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Festival of India begins in Brussels

October 08, 2006 16:42 IST

Scintillating dance performances by renowned Indian artistes marked the inauguration of the nearly four-month long Festival of India at the Palais de Beaux Arts in the presence of Queen Fabiola.

In a rare gesture, the Queen attended the launch Saturday night despite a personal bereavement. After opening the Nala
and Damayanti exhibition, a collection by president of Indian Council for Cultural Relations Karan Singh, she
attended the inaugural function, before leaving for the funeral of her brother.

Karan Singh and Viscount Etienne D'Avignon, president of Bozar, inaugurated the Festival in the presence of the Queen.

The highlight of the grand opening was Bharat Natyam and Odissi samanvaya dances by Indian exponents Alarmel Valli and Madhavi Mudgal, who received a standing ovation from the packed audience of about two thousand.

This was preceded by enchanting performances by drummers of West Bengal, the chhau dance group and Sheikh Mehboob Subhani's deft palying of nadaswaram, at various venues in Brussels and the premises of Bozar throughout the day.

The opening concert was a sell-out, Karan Singh told PTI, overwhelmed by the public response to the festival.

It was a 'very good beginning' for the festival, which would go on till January 28 next year, Singh said.

In all there would be 109 events, encompassing different cultural activities. The next Festival of India would be held in Japan in 2007, he said.

"The focus of the festival is to raise the cultural profile of India in Europe in general and Brussels and Belgium in particular, as for all practical purposes the city has become the capital of Europe, with all the European institutions based here," Singh said.

Brussels is also host to a large, youthful, dynamic and eclectic expatriate community, said Singh.

"Enhancing India's cultural profile in Europe and vice versa is also an important element of the India-EU strategic partnership. The festival will be an instrument not only in demonstrating India's cultural diversity and civilisation but also furthering the objectives of this strategic partnership," he said.

The decor for the premises of Bozar were Indian, in all its colours, splendour and glory.

The Festival of India will comprise of exhibitions, performing arts, seminars, fashion show, film festival and a food festival. Feature films as well as documentaries will be screened during the event.

Besides, there will be workshops on yoga, dance, art, cuisine, traditional medicine like Ayurveda.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, along with the King, Queen and prime minister of Belgium will inaugurate an exhibition entitled 'Tejas' on November 11.

It will be an art and sculpture exhibition spanning a period of 1500 years from 3rd century BC to 12th century AD. Alongside the 'Tejas', exhibitions such as photographs of Lifetime Achievement Oscar Award winner Satyajit Ray and
others focusing on India will be held.

Parallel to events at Bozar, three exhibitions are being organised in the European Parliament - 'Colours of India', a photo-exhibit, the tourism ministry's 'Incredible India' and India Business Equity Foundation's 'India: The Fastest Growing Free Market Democracy'.

The Handicrafts and Handlooms Exports Corporation of India is setting up a souvenir shop opposite the premises of
Bozar for over a month. The collection of items would offer a window to the exquisite richness of Indian art and
handicrafts.

The Festival comes at a time when there is tremendous interest in Europe regarding India. Several important events
have been held or are in the pipeline with India as the focus. They include the Hannover Trade Fair (April 2006), Bonn Biennale (May 2006) and Frankfurt Book Fair (October 2006).

The Festival has been inaugurated just before the India-EU Summit, which will begin in Helsinki next Friday.

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