Vol 24 No.


ISSN 0970 5074

VOL 24 NO. 4/2010


Sun setting over a cluster of Chattris


Navdeep Suri
Assistant Editor

Neelu Rohra
India Perspectives is published in Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Bengali, English, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Pashto, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Sinhala, Spanish, Tamil, Turkish and Urdu. Views expressed in the articles are those of the contributors and not necessarily of India Perspectives. All original articles, other than reprints published in India Perspectives, may be freely reproduced with acknowledgement. Editorial contributions and letters should be addressed to the Editor, India Perspectives, 140 ‘A’ Wing, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi-110001. Telephones: +91-11-23389471, 23388873, Fax: +91-11-23385549 E-mail: jspd@mea.gov.in, Website: http://indiandiplomacy.in/indiaperspectives.aspx For obtaining a copy of India Perspectives, please contact the Indian Diplomatic Mission in your country. This edition is published for the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi by Navdeep Suri, Joint Secretary, Public Diplomacy Division. Designed and printed by Ajanta Offset & Packagings Ltd., Delhi.

Delhi Technological University

Anokhi Museum of hand printing

We are happy to bring our readers an issue that captures the vibrant colours of India in all their marvellous diversity. Snowclad mountains in Lahaul are juxtaposed against the idiosyncratic palaces and havelis of Rajasthan. The resplendent costumes and make up of Indian classical dance forms lead to the mesmerizing imagery of Sufi Kathak. An article on the Art Fest that accompanied the Commonwealth Games, and another that looks at the growing global footprint of India’s fashion industry add to the visual delights offered by this magazine. On the more serious side, we look at the return of India to the United Nations Security Council and at the potential that can be unlocked by the Pan African e-Network project by linking some of the finest Indian hospitals and educational institutions with their African counterparts. Our series on institutions of academic excellence continues with a profile of Delhi Technological University and we have a special feature on the importance of the Unique Identity Card ‘Aadhaar’ in India’s quest for inclusive growth. We also look at the World Mathematics Conference coming to the birthplace of the ‘zero’ and at the dedicated efforts in Lucknow to preserve ancient manuscripts and artifacts. Governor BP Singh presents a remarkable perspective on India, followed by an article that seamlessly takes the reader into the rich oral tradition of transmitting knowledge. Transmitting knowledge and information is also a key area of focus for our Public Diplomacy division and we encourage our readers to follow us through our website at www.indiandiplomacy.in. The website uses Google translator to make it accessible to readers in different languages. We have, in fact, recently won a prestigious award for the most innovative use of social media in the Indian government. Those with a special interest in Indian foreign policy can follow the ‘Indiandiplomacy’ tag on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Blogspot. Readers can access India Perspectives online through our website and also through the Scribd and Issuu sites so that they can share its contents with their friends. Best wishes for the forthcoming holiday season.
A driving holiday through Lahaul
Aparna Srivastava Reddy

Rashmi Sablania


Pramod K.G


World mathematicians at ground zero
Mohammed Shafeeq


Conserving history
Shudip Talukdar



Sufi Kathak: Dance of the soul!
Suparna Rajguru

Treasure trail in Shekhawati
Reem Khokhar



Art fest at the Commonwealth Games 2010
Shubhra Mazumdar

Back in the United Nations Security Council
Anirudh Bhattacharyya



Aadhaar A platform for inclusive growth
Vishnu Makhijani


Development partnerships: Connecting India and Africa
Manish Chand


Aharya in classical dances
Leela Venkataraman


Our India
Balmiki Prasad Singh


Transmitting knowledge
Sudha Gopalakrishnan

Fashion industry goes from niche to global
Shilpa Raina


Navdeep Suri

Cover: A captivating moment in Sufi Kathak – Manjari Chaturvedi. Photograph: Amit Mehra.

A driving holiday through



n the upper reaches of Himachal Pradesh, beyond Kiber (the highest motorable village) and the barren splendour of Spiti and its majestic monasteries, lies the rugged and pristine Lahaul valley, where the landscape itself is celestial.

Lahaul Spiti glacier on way to Kunzum La





It’s a magical journey through two high Himalayan passes and the verdant Lahaul valley. Starting from Kaza, the district town of Spiti and the tourist town of Manali in Kullu valley, the journey comprises 185 km of almost uninhabited yet mesmerising Himalayan terrain. But then, if you are fond of driving, have your own wheels, two, four or even hired ones, and love the mountains, then this high altitude terrain is a gift for the senses and the spirit. We reach Kaza, the district headquarters of Spiti, from New Delhi after a gratifying four day journey. The mountains have already cast their spell but the best is yet to come. Kunzum La (4590 m) to the east and Rohtang (3978m) to the west, these passes control the access to Lahaul valley and remain closed for around six months of the year in the winter due to snow. We have one day to traverse through two high altitude passes and the forbidding terrain of Lahaul valley. As while walking, so while driving, the journey is best enjoyed at your own pace. Yet the daunting 185 km ahead pushes us for an early start. We leave behind the Ki Gompa, the jewel of the Spiti valley. Bathed in the morning light, it looks majestic, almost as a preamble of what waits to unfold. Even as the first morning rays kiss the roads, tiny rivulets of the morning melt make the drive treacherous as they fill little pools in the potholes and make the almost frozen roads slippery. As we head for the
The first glimpse of snow on way to Kunzum La from Spiti (facing page) and the mountain road tests your driving skills (below).





Kunzum La pass we leave behind the river Spiti that originates near the pass. Crossing over the Spiti River, we begin the first leg of our day’s journey, the 76 km climb to Kunzum La, Tibetan for ‘Meeting Point of the Ibex, the mountain goat’ and the eastern entry point into the picturesque Lahaul valley. The magic begins even before you reach the mountain pass. Having just left behind alpine meadows, flat green table lands and barren brown peaks, we take that treacherous turn on the road and chance on snow in the crevices. The excitement for a person used to the plains and escaping the 45oC dusty Delhi summer is tangible. A couple of hours go by driving through wide valleys dotted with grazing yaks and small villages. Several villages have small boards mentioning the population of the village in simple hundreds and sometimes with even less than a hundred. The average population density of Lahaul and Spiti district is 2 persons per km. We touch Losar, a small township, the last in Spiti. It’s ten in the
Lahaul – a summer view

morning. The glassful of coffee and aloo paranthas, hot, served in the only shack by the roadside are immensely satisfying. The village is small and we are in the middle of a small traffic jam at a rather imposing police check point. Some men lounge on a porch in the morning sun. The women are busy with household work. Hardly anyone wears the customary Tibetan skirt and apron. The ubiquitous salwar kameez has made deep inroads. The town, perhaps an ancient crossroad on the silk route, has cheap products of the modern plastic culture in shop fronts. Yet, the serenity of the mountains overshadows it all. We drive on. The serpentine, now climbing, now dipping road is flush with the morning melt and perilous. At this point we did not know that we would soon be driving through gushing streams of glacial melt. Soon the landscape is turning more white than brown. We experience intermittent breathlessness. Is it the altitude or the breathtaking view? The white is pristine. Pure. All around us. The climb to Kunzum La is nearly 11 kms. A milestone shows up alongside a chorten (a monument to a distinguished Buddhist, esp. a lama) of stones. ‘Kunzum La 2 km’!





