“I think Bharatanatyam on its own is everywhere.” – Radhe Jaggi

(Images taken from Radhe’s website: http://radhejaggi.com/)

Dancer- Choreographer, Radhe Jaggi sat down with CSP at its office in Chennai on Tuesday, 11th June to discuss her experiences in travelling and performing abroad, as well as the work she has undertaken to promote Saris and Indian fabrics.

Can you tell us about your journey and what inspired you to take up dance?

“It was actually an accident. I learned dance when I was in boarding school where it was one of many activities. After 10th I didn’t want to go back to school. Not that I didn’t want to study, but I didn’t want to be in an actual school. So I visited Kalakshetra in 2006, where I was captured by the way dance was spoken about as an art form.

It was v different from what I thought it was, but in the end it ended up quite well. It was interesting cause I came from such an open environment in school and home to a much more conservative approach in Kalakshetra. But at the end of the day, the space and the teachers make you a great dancer.

I took a year off in between where I took a break from dance, but I started to miss it. And so I went back to dance. Then when I went back to my teacher from Kalakshetra, and asked her to be my teacher and she said yes.”

(Images taken from Radhe’s website: http://radhejaggi.com/) 

Can you tell us some of your cherished memories of your childhood and the influence of your parents, in specific of your father, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev on you?

“I don’t know what specific incidents you want. I have a lot of animal stories. I grew up a lot on trees. I also read a lot, so much so that my father had to break my reading habits. My father used to have meetings and he would make me come to give him water during the meetings. I remember sitting in these meetings and he would even ask me my opinions on things discussed in the meetings. And so this is how he broke my reading habit, and got me interested in things beyond what I was initially interested in. “

Can you tell us about your fascination for travel especially adventure tourism and how it has been a great influence on your life? Have you travelled extensively like this with your father?

“Not really. I’ve been travelling with him a few times but we don’t really go as tourists, we go as part of a spiritual experience. But I’ve travelled with him when he’s had programs. And when I was a child I had summer holidays and so he had to take me with him. And when we travelled we stayed in people’s houses and so we met a lot of different kinds of people.”

Does he come to your house?

“Yeah but he doesn’t come to Chennai that often. I go home sometimes or I see him if we’re both travelling somewhere nearby.”

Tell us about your experience of studying Bharatnatyam in Kalakshetra. How did it shape your thinking?

“In Kalakshetra whoever you are whatever level you are, you start from scratch. Everyone starts from zero and when you come out of it it becomes second nature. If you wake someone up in the middle of the night and ask them to hold a posture they can. But while you’re there you’re a student. You learn the basics and the right ways to do certain things. And once you leave you can decide what to show on stage and why or if you want it to be different.

Right after I finished studying I started performing mainly in small temples in Tamil Nadu. I was lucky to have some young musicians with me. It was a good foundation for me before I started doing shows on a more technical or larger stage.”

Radhe performing at the Chidambaram Temple (Images taken from Radhe’s website: http://radhejaggi.com/)

When was the first time you performed abroad and what was the experience like?

“I don’t remember actually. I performed I think in the US, for the very first time, in the Ashram there. But since it was the ashram there was a certain level of comfort. I don’t know if it was my first performance but they have these world peace day celebrations in the ashram and in the evenings they always have some show – so on one of those slots I danced for about 10, 15 minutes.

We did a few shows in the US before Adiyogi was built, to bring some awareness to it. That was my first tour abroad.”

Can you tell us in detail about your visit to Korea and the production “Bahuchara Mata — the third sex”, a collaboration between Indian and Korean artists which culminated at the end of three weeks to a performance at the Gwanju Art Festival?

“I went to South Korea as part of InKo Centre’s project with a South Korean theatre company. I went as a dancer and a percussionist from Trivandrum that I knew, as well as a flutist. The three of us went from the Indian side, and we worked for about 3 weeks. And we showcased the performance in Seoul. It was based on an Indian folk tale. We shared elements of our dance with elements of their traditional dance and their director put it all together and made it a cohesive piece.”

What are some countries you’ve been to?

“Malaysia, US, UK, Singapore, Canada. I remember once dancing for a private dinner hosted by an MP at the UK parliament.”

Do you get invites from governments abroad?

“Not really. Even through ICCR the sponsorships are lower. I think they’re focusing on senior dancers more.  I go wherever I’m invited; I don’t actively search out governments.”

