disciplinary exposition which entailed a fusion of academic and nonacademic study of Indian Knowledge Systems, different cultural theories and practices, and how this vast wealth of knowledge operates in the globe today through different disciplines and professions.
The potency of Indian Soft Power in terms of diplomacy and value was highlighted by eminent Indian diplomats, heads of institutions and international speakers and Indologists.
The event was conducted in collaboration with the Indian Council of Cultural Relations and S-VYASA University.
Introduction (By Smt Radhika Srinivasan):
Center for Soft Power conducted month long cultural sessions between August 15 and September 6, which included seminars, workshops and labs to celebrate India’s diverse traditions from Mathematics to Sciences, from the Vedas to Shastras, music and meditation to dance and dramaturgy, history to living art forms, cinema to culinary heritage, and technology to textiles. The inaugural day coincided with India’s Independence Day and the birthdays of Sri Aurobindo and Swami Dayananda Saraswati, and began with a mellifluous tribute to Bharat Mata by the young and talented Rahul Vellal.
Sri Dinesh Patnaik, the Director of Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) noted that India’s culture or Sanskriti is the sum total of her assets which evoke admiration and inspiration. “While it is important to preserve, protect and promote our cultural values, it is equally important to guard ourselves against the hubris that may result in cultural exclusivity; for, culture thrives only when there’s mutual exchange of ideas.” (https://youtu.be/UDLRPrFoQKI)
Swami Avadeshananda Giri Maharajji, the senior most Acharya Mahamandaleshwar of Juna Akhara, spoke in Hindi about the universality of Indian value system based on the whole created universe as God’s own big family; where every living creature is intimately connected to every other being and hence ecology, environment and empathy are all inter-connected and multidisciplinary in the ethos of Indian tradition . Swami Tejomayananda Saraswathi of Chinmaya Mission wished the programme success in uniting cultural entrepreneurs, advocates and promoters and preservers (https://youtu.be/vtKcy_bTKfQ).
The first session saw four young achievers speak of their area of excellence. Muskan Kirar spoke of her achievements in archery, having won 16 medals in various international archery championships. Rahul Vellal, the child prodigy in Carnatic classical music, spoke of his dream of becoming a world renowned artiste. Uttara Unnikrishnan indicated her desire to captivate the film world through her songs and Abhnav Sitaraman summed it up eloquently by saying “Sanskrit is India’s true and eternal cultural ambassador”.
This Columbian graduate, who has founded the “Spoken Sanskrit” venture of a massive open online course, has not only rediscovered his roots through this channel and delved deep into India’s rich antiquity but also spread global awareness of Sanskrit as India’s greatest contribution to the world.
Video of Inaugural Session: https://www.softpowermag.com/inaugural-session-namaste-2020/
Antiquity of Indian Influence
The second session was a panel discussion on Antiquity of Indian Influence, chaired by Prof. Michel Danino, historian, author and guest professor at IIT, Gandhi Nagar, Dr. Chitra Madhavan, author and cultural historian, Mrs. Radhika Srinivasan, author and Dr. Lavanya Vemsani, Professor at Shawnee State University, (USA) presented various interesting facets of India’s ancient past. Quoting Voltaire, the French historian cum philosopher, Prof. Danino said, “India is the land that needs no one but which the whole world needs”.
Read full report here: Antiquity of Indian influence
Global Influence of Ayurveda:
In the last half-century, Ayurveda has slowly spread its wings to reach the entire world. It requires a shift in the thought process of the people as well as the institutional systems in countries that “adopt” Ayurveda.
Major topics that emerged from the panel included:
- Ayurveda and Other Medical Systems
- Ayurveda Policy Around the World
- The Way Forward for Ayurveda
Increasingly, people are looking for alternatives to counter chronic conditions, lifestyle problems, and mental health and well-being.
Read report here: Report on Global Significance of Ayurveda+
Technology and Culture
Technology will be the heart of the cultural experience from here on out. As we enter an era of digitally-raised youth, Indian arts must adapt to meet the needs of the audience in order to maintain its soft power.
Center for Soft Power’s panel discussion on Technology & Culture (August 28, 2020, 6:30-8:30 pm IST) drew on the deep knowledge each speaker had in their respective fields--ranging from sound and music, to fine arts as a medium of expression, to graphics and animation as a medium to build awareness about the richness of Indic traditions. Looking within, they unanimously demonstrated the soft power of Indic arts and culture, and examined how technology could be harnessed to benefit Indian arts and handicrafts. They voiced the need for more work in the intersections of technology & culture in order to evolve/ grow India’s soft power.
Report: Report on Technology & Culture
Raga and Rasa
Once an international student asked the performer: “How does one come prepared to Indian Music?”
And in response, the performer said, “Do not prepare, come with your heart open, come and relax. The music will take you on its journey.”
Indian music is now at a global stage in its journey and is ready to be moved! Cultural fields need to persevere and utilize local resources, build friendships across the world. This is the importance of music and the arts in building soft power across all countries and all peoples.
What can we do to enhance it? This is the question the Indian Music community must now ponder. A few decades ago, Indian music was just penetrating into Europe and the US, and then Australia, South Africa, the Middle East, and beyond. Thanks to ICCR and local organizations in each country, Indian music, especially classical, is being welcomed warmly. Now, musicians need to build on this, and utilize local institutions to begin more collaborative endeavours across the globe, as a tool for building India’s softpower.
Report: Rasa and Raga
Inducted by CEO of Center for Soft Power, Smt Vijayalakshmi Vijayakumar, the event was chaired by The Honorable High Commissioner of India to Canada, Sri Ajay Bisaria. This was an opportunity to bring experts from different parts of the Indian Film Industry together to discuss the current scenario of Indian films, and evoke hopes for the future.