We slow down to absorb the grandeur. The sun is bright. The sky as blue as can be, we touch Kunzum La. They say the pass is best crossed in the forenoon. We reach there a little after noon. At this Himalayan pass both ascent and descent are fairly gentle and the panoramic views from the crest – phenomenal! The crest of the pass is marked by a mani wall, made of rounded flat stones on which the Tibetan Buddhist mantra ‘Om mani padme hum’ is engraved. The wall surrounds the shrine and is covered in snow. The colourful Buddhist flags at the shrine dedicated to Geypan, the presiding deity, are the only things that break the white snowy expanse. According to legend, cash offerings made by true believers stick to the stone image of the deity signifying the acceptance of the offering. It is considered auspicious to circumambulate the shrine before proceeding. We take a round of the shrine and pause for a few moments at this roof of the world. The high altitude road makes a slow descent towards Lahaul valley. A subdivision of the transHimalayan Lahaul-Spiti district, the valley unfolds amid a row of high mountains in resplendent colours of purple and green. The melting glaciers leaving a debris of crushed rock with the white of the glaciers playing with shiny mountain slopes and turning the river in the deep gorge emerald green.
Ki Gompa – the jewel of Spiti




It’s a 60 km drive through Lahaul to the Rohtang pass. The name of the valley, they say, derives from Tibetan ‘Loh Yul’ (southern country of Ladakh) or ‘Lhahi Yul’ (Country of the gods). Bound on the North-South axis to Ladakh to the north and the Pir Panjal range to the South on the Indo-Tibet border, Lahaul is one subdivision of the trans Himalayan Lahaul-Spiti district, the other being Spiti. The Chandra river flows from the west of the Kunzum La pass. A 6 km trek from the roadhead connects you to Chandratal, the lake of the Moon, the source of the Chandra River that cuts through the Lahaul valley. Strange, exciting, primitive, the mountainscape of this valley on the Indo-Tibetan border is unsurpassed in the rugged beauty of its rocky

escapements and the splendor of its snow covered peaks that form the theatre for the graceful dance of the Chandra. The perennial snow peaks of the Great Himalayas, the highest of the three Himalyan ranges cradle this mesmerizing valley formed by the Chandra and Bhaga rivers. The sheer scale of the nature’s artful landscape, bathed in and enhanced by the distilled light makes one realize how miniscule one is in the larger scheme. Its raw beauty, on the other hand, makes you feel a part of a grand, larger design. Lahaul is marked by a central mass of uniformly high mountains and massive glaciers that were in a fierce melt in the summer. We drive

The Gaddi’s (shepherds) with their herds of mountain sheep (below) and roof of the world (right)





through several of these glaciers where the Border Roads Organisations maintains a constant vigil and carries out maintenance work. Car tracks through the stony bed of the valley, through the shallows of the rivers and through glaciers that are turning into ebullient mountain streams and waterfalls, makes the journey exhilarating and tantalizing at the same time. The tracks in snow and through river beds, the only road, with sheep herds as the only traffic. The Gaddi shepherds herding their herds of mountain sheep and carrying their homes on their backs are masters of survival in this harsh though magnificent terrain. Batal, almost midway between Kunzum La and Rohtang, is the only pit stop. Its pristine beauty is rather deceptive. Extreme chill winds sweep this place, which is also the base point for short treks in the valley. Batal offers inspiring views of a slender triangular peak to the south and the Bara Shigri Glacier. Chhota Shigri Glacier and Gramphu are next as one proceeds towards Rohtang La. The road climbs up again gradually. Waterfalls dot the crevices in the mountainous walls of the valley as we leave the Chandra below and head for Gramphu where the road bifurcates for Ladakh via Keylong, the

Ever changing weather and towards Rohtang La (facing page) and the Chandra River near Batal, in the middle of breathtaking Lahaul (below)





district headquarters of Lahaul and towards Manali through Rohtang. It’s the latter that we take. Rohtang pass, though lower than Kunzum La is more rugged for its steep rise, hairpin bends and bad weather. In Tibetan Rohtang literally translates as ‘pile of corpses’. As we head towards peaks piercing through the cloudline, a thick fog envelops the top of the pass. It allows us only glimpses of the majesty of the Pir Panjal mountains. On the other side of Rohtang, a 51 km drive down the verdant hills of Manali, with its pine forests and numerous waterfalls, we head for the humid, green and congested town, our last stop on the way home. Yet the grandeur of Lahaul sustains. Driving through the mountainous ramparts with an ebullient river by your side, the isolated beauty and tranquil silence of this valley, remains an elemental experience. Being face to face with all that is pure, pristine, raw and rarefied as reflected in those white mountains I felt so one with myself.
◆ The author is a noted documentary film maker, media consultant and journalist.

Facing page: The glorious Himalayas. Left top to bottom: The shrine at the crest of Kunzum La; leaving Kaza behind the mountain road to Lahaul and Kinner Kailash mountains on way to Spiti.




Treasure trail in



olling sand dunes. Ornate palaces shimmering in the desert haze. Brightly coloured turbans and lehnga cholis (skirts and blouses). These iconic images from India’s north-western state of Rajasthan are well recognized across the world. The cities of Jaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer and Udaipur are regulars on the tourist trail and the allure of these cities will continue to fascinate and draw visitors. However, just north of Jaipur, is one of the state’s relatively undiscovered treasures – Shekhawati. The small sleepy towns of this region speak volumes about this area’s rich and vibrant past. Like much of Rajasthan, forts, temples and chattris (a cluster of pavilions built to commemorate a dead hero) dot the landscape. However the distinct treasures of this region are those that flank the winding town lanes – thousands of frescoed havelis. Packed from top to bottom in imagery – swirling floral designs, royalty, gods and goddesses, animals and more – the effect is spectacular and unexpected. Havelis are found all over Rajasthan and several parts of India, but these painted havelis are characteristic of Shekhawati. The region is known as the open air art

Front garden and entrance of Hotel Ramgarh.




gallery of Rajasthan and reputedly has the largest concentration of frescoes in the world. To understand this region and this gorgeous decorative style, one needs to go back in time. The fifteenth century saw Rao Singh Shekhawat carving out this distinct area as its first independent

ruler. It derived its name from him as the “clan of Shekhawat” or Shekhawati. Chiefly inhabited by Rajputs, the proud warrior community, and the Marwaris, the merchant trading community, the region was in the spotlight as a key trading centre, teeming with the wealth of its Marwari inhabitants.