Radhe at her performance in the UK in 2013 (Images taken from Radhe’s website: http://radhejaggi.com/)

For younger people to take this up as a career, how do you see performing arts evolving globally?

“I think Bharatanatyam on its own is everywhere. And I think that if the teaching of it can be improved – everyone learns dance as a child but somewhere there is a disconnect between people who learn as kids and then forget it and don’t go back to it as adults. This doesn’t happen in the case of music. Somehow people that learnt dance haven’t come back as audiences. Maybe there’s something we’re doing wrong as performers or teachers.”

Tell us about your love for Saris

“I want to do something with it, but I haven’t figured out what yet. I’m very fascinated by fabric and weave. There’s so many unique ways of weaving cloths in India. Even if you look at it historically, ancient high fashion even in Europe was all Indian weaves. And somewhere during colonization they broke our weaving traditions with the advent of the mill. And now I think people need to actively look for diversity in our weaves and our different fabric traditions, and look beyond that which is simply fashionable. I think now more and more young people are wearing saris, in different ways, which is good. But still we need to get over these excuses of “its too hard to wear” or “I can’t wear it everyday because I have to work.” And its surprisingly comfortable, because nowadays there’s less and less formality with a Sari. So it is an option.

If you’re not into Saris, then maybe look at natural fabrics or natural textiles.”

(Picture taken from the Hindu Article on Radhe: 28 Saris Later https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fashion/radhe-jaggi-on-her-sari-soiree/article26162908.ece)

What’s your favorite fabric?

“My favorite is Mysore Silk. It’s smooth as butter. It keeps you warm when you need to and cool when it needs to.”

Do you plan to start a dance school?

“I’m not sure if I want to start a school, but I definitely want to start teaching. Right now I travel too much to take the responsibility of having students. But I think that is a decision I will make soon, but probably not with too many students.”

How does it feel to be the daughter of Sadhguru?

“A lot of people ask me that, but he is my father. He’s a great father, but he is still my father. He doesn’t carry the weight of the people that follow him and I have never been told I can or can’t do something because I was his daughter. I never thought that I had to behave a certain way because I was his daughter. But it did give me a lot of opportunities, and I got to meet a lot of different people because of him.”

Carrying Thayir Sadam to the World

Ahara – 9 June, 2019

It is very rare that individual people are able to promote Indian soft power, in any field, as widely and for as long as Ms. Viji Varadarajan has. An expert in South Indian Cuisine, she has authored numerous books in multiple languages, and is constantly teaching foreign students about the diversity the exists within Indian food. Focusing on South Indian cuisine, she aims to create an appreciation for the complexities of South Indian food, in the minds of all those she encounters from outside India.

Ms. Viji Varadarajan was trained to cook through the dual influences of her parental home and her husband’s family’s traditions. She has analysed the dishes from the point of view of nutrition and health and presents recipes that are perfectly balanced – low in fats and cholesterol and yet protein and vitamin rich. These recipes have been handed down and perfected in the kitchens and temples throughout South India. Today’s generation was losing out on an entire culture so she decided to record for posterity the dishes from a Brahmin cuisine.

CSP interviewed Ms. Vardarajan, at her home in Chennai, joined by two of her foreign students – Eri and Akemi. Akemi is a Japanese national, who had previously researched Indian cuisine. She has now settled in India for the last 20 years. Eri, also from Japan, runs an Indian restaurant in her hometown in Japan.

From Left to Right: Eri, Akemi, Viji Varadarajan, Vijayalakshmi Vijayakumar, Aman Nair

Ms. Viji Varadarajan

Indian cuisine has always been appreciated at the global level, but have you found that this appreciation has increased recently? And if so, why?

Indian food has always been popular in places like Britain. However, the Indian food taken there is mainly North Indian food, more specifically Punjabi food.
But recently a lot of people in Europe who have come to know the greatness of Yoga, and Ayurveda – and as the world goes on and on the meat produce has also become expensive for them – so they have to turn to vegetarian food. Basically what was sent there was non vegetarian food Punjabi food, so when they turn to vegetarian food it turns to the focus of south Indian vegetarian

Recently I would say, yes, it has gained popularity, in many places because when you go to learn yoga from a yoga teacher they generally ask you to eat vegetarian food and not have any other habits. So a lot of people I know of, have started vegetarian in a big way. And I have been promoting Tamil Brahmin cuisine for over 22 years now. I’ve written books, and taken it abroad – its won awards – and I’ve tried to carry Thayir Sadam to the world stage.