The panel was moderated by author and New York Indian Film Festival Director Aseem Chhabra and included luminaries in the field such as Padmashri actor Manoj Bajpai, award-winning natural film maker Amogha Varsha, and Bollywood for Lovers Canadian podcasters Erin Fraser and Matt Bowes.
“Film as the ultimate art form”, synthesizing theatre (viz acting), books (viz writing, scripting, poetry), paintings (viz cinematography), and editing as its own art, Indian cinema brings out the best in all those it touches. For decades, Indian films have dominated much of the world’s cinema, especially in places where films are not produced heavily: Indian film industry, in 20+ regional languages, produces more than double any other industry in the world.
Report: Timeless Cinema
Handmade in India
Traditional knowledge resides in the local communities. How do we capture, document, and share the knowledge of Indic arts and crafts in a way that is modern thinking and globally minded and yet retains traditions?
One hundred years ago, Mahatma Gandhi paved the path for a self-reliant India through promoting the weaving of khadi in every home, for each person to take care of his/ her own self and family. In 2014, GOI launched the “Make in India” campaign, which reinvigorated every state to promote its strengths. Make in India’s goal is to promote products from India, thus providing economic opportunities to the Indian population. While the government focuses on large-scale industries, there is a need for the private sector and civil society organizations to focus on (handmade) arts and crafts. India is home to 10 million artisans who are supporting their families; the entrepreneur can create opportunities and build platforms for marketing such products.
Report: Handmade in India
Classical Dance and Discussion
While this discussion focused on the interactions between India and Spain in the space of Dance, it also provided insight to what Indian culture and especially dance needs to flourish, and why it is so important, for the entire world. This panel touched on what dance and culture does for economics, the state of dance education and performance in modern (Covid) times, using technology to bridge the gaps, and how dancers should partner with governments and non-governmental institutions.
Report: Dance Discussion
Mind Body Connect
The panelists, whose expertise ranged from mind games such as chess to adventure sports companies in motor sports and scuba diving training, to sports trainers and players in archery and badminton, continued to discuss such ideas and how they relate to specific sports fields in India. They also provide a lot of food for thought for the needs of Indian sports today.
India, with its diverse landscapes and multitude of unique cultures, lends itself to becoming a leader in Sports Tourism. Sports tourism is when travel occurs specifically for involvement in a sport activity, such as underwater diving, whitewater rafting, hiking/ trekking, and even yoga.
Full Report: Mind-Body Connect
Curry and Beyond
A paramount word of the last decade, sustainability is of crucial importance when it comes to the food industry. For the Michelin group, sustainability is something to last. How does Indian food lend itself to lasting sustainability?
Report: Curry and Beyond
Report by Hemamalini Srinivasan
India has a rich diverse and intellectual past. It is known world over - thanks to its achievements in many fields since time immemorial.
Zero is one of the contributions from the time of Aryabhatta. India also invented the decimal number system which is used to this day among other mathematical concepts.
It had a series of mathematicians, astronomers like Bhaskaracharya, Brahmagupta who worked relentlessly and made path breaking achievements possible.
“Once you have felt the dust of india, you will never be free of it” --Rumer Godden
Panelist Philipa Kaye explained, “India is the soul of the world.” The light, the colors, the smiles, the way people see life as a gift or a privilege, and not a right. All life is here. You don’t visit India, you experience india. Let it change you.
Now is the time for India to present itself to the world, and do it in a way that allows a true and authentic experience of the country and its diversity. India should encourage international and even domestic tourists to do what the locals do, go with the flow: consider yourself as a yatri or a sacred pilgrimage to discover yourself, leaving behind oneself and being free to explore the real India, and the real you.
Once upon a time, there was a great King, who was enamoured by the temples designed by his great architects. The King asked the architect to teach him the art of temple architecture. So the architect says, “Go to my Guru, and learn Shilpa Shastra.”
So the King travels to the village where the guru’s ashram is, and humbly says “I want to learn Shilpa Shastra.” The guru replies, “To learn Shilpa Shastra, you must first learn Agama Shastra from another guru.”
The King travels to the other guru’s ashram, and that guru responds: “In order to learn Agama Shastra, you must study Literature.”
Finding a Literature teacher who can enlighten the King on India’s Itihasa and Purana, the King settled in for some storytelling, when the teacher said, “Now, before studying the vast literature of our land, you must learn dance, music, and the arts.”
The knowledge systems of India, including mathematics, arts, and sciences, are intertwined and cannot be separated. These knowledges together form the ancient, spiritual wisdom of this land.
“Conservation is intrinsic to Indian values. In India, faith and nature have had a deep link since ancient times”, PM Narendra Modi. When it comes to Indian art around the world, the undoubtable themes are Yoga, Religion, and Nature.
Art as Spirituality
If you ask an Indian artist “Who is the painter?”, the answer is “The divine deities that dwell within us.”
Indian art is inherently connected to yoga as a way of life, religion, spirituality, and of course, nature.
Art is a wonderful therapy for human beings. When focused on arts, the human being experiences a happiness that cannot be found anywhere else. There is concentration, which leaves no time for anything but the art.
Being in tune with nature is the way of Arts Gurukuls in India, which is also the way of yoga. Arts are a way to find the balance of the masculine and the feminine, practice what is true yoga, and showcase the divine.
India has so many arts and art techniques which are spiritual in nature because they. Through the creation of arts in relation to spirituality and nature, we can achieve perfection & self-realization. One form is yantras and mandalas, which utilize basic geometric shapes and patterns that exist throughout the world, in all cultures. Specific colors are used to describe specific emotions, and to help with balancing them. Bringing these to the world through art shows and presentations become ways to bridge the divides around the world, recognizing the uniqueness and the unities.
Report: Frozen Moments