Shekhawati featured on the caravan routes to the western state of Gujarat and the Marwaris here prospered until the early 19th century. Trade centres were shifting to the cities of Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai and many Marwaris from Shekhawati chose to follow these opportunities,

leaving behind their families. It proved to be a wise financial move as they found great success, and their descendants continued to stay in the cities their ancestors immigrated to, maintaining their economic prosperity. Many of India’s most influential business families originate from

Shekhawati – the Birla’s, Ruia’s and Goenka’s to name a few, and also Lakshmi Mittal. After the original migrants left, they began to send some of their earnings to Shekhawati, which was used to build havelis to demonstrate their wealth and status. Most of these were built between 1830

and 1930. But simple construction didn’t suffice and painters were commissioned to decorate the havelis, an ultimate symbol of the families’ prosperity. Most of these paintings show popular historical and mythological themes – scenes from the Ramayan or the life

View of the Hotel Ramgarh Fresco from the central courtyard (left) and frescoed walls





of Lord Krishna. However, interspersed among these you will find Lord Krishna in an aircraft, or a steam engine running across the entire wall, or images of the British in military attire and women dressed in gowns. These hybrid themes came from both the painters, who adopted some of the European styles they saw, and also the haveli owners, who wanted to demonstrate their awareness of technology and foreign cultures. The area has several attractions. Mandawa, is arguably the most well known town here, with several havelis converted into hotels. The fort rises impressively on the skyline, housing a collection of antiques, paintings,

ceremonial costumes and arms belonging to the Mandawa royal family. There are several havelis here, but some highlights include the gold leaf painted room in the Jhunjunwala Haveli and the double gated Murmuria Haveli with pictures of a train at a crowded crossing and one of Jawaharlal Nehru holding up the Indian flag. Fatehpur, around 20 kilometres away, has several gems of its own, including the Geori Shankar Haveli with its mirrored ceiling and Haveli Nadine, which has been converted into a museum by its French artist owner – Nadine
Frescoed doorway of a haveli (left) and the mirror ceiling of Shani Temple at Ramgarh (below).

Visitors at the central dome of the Poddar Chattri, Ramgarh – Shekhawati.




Le Prince. In the town of Dundlod the impressive fort dates back to around 1750 and is a veritable treasure trove of portraits, period furniture and a library. Ramgarh reputedly has the largest number of frescoed havelis in the region and also the beautiful Ram Gopal Poddar Chattri. The murals, including those in the dome, are fascinating – depicting scenes from the Ramayana, the life of Krishna and ragamala paintings (musical notes). Unlike the general modest cluster of umbrella domes, these chattris actually resemble a small palace because of its ornate murals. Ramgarh’s colourful

bazaar is one of the best preserved in Shekhawati and a stroll through its tiny shops is enjoyable. Stores with colourful bangles; simmering hot woks of frying samosas (a savoury pyramid shaped snack stuffed with potatoes and peas) and stacks of traditional sweets – the rotund golden boondi laddoos (a ball shaped popular sweet) are a must; and handmade wooden furniture and handicrafts are some of the town’s well known wares. Today much of this splendor is neglected and peeling away,
A typical Shekhawati fresco (left) and dusk in Shekhawati (below).

but there are those who work to preserve it. Some of the old havelis and forts have been restored and converted into heritage hotels or museums, their owners either locals or outsiders. So you don’t just get to admire the heritage externally, but can actually stay in one of these converted properties, savouring the romance and charm of a bygone era. One such property is the Ramgarh Fresco in Ramgarh, restored after being uninhabited

Outside wall of Hotel Ramgarh Fresco with a painted elephant (right) and a peacock perched atop the roof of Ramgarh Fresco (below).





for half a century. A steam engine runs along the front wall of the property, while an elephant crowns the top of the entry stairs, its trunk extending all the way down the railing. While exploring the haveli with its fourteen rooms located around the lower courtyard and the upper storey balcony and terrace, one can’t help but run one’s hands along the smooth walls, always cool to the touch – a coating of soluble lime and finely crushed sea shells giving it a silky texture. No trip to Shekhawati would be complete without a taste of
Facing page: A suite at Hotel Ramgarh Fresco (top); visitors enjoying an evening at the hotel and the bopas or musicians performing in Shekhawati (below).

the local cuisine and a rooftop dinner which allows you to enjoy a traditional Rajasthani thali (a collection of vegetables, lentils and meat dishes served in small bowls on individual platters) while admiring the town by night. From the rich bodied laal maas

How to go: By road from Delhi – 300 kms (a 6-7 hour car/taxi ride). By road from Jaipur: 180 kms (a 3 hour car/taxi ride). Closest airport: Jaipur Places to visit: Ramgarh, Mandawa, Fatehpur, Churu, Dundlod, Nawalgarh, Mahensar. What to buy: Handmade furniture and local handicrafts.

◆ The author is a travel writer.

(a mutton curry characteristic of the region) to gatte ki sabzi (gram flour dumplings in a thick gravy), the cuisine is delectable and the charming ambience only adds to the flavor. From camel cart rides and horse safaris to walking trips and jeep rides, the attractions can be experienced in so many ways. With most of the towns within a short ride of each other, it’s easy to explore a few of them together on a single visit. Time flies fast when enjoying the timeless beauty of the treasure trove that is Shekhawati.





Back in the United Nations Security Council

“Our Organization, the United Nations, has no “ism” of its own; it embraces all “isms” and ideologies; it embraces all civilisations of the West and of the East; its principles cannot be said to derive exclusively from either or any of the contending doctrines.” If those words were delivered from the rostrum of the United Nations General Assembly or UNGA in New York this year, or even a decade later, they would continue to resonate. In fact, they were spoken 63 years ago by Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit who led the Indian delegation for the first session of the United Nations General Assembly after India attained Independence. Curiously enough, India’s association with the United Nations actually precedes August 15, 1947. The date of its accession to the United Nations was October 30, 1945, as it was one of the 46 nations to originally sign the
The United Nations building, New York (left)

UN Charter. But obviously, it was after India could craft its own foreign policy that the country was able to leave its imprint upon global diplomacy, certainly encompassing the United Nations. Now, more than six decades later, India will enter a new phase of influence within the halls and chambers of the United Nations. This October, India secured a plurality in the United Nations General Assembly and returned to the United Nations Security Council or UNSC as an elected non-permanent member from the Asian region after a gap of 19 years. It wasn’t just a matter of being elected to the elite decision-making body, but the manner in which the election was secured that underscored India’s growing stature. Of the 191 member-nations present, a phenomenal 187 voted for India, a record in recent years. Another country closely allied to India, South Africa chalked up 182 votes. But it also demonstrated a shift in international dynamics. Germany



managed to squeak through with one vote over the minimum required, while Canada was forced to withdraw in favour of Portugal, with which India appeared to have crafted a successful alliance. More importantly, once India takes its seat on the Council at the beginning of 2011, it will find itself in the company of several nations with which it forms formidable blocs. All three members of IBSA, India, Brazil and South Africa, will figure on the UNSC. Similarly, all four BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia, India and China, will be there simultaneously. And other than Brazil, another G-4 partner, Germany, has been elected. But this success will breed greater expectations. In an interview soon after the vote, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Hardeep Puri said, “Clearly this puts some pressure on us. We have to use our two-year tenure to get a more enduring, longer term permanent membership on the Security Council.” Indian diplomacy will also face a new era. Being on the UNSC means being on the clock 24x7 right as the New Year arrives. Of course, India’s presence at the UNSC is no unusual occurrence in itself. After all, it has figured there six times in the past. But there’s a difference this time. India has changed in recent years, it has become a major player in the global economy, bucking the trend of flattened growth by recording a nearly nine per cent growth that
UN Security Council