So to some extent yes, people have found the difference between north Indian and South Indian food. Of course it’s just a drop in the ocean, but still Indian cuisine is gaining a lot of popularity and I would say its increasing everyday.

Some of the dishes taught by Ms. Viji Varadarajan

You have spoken about the role that Vegetarianism has played in promoting Indian cuisine globally. Do you think that when our food is taken abroad that our ingredients are being used in the right way?

We have a lot of native vegetables in the south that you don’t find anywhere else. Like, the amount of spinach – you get all kinds of spinach in the south – each a different variety and with different flavours. And the spices are mild. So when you cook with these mild spices of the south the vegetable flavor stands out and the spice does not drown out the vegetable flavor. Unless you add a ginger or a garlic and you fry it in oil and then you add the vegetable, because then you only get the flavor of ginger and garlic.

Whereas generally in South Indian Cuisine using the same spices for a different vegetable you get the flavor of that vegetable. So its really unique that way, our vegetables. Our vegetables are unique and our spices are unique because they’re based on the ayurvedic principle of being healthy for the system. For example, we use all the ayurvedic ingredients in our Sambar powder – like fenugreek, mustard, a particular kind of turmeric. We don’t use cinnamon, clove or cardamom, which is supposed to give heat to the body, which they use for garam masala in the north. So there is a marked difference between the spices used in the north and the south.

Of the innumerable students you have trained, how many would you say are foreign students?

All of them. I don’t generally train Indian people because Indians have seen a mustard, they have seen a fenugreek, they don’t need to learn from me. I do specialized training for foreigners because they are passionate about knowing our spices. I’m looking for that passion. My students immerse themselves totally in the cuisine, they share their progress with me and they even start restaurants sometimes. Maybe they do other cuisines as well, but they give as much importance to the cuisine I’ve taught them. So that is what I concentrate on. Their passion for the food and my passion for teaching them.

Would you say that there is a region or a country that seems to have a greater affinity towards Indian cuisine? Where do most of your students come from?

Most of my students are Japanese or French. I have a French cookbook which was translated and co-authored by a French expat.

Ms. Eri

How did you become interested in Indian cuisine?

I first came to India over 20 years ago. When I first came I stayed only in large hotels and so I wasn’t able to truly experience real Indian food. But one time on this trip I ventured out and tried the food from a small restaurant, and immediately fell in love with it.

After going back to Japan, people began to ask me how to cook Indian food – and I began to notice the differences between Indian curry and Japanese curry.

Ms. Eri at her restaurant Ammikaal

What are some of the similarities between Indian cuisine and Japanese cuisine that you have found?

One of the similarities I found was that the type of food served at home is similar between the two countries, because they both are not heavily spiced, and are not incredibly intricate dishes which require much time. And so in both forms of home food, we can taste the ingredients itself. But the food served at restaurants is totally different from anything in Japanese cuisine.

What inspired you to start your own Indian restaurant in Japan?

I’ve been interested in Indian cuisine for twenty years now. In India there are so many different forms of foods and cuisines, and I wanted Japanese people to become aware of the diversity of Indian food. That’s why I started my restaurant.

In your restaurant, what are some of the dishes that the local people seem to like the most?

Japanese people generally prefer something non vegetarian, like a chicken or fish curry. I combine such a curry with a dal, and a vegetable dish and make it like a combo meal. This is usually very popular in my restaurant.

Have you had to change some of the Indian recepies to adapt to the tastes of the people in Japan?

I’ve had to add less pepper, and make it less spicy.

” I’ve been interested in Indian cuisine for twenty years now. In India there are so many different forms of foods and cuisines, and I wanted Japanese people to become aware of the diversity of Indian food.”

What made you name your restaurant Ammikaal?

The name was actually given to me by a few Tamil students that lived in my city. The reason I chose it was because the Ammikaal is essential to South Indian cooking. That was the first reason. The second is that I wanted my restaurant to be place where many different cultures could mix and get along. There are around 400 foreign students studying at the university in my city but not many of the local people know about this, and so I wanted my restaurant to act as a point of contact between all these different people.

Is the clientele in your restaurant old or young?

The main customers are between the ages of 20 to 60, with the oldest customers being around 80 and the youngest being around 4.