could well touch double digits in five years, if official projections hold. With economic strength, it has also managed to attain diplomatic maturity and has played a significant role in global matters, like dealing with climate change. It may be logical to presume that India’s larger global footprint will translate into a permanent seat in the UNSC, but given the tortuous process of negotiations towards creating a document for meaningful long-term reform of the Council, it may take months, if not years, before the direction of that change is outlined. Rationally, India well fulfils the prerequisites for assuming such a position. They include a growing financial, military and regional profile for potential permanent members. In addition, India has continued to play a prominent role in what can be considered one of the UN’s most effective areas of operation, peacekeeping. Over the years, India has contributed nearly 100,000 peacekeepers for over 40 missions. More than 8,500 of them are currently deployed, often in hostile, challenging territory. Before traveling to India last year, Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, underscored the importance the UN attaches to India’s role in this sector: “UN peacekeeping could not have advanced as far as it has without India, who has a long and outstanding tradition of supporting peace operations. In many ways, India has been a

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna addressing a Press Conference in New Delhi announcing India’s election to the UN Security Council.

The UN Security Council is at the centre of global politics. It is the principal organ of the United Nations entrusted with the maintenance of international peace and security. India’s traditional wisdom and desire to contribute to international peace and amity will result in our being the voice of moderation and constructive engagement in the decisions of the Security Council.

S.M. Krishna

model in peacekeeping, not only contributing a large number of troops but also addressing key issues such as the participation of women or the contribution of tactical aviation units. We are deeply thankful and look forward to our continued collaboration.” More than 120 Indian ‘blue helmets’ have sacrificed their lives for this larger cause, the latest instance being that of three peacekeepers who were killed in an ambush of a base in Kirumba, the troubled eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Interestingly, the first contingent of female UN peacekeepers was Indian; they were stationed in Liberia recently. But that should not be surprising, since India has often focused on the issue of gender justice. In fact, in 1954, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit became

not only the first Asian, but also the first woman to preside over the General Assembly. That has been part of the pattern of India’s role in areas pertaining to the social sector. It was logical for a country emerging from the shadows of colonialism, to support the process of decolonisation and to champion the end of the Apartheid regime in South Africa. While the more high-profile issues often dominate the conversation when it comes to India’s contribution to the United Nations, the less heralded, though important measures are often ignored. For instance, India was involved in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has consistently called for universal and nondiscriminatory nuclear disarmament. It has been a proponent of the UN playing a strong role in global economic governance and ensuring a just and equitable international economic order. Among those who have recognized the role played by India in the social sector is the current Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, who, on his first visit to India in 2008 after he assumed that office, said, “India is also an indispensable partner of the United Nations in our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and promote sustainable development. Many developing countries look to you for lessons and inspiration.” The next few years will see the UN system taxed. It has to deal with complex global issues

Hardeep Puri, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN.

Clearly this puts some pressure on us. We have to use our two-year tenure to get a more enduring, longer term permanent membership on the Security Council.
Hardeep Puri

that have increasingly dominated the world. Combating climate change has to be furthered even as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change undergoes reform. While terrorism remains a global menace, it is yet to be adequately addressed at the United Nations, with the body struggling to even define who a “terrorist” is. These are among the matters that will require attention during the second decade of the new millennium. And as at the Conference of Parties in Copenhagen, India’s engagement in these pursuits will be crucial. Even as the United Nations Headquarters, situated along the East River in Midtown Manhattan,

undergoes a major overhaul, a process of restructuring the UN’s principal deliberative bodies will continue almost simultaneously. There are issues that need to be addressed that go to the heart of how the UN functions, including representation within the UNSC to correctly reflect the realities of the 21st century rather than those of a world emerging from the trauma of a mid-20th century World War. The same holds true for a General Assembly that enjoys equal status, in real terms, to that of the Council rather than being a spectator as critical decisions relating to international security are dictated by a veto-wielding establishment. As with Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit’s speech in the waning years of the 1940s, the words expressed by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1948 before the General Assembly remain just as pertinent to the future of the United Nations now, as they were then: “ The objectives are clear; our aim is clear; and yet, in looking at that aim, we lose ourselves often, if I may venture to say so, in smaller matters and forget the main objective that we were looking at. Sometimes it seems that the objective itself gets a little clouded.”
◆ The author is a New York-based writer and television professional.



India’s External Affairs Minister, S.M. Krishna at the inauguration of the 2nd phase of the PAN-African e-Network

Development partnerships: Connecting India and Africa

hey were sitting thousands of kilometres across the Indian Ocean, but the sense of camaraderie and kinship was more than evident. From talking about Ugandan students in India, to thanking African nations for the hospitality extended to Indian ships, India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna sat in a studio in New Delhi surrounded by officials and African diplomats as he spoke to Ministers in 12 African countries, from Egypt in the north to Botswana in the south, through a video-conference. In those two hours on the afternoon of August 16, one could feel in that long-distance


crackle what brings India and Africa together in their quest for mutual resurgence and empowerment. Krishna spoke to each of the African Ministers separately, wishing them good health and promising to give more power to bilateral ties as he launched the second phase of the Pan-African e-Network, India’s showpiece project that seeks to bridge the digital divide across 53 countries of the African Union through tele-medicine and teleeducation. The second phase has brought 12 more African countries within the compass of this ambitious project that promises to provide

better healthcare and education to the African people. The first phase of the project, covering 11 countries, was inaugurated February 26, 2009. “The Pan-African e-Network project is one of the finest examples of the growing partnership between India and Africa,” Krishna said after the

launch. The enthusiasm was reciprocal. Sitting in Gaborone, Botswana’s Minister of Education and Skills Development Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi said that her country was looking towards more collaboration with India, describing it as a “centre of excellence”, especially in

information technology. Egyptian Minister for Communication and Information Technology Tarek Mohamed Kamel rejoiced that Alexandria University will be the hub for e-learning for the network in north Africa. The Indian External Affairs Minister Mr. S.M. Krishna made it a point to thank Djibouti for its facilities for Indian naval ships, who regularly visit the strategically placed port on the Horn of Africa. The interaction brought alive the multi-faceted India-Africa partnership revolving around the trinity of trade, training and technology. A brainchild of India’s former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the e-network connects India and 53 African countries with a satellite and fibre optic network and enables India to share its cutting-edge expertise in education and health care. India has signed agreements with 47 countries in Africa for the project and the infrastructure has already been completed in 34 of them. Funded by the Indian government through an initial grant of $125 million, it is the biggest project of distance education and tele-medicine ever undertaken through a development partnership. The project is being shepherded and implemented by the state-run Telecommunications of India Limited (TCIL) and also includes setting up a “VVIP” network between offices of the heads of state or government across Africa. Thirty VVIP nodes have been set up in African countries for video-conferencing among



Countries which joined Pan-African e-Network in Phase I (Feb 26, 2009): Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Seychelles. Countries which joined Pan-African e-Network in Phase II (August 16, 2010): Botswana, Burundi, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, Uganda and Zambia. Participating Indian institutions in e-Network Universities/ Educational Institutes: 1. Amity University, Noida 2. Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani 3. Delhi University, New Delhi 4. Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi 5. University of Madras, Chennai Super Speciality Hospitals 1. All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi 2. Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre, Kochi 3. Apollo Hospitals, Chennai 4. CARE Hospital The Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad 5. Dr. Balabhai Nanavati Hospital, Mumbai 6. Escorts Hearts Institute and Research Centre Limited, New Delhi 7. Fortis Hospital, Noida 8. HealthCare Global, Bangalore 9. Mool Chand Khairati Ram Hospital, New Delhi 10. Narayana Hrudayalaya Institute of Medical Sciences, Bangalore 11. Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Science(Lucknow), Lucknow 12. Sri. Ramachandra Medical College & Research Institute, Chennai Leading Regional Institutions from Africa Universities/Educational Institutes 1. Central Region: Yaounde University, Yaounde, Cameroon 2. Eastern Region: Makerere University of Uganda, Uganda 3. Western Region: Kwame and Nkurumah University of Science & Technology of Ghana, Ghana Super Speciality Hospitals 1. Central Region: Brazzaville Super Specialty Hospital, Republic of Congo 2. Eastern Region: Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam National Hospital, Port Louis, Mauritius 3. Western Region: University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Nigeria
Data Center TCIL (top) and a view of the Fortis Telemedicine center (above)

the heads of states. The project is also equipped to support e-governance, e-commerce, infotainment, resource mapping and meteorological and other services in the African countries. The e-network is already transforming lives of ordinary Africans. More than 1,700 African students have registered with Indian universities. Regular tele-medical consultations have also started between the African doctors and the Indian specialists. Nearly 700 CME lectures have been delivered by doctors from top Indian super specialty hospitals. Buoyed by the enthusiastic African response, India has even offered training at the regional level by conducting workshops in the tele-medicine and tele-education modules for optimizing benefits of the project. In a growing recognition of India’s development-centric diplomacy in Africa, the project won the prestigious Hermes Prize for innovation in the field of sustainable development. The prize was announced by the European Institute of Creative

Strategies and Innovation, a think tank that promotes strategies for innovation and renewal in Europe and worldwide, at a meeting held on May 25, in Paris. The project is being keenly observed by Africa watchers as an example of the kind of initiative Africa needs to empower its people and better its chances in a rapidly globalising world as opposed to investments. As the project moves to its final phase, it will be a win-win for Africa in more ways than one. It will contribute towards Africa achieving its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets in education and the health sector and enrich the lives of its predominantly young population. Blending technology with social transformation, the project shows the creative possibilities of using ICT to catalyze lasting socio-economic changes. In an interview, Ghana’s then President John Kufuor predicted a marriage of India’s expertise and Africa’s resources to fructify the full potential of the African continent. No project epitomises this synergy

better than the Pan-African e-Network Project, which is being hailed aptly as “a shining symbol of South-South Cooperation.” “Both India and Africa are blessed with young populations. It is only by investing in the creative energies of our youth that the potential of this partnership will be fulfilled,” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said presciently at the India-Africa Forum summit in New Delhi in April 2008. As the two sides brace for the second summit next year, they need to think of more of such transformational projects that will make the 21st century, the century of Asia and Africa sooner rather than later.
◆ The author is Editor, Indian Horizons, published by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, New Delhi.




Our India

ow should one try to understand one’s own country? The country grows on you and you grow in the country. Understanding one’s own country becomes more difficult if you are an Indian. India a civilization of antiquity, of great achievements and numerous short-comings fills one’s mind and often causes bewilderment. And yet, one has to undertake this journey, howsoever, formidable the task may be. Those of us who were born in the first half of the 20th century saw the struggle for freedom under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi which reached its zenith in the Quit India Movement (1942-44). Mahatma Gandhi mobilized the people of India for a non-violent struggle against foreign rule and its scale and depth was unprecedented in history. The freedom movement had the distinction of bringing for the first time millions of women into the political realm of civil disobedience and Satyagraha campaigns. On 15th August, 1947 India attained freedom but it was an India divided into India and Pakistan. It was accompanied by unprecedented violence. Many then felt that the partition was temporary while others feared that this will impede India from getting her due position in the country of nations. Partition of India was not


merely a political failure. It was also our civilizational failure. Side by side, there was also a literary movement in the country to which Rabindranath Tagore in the north and Subramaniya Bharati in the south provided leadership with imagination and fervor. The new and rapidly growing corpus of books and monographs also revealed to its readers India in terms of its spirit, its philosophy, its arts, its poetry, its music and its myriad ways of life. All these brought a new perspective in an Indian’s understanding of his surroundings, of emerging challenges and, of course, of his country. An age was ending and the ‘soul’ of India ‘long suppressed’ was finding ‘utterances’. India could be understood in many ways. What is India? Viewed in terms of geography, the Indian sub-continent “is a world of its own, extensive yet enclosed by marked geographical boundaries”. A recent survey has indicated that 4,653 communities live in India (that include all major religions of the world in a predominantly Hindu society with a sizeable Muslim population), professing different faiths, practicing diverse forms of worship, entertaining different notions about the migration of the soul, speaking several languages

and dialects. Jawaharlal Nehru once said, “India is a cultural unity amongst diversity a bundle of contradictions held together by a strong but invisible thread”. In fact, for the past five thousand years or so, Indians have developed common traits, thoughts and feelings. These have given successive generations of Indians a mindset, a value system, and a way of life, which has been retained with remarkable continuity.
Mahatma Gandhi (right) and Quit India Movement, 1942 mass participation (below).