Ms. Akemi

What were your first impressions of India when you came here and how have they changed over time?

My first visit to India was Pune in 2006, and my first impression was that there were so many people.

And since then actually my main perception of India has not changed. Because India has been my dream country since before I even came here. So while I experienced new things, it’s not that my perception changed but rather that my understanding of India became deeper day by day.

You said that India was your dream country, why was that?

I had been doing research into ancient Indian food in Australia before I had even come to India for the first time. So I really wanted to come and see the real India.

What about food, clothes and other things like the climate? How have you adapted?

I’m not sure whether or not you know my background. I did my Masters in Gastronomy (Food anthropology) at the University of Adelaide and my thesis was related to ancient Indian food. Now I write about Indian cuisine and culture for Japanese magazines regularly. Food is the main reason why I came here so of course, I love all kind of Indian food and it’s my life work. But I can say that I prefer South Indian cuisine because rice is the staple. I’m Japanese so I can’t live without rice. I love wearing Sarees but the climate is too hot for me.

How did you get interested in Kolam design. Do you put it everyday in front of your house. Do you use traditional rice flour powder or do you like using colours too? What kind of patterns do you like making?

The street where I stayed after marriage was full of kolam designs every day, and I was simply attracted by its beauty.  I started taking pictures of kolams especially during Margazhi but never tried to make a kolam by myself because I thought it is very difficult for me. In 2018, I coordinated an article about Kolam for a Japanese magazine. We visited Dr. Gayathri Shankarnarayan who is a Kolam expert & scholar and learned the basic and history of Kolam from her. We also went to Auroville and met Grace Gitadelilaa who has been doing Kolam workshops called Kolangal DD in D. After that I started putting Kolam every morning at front of my house entrance. I mix rice flour and stone flour as just using rice flour is quite difficult to make smooth lines. I think now most people use the mix or just stone flour. I love Chikku kolam most for putting but I’m interested in community-based kolams, such as Nadu Veetu kolam of  Nagarather, Iyengar Padi kolam etc.
I use colors sometimes as one of my kolam teachers, Hema Kannan, asked us to use colors for special kolams. At the time, I made a Japanese traditional pattern called “Asanoha”.

What about the Indian deities? Who are your favourites and what attracts you to them?

My favorite deities are Andal, Murugan and Ammam.

Andal: I’m not sure whether or not we can consider Andal as a deity because she was born as a human. I love Margazhi and Kolam for which Andal has significant roles. I love her works, Thiruppavai and Nachiar Tirumozhi as these also have many gastronomical references. Nachiar Tirumozhi is one of the oldest existing references for Kolam.

Ammam: I don’t know why but I love Ammam temples where I feel very close to my heart. I think I love feeling the strong and passionate energy from lady devotees.

Murugan: Tamil Kadavul Murugan was my favorite serial and he is the most beloved deity by Nagarathers. I’m doing some research on the community.

Discussion on “India and France – A connect through Art Diplomacy”

India Foundation’s Center for Soft Power hosted a discussion on the topic of “India and France – A connect through art diplomacy” in collaboration with Alliance Française of Madras. The event looked at the connection that India and France have through their rich artistic traditions, and how the confluence of these traditions can further strengthen the bonds between the two countries.

The discussion featured a number of speakers covering numerous fields including:

  1. H.E. Ms. Catherine Surad, Consul General of France in Pondicherry and Chennai
  2. Mr. Jonathan McClory, General Manager, Asia, Portland Communications and Author, Soft Power 30 Report
  3. Padma Shri. Smt. Chitra Viswesaran, World renowned Bharatanatyam artiste and Padma Shri awardee, who has received honorary citizenship to the city of Bourges in France, for her performances
  4. Mr. Bruno Plasse, Director of Alliance Française of Madras
  5. Mr. Romain Timmers, Founder of Compagnie Distil, a modern circus and vertical dance company.
The Panel constituted speakers from numerous fields of Art and Diplomacy

The Discussion began with a video address from Jonathan McClory, wherein he spoke about the status of Indian and French Soft Power globally today. He noted France’s position as being 2nd in the latest Soft Power 30 report, and pointed to its engagement with the rest of the International community as one of the reasons for ranking so highly. When speaking on Indian Soft Power, he noted that while India didn’t make it into the top 30 countries, it still excelled in specific fields such as Digital and Cuisine.

“France and India are not the most obvious of partners, and that makes any collaboration between the two countries hugely powerful” – Mr. Jonathan McClory

H.E. Ms. Catherine Surad, spoke to the audience about cultural diplomacy from the French perspective. She spoke about the various elements of France’s cultural diplomacy strategy, and broke down how and why they undertook such a strategy. She also noted that this strategy is not one that is superficial but that has had a deep and natural impact in numerous countries across the world.

“The question of Soft Power is, in our view, the question of the cultural diplomacy that we have been practicing since very long ago.” – H.E. Ms. Catherine Surad

Padma Shri Awardee, Chitra Visweswaran spoke about her experience travelling across France and bringing her performances to some of the lesser known cities and venues in the country. She spoke about the deep affinity she has for France and how she was able to experience the French way of life, while also imparting some elements of Indian art and the Indian way of life to the people of France.

“It would not be wrong to say that Bharath is my favourite country. But of the remaining, my favourite is France” – Padma Shri. Smt. Chitra Visweswaran

Mr. Bruno Plasse, spoke about the role that Alliance Française plays in ensuring that Indian and French cultural exchanges take place, not just on paper, but at the ground level. He spoke about the efforts to bring authentic French artists to India and of the deep interest that Indian people have shown to France and French culture.

“Though English is widely spread in India.. The love for the French language is still there in India and in Chennai” – Mr. Bruno Plasse

Mr. Romain Timmers, spoke about his journey to India. He noticed that the sound made by the balls in his circus perfectly mirrored the sounds made by the Tabala and Ghatam, and this is what attracted him to India. He started coming to India frequently and now even resides here. He spoke about the differences between his modern circus and traditional circus.

“The sound coming from a left tabla and a Ghatam is similar to that coming from a bouncing ball, which brought me to India” – Mr. Romain Timmers

Soft Power: Indic Knowledge Systems, Technology and Management

The Center for Soft Power hosted a discussion on the topic of “Soft Power: Indic Knowledge Systems, Technology and Management.” The discussion was led by Dr. Korada Subrahmanyam, Chairman-Intermediate Board Sanskrit Textbook committee and Professor of Sanskrit, Centre for Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies, University of Hyderabad and Mr. Megh Kalyanasundaram, alumni of Indian School of Business with diverse professional experience spanning management, technology, research, learning platform development and music.

The Center for Soft Power hosted a discussion on the topic of “Soft Power: Indic Knowledge Systems, Technology and Management.”

Dr. Korada began the discussion by explaining in great detail, the various elements of the Ashtaadashavidyaa, which are the 18 forms of Knowledge that was consolidated from the totality of the Vedas. He explained the intricacies of each element, and how it represented a specific form of knowledge that is uniquely Indian, and which can be of great importance to the world going forward.

“What is a Veda? A Veda is a mass of knowledge” – Dr. Korada Subrahmanyam

Mr. Megh Kalyanasundaram, spoke about the need to bring much of this knowledge to the modern world through the use of technology. He spoke of the need to digitise this knowledge and create avenues through which this knowledge can be accessed online. He described his efforts in doing this through two of his projects: श्रीमद्भगवद्गीता | #gita and Srutismriti | Vidyasthanani Caturdasa Astadasa.

“India at one point was leading soft power in the field of education” – Mr. Megh Kalyanasundaram

Discussion on “Expanse of Kalaripayattu in the Globe Today”

The Center for Soft Power hosted a discussion on the topic of ‘Expanse of Kalaripayattu in the globe today”, in association with Kalarigram – a traditional Kalaripayattu school established during the year of 1950, under the patronage of Guru Veerasree Sami Gurukkal.

The discussion featured students of Kalarigram from Finland, Croatia and France

The Discussion was led by Lakshman Gurukkal, the lead teacher at Kalarigram and an Ayurveda pracritioner. He is a a Guru of the Sri Vidya tradition. Lakshman Gurukkal has been awarded by the Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India, with the title of Senior Fellowship in Kalaripayattu and Natyashastra. He spoke about the origins of Kalari, saying that “you cannot see this kind of a martial arts anywhere else in the world.” He described how Kalaripayattu was refined in Kerala but has roots all over India. He also described the difference between Kalaripayattu and other forms of combat and marital arts, saying that the aim of it is not just to kill an opponent but also to ensure that no harm is done to one’s own body by ensuring that the movements are not interrupted.