The Indus Valley civilization provides the beginnings of the Indian historical experience. The archaeological excavations at various sites connected with that civilization, such as a Mohenjodaro, Harappa and Dholavira, have amply proved that there existed a well-developed city life, irrigation system, and agricultural operations in India during this period. Much later, during the vedic period divine narratives were pieced together out of subconscious allegory, poetic




Rabindranath Tagore

symbolism, personification of nature, or worship of spirits. But in all these, the human mind played as important a role. The Vedas are the world’s oldest literature. It is called shruti (hearing) which is eternal, selfevident and divinely revealed. The sages had seen and perceived the Vedic mantras while in a stage of meditation and contemplation. The entire Vedic literature is shruti. On the other hand, we have several human creations in literature which are known as smriti (recollection). The Ramayana, the Mahabharata including the Bhagvad Gita, the Upanishad and Dharmashastra represent the finest examples of the smriti tradition. Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit, have greatly contributed to the growth of modern Indian languages like Hindi, Marathi, Bengali and Assamese, and have enormously

influenced their script, grammar and literature. A remarkable feat of the conservation of memory, the Hindus, through the tradition of shruti and smriti have passed on the Vedas, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagvad Gita and other sacred texts to the present day. This remarkable aspect of historical consciousness of Indians was highlighted by Rabindranath Tagore in his paper, ‘A vision of Indian History’, where he writes: I love India, not because I cultivate the idolatry of geography, not because I have had the chance to be born on her soil, but because she has saved through tumultuous ages the living words that have issued from the illuminated consciousness of her great sons. Where lies the genius of India? As Sri Aurobindo rightly observes:

“Spirituality is indeed the master-key of the Indian mind; the sense of the indefinite is native to it. India saw from the beginning, and, even in her ages of reason and her age of increasing ignorance, she never lost hold of the insight, that life cannot be rightly seen in the sole light, cannot be perfectly lived in the sole power of its externalities. She was alive to the greatness of material laws and forces; she had a keen eye for the importance of the physical sciences; she knew how to organize the arts of ordinary life. But she saw that the physical does not get its full sense until it stands in right relation to the supra-physical.” It is thus not surprising that during the period of recorded global history of the past 2500 years India was a major power for 1400 years. Our ancestors developed rational traditions in this country. The Indian genius initiated some of the earliest steps in algebra, geometry and astronomy. The decimal system emerged here. It was in India where early philosophy – secular as well as religious – achieved exceptional sophistication. People invented games like chess, pioneered sex education, and began the first systematic study of political economy. The Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Upanishads and the Bhagvad Gita, the finest works of art and sculpture of Ajanta and Ellora and various Buddhist shrines, the best universities of the world of their times at Nalanda and Vikramshila are achievements

Sri Aurobindo

Subramaniya Bharati

that should give us pride in our heritage. The Story of Civilisation In its 5000 years long history, the Indian civilization has undergone both external and multidimensional internal upheavals. In this epic story, five encounters (among millions) have been particularly significant. The Vedic period (1500 BC and before) witnessed the intermingling of the Aryans with autochthons which made a decisive influence not only on religion and spirituality but also on patterns of agriculture, industry, trade and overall productivity. There were also notable advances in music and medicine, mathematics and astronomy. The second most significant encounter was through the discourses of Lord Mahavira (599-521 BC), the founder of Jainism, and Lord Buddha (566-486 BC), the founder of

Buddhism. These enabled people to see things in a new light. Both Mahavira and Buddha strove to build an inclusive social order. I have found in the encounter between the Vedic philosophy and the Buddhist precepts a highly interesting dialogue and one of great value in understanding the Indian mind. The Buddhist worldview generated introspection among the Hindu elite. The greatest loss in my view, on account of the ‘banishment’ of Buddhism from India was the method of rationality and scientific enquiry that Buddhism had encouraged. The Brahmanical order excluded women and the working class (of farmers, artisans and dalits), from reading and writing. It reasserted its position in the name of religion and tradition and pursued its dogmatic polices with renewed vigour in the absence of the Buddhist challenge. The decline of such a society was



inevitable and the Indian society gradually slid into backwardness while maintaining a few pockets of prosperity and some persons of exceptional intellectual talent. The period of decline that began in the economy and polity after the eighth century AD created space that was filled by Muslim invasions and eventual Muslim rule in India. Thus commenced the third encounter-that between Islam and Hindu belief systems. Islam in a predominantly Hindu society became the religion of the ruling elite for nearly 600 years. It brought to its believers a single God, a rigid code of worship and a way of living. Unlike Buddha, Muhammad could not be accommodated in the Hindu pantheon. There were, however, significant attempts to find a modus vivendi between Islam and Hinduism. It meant that India had to devise ways and means by which Hindus and Muslims could live together in a society based on different spiritual and social conceptions. In fact, Islam gradually lost its Arabia and Persian identity and absorbed many Hindu folk traditions. The creative genius of the India people- both Hindus and Muslims-found unique expression in Sufism and Bhakti literature, in music and painting, in the birth of the Urdu language and enrichment of the other Indian languages, and in architecture. This is popularly referred to as Ganga-Jamuni etiquette or tahjeeb. Christianity came to India well before it went to several European countries. However, the

Lord Buddha (566-486 BC)

civilisational encounter began with the entry of the Europeans in India and the establishment of the East India Company by the British. With the spread of the English language and the concept of democracy and rule of law began the fourth civilizational encounter and that led to introspection in the India society. The religious and social reforms of Hinduism in the nineteenth century were attempts to assimilate these new influences. The first sign of this political awakening was the inauguration of the Indian National Congress in 1885 and this gradually led to a new conception of nationhood and struggle for independence. Mahatma Gandhi brought the common people including women in the freedom movement and through a massive non-violent movement, he succeeded in

securing independence. By creating a favorable environment after 1947, the framers of the Indian Constitution rising above considerations of religion, ethnicity, caste and gender gave the people of India the right to adult franchise. Since the end of the last century, another fifth great civilisational encounter encompassing all aspects of our living is taking place. This is popularly known as the information and communications revolution and has resulted in rapid integration of markets as well as trade, in the sharing of cultural values as well as products, and in disseminating information as well as in imparting training. Today, a new kind of knowledge is being produced and circulated, based on India’s own traditional knowledge as well as scientific achievements of the world. In understanding this phenomenon one ought to be also aware of the circumstances governing the kind of knowledge that the new generation of Indians is producing and circulating. Young Indians are trying to reach across cultural divides and understand languages, scientific methodologies, histories and faiths other than their own. The number of renaissance men and women in the country is on the rise. They have courage, intellect and the ability to compete in the world and a significant number of these people have a strong desire to connect with the rest of their community and make a contribution towards building a strong and just India.

Renewal of India India has been living through pluralistic challenge longer than several other nations. In terms of faith, well before the advent of Christianity and Islam in the West and other parts of the world, India was a significant playfield of civilizational encounters between Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Both Judaism and Christianity came to India in the first century itself. Islam too commenced its entry through the coastal towns of the Indian peninsula from the eighth century onwards. In the ninth century, when the Zoroastrians of Persia felt that their religion was in danger from the invading Muslims, they moved

The monolithic statue of Lord Gomateshwara or Bahubali at Shravanabelagola in Karnataka, is one of the important Jain pilgrim centers.

to the north-west coast of India. Their descendants still live there and are known as Parsis. The birth of Sikhism in the fifteenth

century in India had the avowed objective of bringing peace to conflicting encounters among Hinduism and Islam. In the last century, when the Tibetans felt a threat to their religion and culture, they chose India as a refuge and a large number of them still live here. Multi-culturalism is a basic feature of India’s civilisational experience. In its practice in India, it is not atheistic in character but a combination of religions. Secularism and multi-culturalism are not in conflict. It is this openness of the India experience that provides the base for the making of a public policy of harmony.