Shri. Lakshman Gurukkal on the importance of Kalaripayattu

Steina Ohman, a student of Kalarigram from Finland, described how she first came to India as part of an exchange program to study physical theatre in India. She kept coming back to India following this program, so much so that she began to spend more time in India than in Finland. She even had a brief stint bringing other Finnish students to India. She now lives in Pondicherry with Kalarigram.

Steina Ohman explains how she was exposed to Kalaripayattu through an exchange program

Daniela Boban, a student of Kalarigram from Croatia, spoke of how she first came to India as part of a three week holiday and has ended up staying for the last 4 years. She was introduced to Kalaripayattu as Kalarigram was next to where she was staying on her visit to India, and upon starting the art form she began to notice the profound effects it had on her, both physically and mentally, and so she decided to stay. “Kalari helped me break the my preconceptions of myself” she says.

Daniela Boban speaks on the impact the art form has had on her physically and mentally

Laurence Morlon, a student of Kalarigram from France, first came to Auroville 7 years ago in order to study dance. During her dance classes she was introduced to Kalaripayattu. While initially she found it difficult to balance both dance and Kalari, she began to fall more and more in love with the art form and soon became a devout student of Kalarigram. “In Kalarigram I found a home, and a refuge for my soul” she notes.

Laurence Morlon on finding a sense of belonging through Kalaripayattu

The discussion ended with a brief demonstration by the students.

Roundtable on “Education and Soft Power”

India Foundation’s Center for Soft Power, in collaboration with DAV group of schools, hosted a roundtable discussion on the topic of “Education and Soft Power.” The discussion featured two esteemed scholars – Prof. Gulab Mir Rahmany, Associate Professor of Political Sociology from Afghanistan and Prof. Dilafruz Nasirkhodjaeva, Senior Researcher of Economics and Market Economics from Uzbekistan. The roundtable was attended by a number of respected academicians and researchers.

Prof. Rahmany spoke of the historical relationship between Afghanistan an India, which extended beyond a millennium. He spoke of how India has played an integral role in promoting higher education in the country, so much so that there are now even ministers within the Afghan government who completed their PHDs in India. He even noted that India’s current Minister of Textile, Smriti Irani, was a household name in Afghanistan due to her role Tulsi, in the soap opera   

“In the period between 2014 to 2019, over 1400 Afghan students have graduated from Indian universities.” said Prof. Rahmany

Prof. Nasirkhodjaeva spoke on how India was the first country to establish an embassy in Uzbekistan, and how Bollywood played an integral part in making Indian culture something that is known in every household in Uzbekistan. She described how there even existed a channel dedicated to showing nothing other than episodes of the Mahbharata on a loop. She spoke of the impact that the Sikh population in Uzbekistan has had, noting that they have been as essential element in bringing Indian culture, and also trade, to Uzbekistan.

“There are even children today who are being named Shah Rukh and Salman because of Bollywood.” noted Prof. Nasirkhodjaeva

India-Czech Republic Cultural Relations : Past, Present and Future

The Center for Soft Power hosted H.E Milan Hovorka, Ambassador of Czech Republic to India, for a Round-table discussion on 13th March, 2019 on the topic of “India-Czech Republic Cultural Relations : Past, Present and Future”

The roundtable was attended by eminent guests representing various aspects of the political, commercial and cultural sectors

The ambassador spoke about the historic relationship that both India and the Czech Republic has had, and how this relationship extends into numerous fields, culturally, politically and economically. The ambassador also took a number of questions from the other participants on various subjects including on immigration and cultural preservation.

“I believe deeply in the power of culture to promote bilateral relations” said H.E. Milan Hovorka, as he spoke about the current status and future potential for cultural collaboration between India and the Czech Republic.

Interaction with International Students of KYM

CSP, in association with Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram hosted an interaction with the students of KYM’s international teacher training course on 28th March, 2019.

CSP hosted the International teacher training class of KYM at its headquarters in Chennai

The interaction featured chanting from senior KYM teachers as well as the students shedding light on what brought them to India, and their experiences in immersing themselves into Indian Culture.

The students, who came from a multitude of countries, spoke about their experiences in visiting and learning about India, as well as chanting some of the mantras that they have learnt.

The course consists of students from numerous countries including, USA, Nigeria, France, Poland, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Ireland, UK, Netherlands and Belgium.

Roundtable on “India-Russia Soft Power Relations”

India Foundation’s Center for Soft Power hosted a round table on the theme “India – Russia Soft Power Relations” in collaboration with the Russian Center of Science & Culture. The round table was attended by numerous esteemed guests including H. E. Oleg N. Avdeev, the Consul General of the Russian Federation in Chennai.

CSP hosted its first “India-Russia Soft Power Realtions” Roundtable in collaboration with the Russian Center of Science and Culture

Speaking on the topic of “India through the eyes of a diplomat” he described his journey from being a budding Indophile visiting India for the first time, to now being the Consul General and having travelled extensively across the country. He said “The first time I came to India in 1984, I learnt many things that I have never learned while studying India before. Speaking on his experiences in rural India, he said “I was greatly impressed by the simplicity and devotion with which people live their lives.”

H.E. Oleg N. Avdeev, Consul General of Russia in Chennai , enlightened the roundtable on his journey of coming to India and experiencing the country through the perspective of a diplomat

Other speakers included Mr. Gennedii A. Rogalev, the Director of Russian Center of Science and Culture, Mr. Venkatesh Kumar, Director and Screenwriter, Mr. R. Muthukumar, Founder– President, BRICS generation and Mr. & Mrs. D. K. Hari, authors. They spoke on “India – Russia Soft Power Relations”, “Role of Cinema in Russia”, “Russian relations in South India” and “India – Russia relations – A connect over a millennia” respectively. The speakers covered a gamut of topics like Language, Cinema, Painting, Poetry, Games like chess, Defence Equipments, Diamonds, Circus, Science & Technology and map the connect between India and Russia on these themes. The discussion also featured a presentation on the influence of Indian culture in Russia and a performance inspired by the Panchatantra tales by CSP Research Fellow Pavithra Srinivasan, as well as a presentation of Yoga’s growing popularity in Russia by CSP Junior Research Fellow, Aman Nair.

Mr. Gennadii A. Rogalev, Director, Russian Center of Science and Culture spoke on the topic of India-Russia Soft Power relations, exploring the history and the different facets of the cultural relationship between the two countries
Mr. Venkatesh Kumar, Director & Screenwriter, spoke about the role of Cinema in India and Russia’s cultural relations as well as the work he has done to promote close relations between the two countries in the field of Cinema
Mr. R. Muthukumar, Founder – President, BRICS generation spoke on the need to create more direct links between India and Russia at the state level, and the need to ensure that these cultural interactions are not solely limited to cities like Delhi.
Mr & Mrs D. K. Hari, Authors, delivered a presentation on the topic of India–Russia relations: A connect over a Millennia. They delved into the civilisational links between India and Russia and how the two societies have had large scale exchanges in many fields throughout history
Pavithra Srinivasan, Research Fellow at CSP & accomplished Bharatanatyam artiste, gave a brief outline of the influence of Indian culture on Russia, followed by a performance on the value of true friendship derived from India’s ancient fables – The Panchatantra tales.
Aman Nair, Junior Research Fellow at CSP, made a presentation on the research conducted by CSP which looked into the growth in popularity of Yoga in Russia

Discussion on Convergence of Soft Power and Value Based Democracy

The discussion on the convergence of Value based Democracy and Soft power was held at the Center for Soft Power on the 5th of March 2019. The discussants were Dr. Johannes Heinrich, Philosopher and Author from Germany and Mrs. Shobana Sharma, Research Scholar, University of Madras.

Dr. Johannes Heinrich?s speech was thought provoking and espoused an idea which had its genesis in the ancient texts of India. He gave a simple and lucid explanation from his point of argument. He described why democracy is in dire need of structural reform, and outlined a system that could help achieve this. When speaking of this system with regards to the Indian context, he said the following:

?Because of the great variety of religions and strong religious life, in India it is more easily understood, at least theoretically(!), that state-law and religions must be separated, and that secularization means not at all vanishing of religion, as secularization often is often misinterpreted in the West, by confusing these two totally different meanings of the word. This misinterpretation is nearly impossible in India because of the vitality of religious thinking, even among intellectuals? he said.

During the discussion, the research scholar from Madras University Ms Shobana Sharma clarified the source of all profound Knowledge in the Indian context can be taken from the ancient texts. As it has the ability and tenacity to be amended and postulated to suit and adapt to the cultural environment prevailing at anytime.

This interaction was one of the many that the center will be holding in the coming months.