Ajmer Sharif Dargah is the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti




In our long and uninterrupted civilisational history one thing strikes us constantly that the common people of India have always provided strength to the values of pluralism and tolerance. We are living in a period of great turbulence in India. Terrorism, Naxalism and insurgencies, sectarian violence and narrowness, the politicization of ethnic, caste and religious ties, and lack of opportunities are causing enormous distress in our society. Some people even think that the democratic system is noisy, messy and dilatory in handling these challenges. It is our faith that in the long run democracy alone through people’s unity and determination shall prevail over terrorist forces. In recent years, India’s achievements in the economic domain is quite impressive. The Indian middle class has a size of 300 million people. India’s new economic policy has unleashed creative energy of the business class; there is a new emphasis on efficiency, productivity and competition. The right to information (Right to Information Act, 2005) has emerged as an effective instrument in the hands of the common people to check corruption, fight injustice and make governance transparent. We have to create and sustain an environment that will enable and encourage competition, efficiency and inclusiveness. Towards this, we need fresh ideas and new

policies and programmers based on these new ideas. And we need boldness and a sense of purpose to implement those policies and programs. Dialogue – an essential prerequisite of democracy – would ensure that. There can be no one way – religion, caste, culture, or linguistic of being an Indian. Pluralism is the founding principle for building a pan-Indian identity and need not be in conflict with other identities. To accord respect to the identity of others is a part of our constitutional obligation. India of the Future I have been a keen student of India’s history. I have found inadequacies in the traditional approach of ruler-centric narrative of events in understanding my country. I have thus tried to hear the voices of saints and mystics, poets and sculptors, scientists and engineers, farmers and artisans. I have learnt more from the common people living in our villages than others. I have also found that folklore and folk tales are as important in understanding our nation as scientific inventions, economic processes and political events. I imagine this approach of “one truth many expressions”. This was best expressed in the Rig Veda: “Ekam Sad Vipra Bahudha Vadanti”; (The truth is one the sages describe it variously) was formulated by our rishis both in order to understand the

complexities of natural objects and their inter-relationships and for harmonious living in society among people of multifarious beliefs and practices. The Bahudha approach not only underlines equal respect for all points of view but it also calls for – and that is significant – inculcation of a habit in which one person thinks that the other person’s point of view may perhaps be right also underlines the same approach. Understanding the point of view of those with whom one profoundly disagrees is the first step toward learning to create a society which manages such disagreement. In the first decade of the twentyfirst century, I wonder as to what kind of India my grand-children and generations to come thereafter will have. The emergence of India as a global player in economic and political terms in coming years is visible and along with that a greater awareness of India’s cultural heritage. A significant feature of India’s cultural attitude is that while absorbing the teachings of its ancestors it has also aligned itself with the global trends. India has all the ingredients of becoming a powerful nation-state: economic, military and cultural strength as well as a large body of young people. What is needed is that all of us should try hard and move forward through our democratic processes. Democracy is at the heart of governance in India. Election

after election common people are asserting their voice, changing their representatives in a manner that has ensured change in government in the states and also at the Centre. Democracy has really moved beyond periodic elections toward ‘good’ governance. Good governance does not occur by chance. It must be demanded by citizens and nourished explicitly and consciously by the nation-state. As long as Indian society and polity encourage creative minds

in the literatures and arts, science and technology, and give primacy to democratic institutions and to an approach of an inclusive and just social order, its age-old cultural strength would continue to be renewed. I do also believe that like individuals, countries too have their destinies. India’s emergence as a significant global power is full of promise. Tomorrow’s India will be a country free of the scourges of poverty and illiteracy. I am still learning about India.

◆ The author, currently Governor of Sikkim is a distinguished scholar, thinker and public servant. His latest book is Bahudha and the Post-9/11 World (OUP: 2010).

At times, India’s history, its achievements and failings make me happy; at others I feel angry. But I always feel proud, not in a narrow nationalistic sense, which in itself is significant, but in the wider sense of values that India provides to her children: a simple living, family ties, tolerance for the point of view of others, a spiritual quest and a respect for ecology.

I want the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.

❛❛ ❜❜

Mahatma Gandhi





Vedic system of learning through guru-shisya tradition in progress (above and facing page)

Transmitting knowledge:
Oral memory, practice and methods of communication

When we examine some significant ways in which India preserved and transmitted its knowledge, we see that India’s oral tradition has followed both fixed and floating patterns of transmission, in codified and un-codified forms. While the knowledge contained in the Vedas and its ancillary branches came to be transmitted through an established, meticulous code of memorization, a parallel dimension of non-structured, free transmission also existed side by side. Often these two traditions are seen to interact, respond and support each other, because they emerge from the large stock of the shared wealth of a collective imagination. While the codified system of handing down Vedic corpus became dependent on an organized system of learning through the guru-shishya parampara, the narrative-performative tradition of recitation carried on the dissemination of much of our indigenous knowledge. Much of India’s myths and epics such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, tales and fables such as Kathasaritsagara and Jataka stories, ballads, legends, songs, and a multitude of knowledge and skill in every field were carried on through a largely flexible mode of communication, which extends the narrative through interpolations, conscious extensions and embedding sub-narratives. Even if there was an early written tradition, it was believed that “pustakeshu cha yaa vidya/parahastagatam dhanam/samaye tu paripraapte/na saa vidyaa na taddhanam” (the knowledge from books


n India, oral transmission of knowledge still continues to be the most important method by which we communicate messages, educate our children on early lessons, learn our scriptures and texts, transmit our stories and nurture knowledge about life and art. All cultures have found ingenious ways to pass on their knowledge systems, through developing formal and informal ways of communication and preservation. Most pre-written cultures had developed systems of transmission of their knowledge such as Homer’s poetry, or the Christian gospel spreading by word of mouth through the apostles of Christ down to the early Christian era. The oral tradition of West Africa was to propagate their stories, and epics by establishing a class of people who took on the task of memorizing and handing down that knowledge to succeeding generations. The markers of this memory consisted of symbols, codes and images that represented different facets of knowledge. Many societies across the world developed elaborate mnemonic devices and formal rituals which became part of remembering and recollecting knowledge in domains such as tales, parables, proverbs, songs and legends, skills pertaining to arts, healing and medicine.




and money gone to another person are not useful, because they cannot come to one’s aid when needed”). The mode of oral narration of stories goes back a long way in India. We find that many later texts, which later came to be fixed through the written form, existed as floating stories and versions in specific local milieus. These stories have considerable freedom of interpretation depending on the skill and creative imagination of the narrator, and are open-ended and collaborative, rather than fixed and inflexible. Even when the basic story remains the same, the interpretation changes according to who says it, where it is said and how it is said. In India, there were professional storytellers attached to the temples who narrated stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. A class of itinerant story-tellers told and retold the epics, puranas legends not merely in the temples but in public spaces across the country. Different texts and traditions emerged with local variations and stories and substories began to be integrated into the main plot. With the interpretative skills of the storytellers, even complex ideas in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata became accessible to a wider audience. Apart from embellishing the same story through subnarratives, another device of story telling that became popular in India was the stringing of several stories into the same narrative structure; tales and fables such as Kathasaritsagara, Panchatantra and Brhadkatha provided a single

frame in which multiple stories were embedded. A powerful instance of narration of the oral tradition of story-telling is Prabandha Koothu from Kerala, which is dovetailed into Kutiyattam, the Sanskrit theatre. The comic character Vidushaka, the protagonist verbally elaborates different episodes and stories from the epics in Malayalam, a language that was accessible to all levels of people. While narrating the story, the actor spins new stories and anecdotes into the main plot, with copious references to contemporary situations, and the actor directs his attention through ridicule to the members of the audience also. Couched in the guise of relating to the texts, the actor through the medium of humour makes references to topical incidents, and the immediacy of the situation becomes highly entertaining to the audience. The introduction of the ‘Prabandhas’ written by eminent poets like Melpattur Narayana Bhattathiri also enlarged his repertoire. However, irrespective of the nucleus of the text, the oral content becomes the real text in Prabandha Koothu. Performative elements such as singing and dancing are also popular devices to reach out to audiences. Folk and regional performances like Ramlila, Pandvani and a host of other performances across India also popularized these stories and excited the imagination of the people. Ramlila, the story of the divine play of Rama, has diverse representations across India and

is generally based on the text of Tulsidas’s Ramacharitmanas. In the celebrated Ramlila of Ramnagar, the whole village is transformed into a performance arena and becomes the venue where the divine lila is played out year after year during the festive season of Dussera. There are also several other versions of Ramlila from Chitrakoot, Agra and Delhi, which have carved their own niche in narrating the Rama story, as well as hundreds of neighborhood Ramlilas that happen in villages across north India. The fact that there is a Ramlila ground in almost every village, town and city in India testifies to the popularity of the performance of Ramlila in the country. In contrast, the preservation of large portions of the Vedic corpus went on for centuries through a complex, highly codified method of transmission. Elaborate, highly sophisticated and foolproof mnemonic methods were used to instruct and memorize these compositions, which eliminated or decreased the danger of losing words, syllables or accent. The extraordinary effort of memorization emphasized correct pronunciation (akshara suddhi), correct duration of utterance (matra suddhi), and correct intonation of accents (svara suddhi). This oral tradition was kept incredibly fail-safe because it needed the intact safeguarding of a vast magnitude of verses. There were different recitational devices that helped to remember these texts. The basic step was padapatha, direct recitation of

the Vedas splitting them wordby-word, combining with hand postures (mudra-s) to signify appropriate sound patterns, slowly graduating to the next level called krama where the first word of the mantra is added to the second, the second to the third and so on, until the whole verse is completed. This method enabled the student to know the individual words, and also combine words in recitation and the changes that occur in the sound that occur in the word as a result of the combination. While pada and krama are in the natural order of recitation, there are also indirect methods called vikrti which follow eight increasingly complex patterns of memorization such as jata, mala, sikha, rekha, dhvaja, danda, ratha and ghana. This elaborate system was developed with the purpose of preserving the purity of sound, word, pronunciation, intonation, pitch and sound combinations of the verses of the Veda and to facilitate the absorption of massive amounts of data as oral memory. For preserving the chanting tradition in its utmost purity, texts called shiksha and pratishakhya explain the science teaching the method of pronunciation of vowels, alphabets. The siksha texts explicate the correct pronunciation of vowels (sound), while the pratishakhya texts focus on uniformity in utterance. The well-devised system of teachinglearning Vedic transmission also had a functional (prayoga) aspect, which refers to its use in ritual. Vedic priests recited passages from the text which had diverse

As the comic character Vidushaka, the protagonist verbally elaborates different episodes and stories from the epics in Malayalam

applications in rituals, rites, and sacrifices. Accounts from early times including visiting travellers in ancient India like I-Tsing have given evidence to this system of oral memorization of texts. In the late nineteenth century George Buhler observed that a good Vedic oral practitioner of oral recitation knew massive amounts of textual material as memory and recall. One of the most important critiques of the rote learning system in today’s educational theory is that it does not lead to the understanding of a subject or the acquisition of knowledge, but only to memorization, which is a mechanical process of repetition and retention rather than analysis. What then are the merits of this system practiced in India since time immemorial, that has now

caught the attention of the world as a model worth emulation? The differential abilities of oral memory and writing are spelt out in the words of I-tsing, “Firstly, by repeatedly committing to memory, the intellect is developed; secondly, the alphabet fixes one’s ideas. By this way, after a practice often days or a month, a student feels his thoughts rise like a fountain, and can commit to memory whatever he has once heard. This is far from being a myth, for I myself have met such men.” For the preservation and transmission of oral systems of transmission, audio/video techniques of documentation are useful. However, to prevent this multi-faceted knowledge from being erased from memory, we must revitalize the system from within. One way is to bring diverse aspects of our indigenous knowledge to “mainstream” academics, which since the colonial times has been marginalized as mere relics of the past. Linking indigenous knowledge effectively with education is the key to revitalize this knowledge.
◆ The author has served as Director, National Manuscripts Mission, Delhi.



Computer Center and Science Block

Library Building

Delhi Technological University


t is the Indian capital’s newest technological university but has a history stretching back almost 70 years and is already making waves globally. From developing a next generation unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to a broadband network over power lines, the Delhi Technological University (DTU) has given a new meaning to the concept of innovation. It’s an institution that in its previous avatar of Delhi College of Engineering (DCE) has produced the likes of Vinod Dham, the father of the Pentium chip who developed the Intel Pentium Chip as well as the AMD chip; Raj Soin, the Chairman of Soin International in the US; Pramod Haque, considered as one of the world’s greatest venture capitalists; and Sanjeev Ahuja, the

CEO of Orange Telecom, to name just a few. DTU has its genesis in the Delhi Polytechnic that was established in 1941 and was later rechristened as Delhi College of Engineering (DCE). Over the next 69 years, the institution has made a distinct contribution to the growth of highly qualified and skilled manpower through its highly rated degree and post-graduate programmes. According to Professor P.B. Sharma, the DTU’s founder Vice Chancellor, “DCE as a technological university will be a significant milestone to create an academic and research environment to foster scientific and engineering excellence together. The upgradation of DCE into a University is seen as a major

initiative of the Delhi Government to make Delhi the knowledge capital of India.” DTU has also now established the Delhi School of Management to offer MBA programmes in technology-related areas. Today, DTU offers academic programmes in conventional as well as emerging areas of engineering and technology right from the undergraduate to doctoral levels. On the one hand it offers courses in popular disciplines like electronics and communication engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science engineering and electrical engineering, and keeping in mind the future requirements, it has also introduced courses such as in nano science and technology, engineering physics, microwave and optical communication, digital design and signal processing and bio-informatics. One of the factors distinguishing DTU from other technological institutions is that it has always encouraged a spirit of innovation and research among its students

right from the undergraduate level. The thrust areas of research at DTU are biofuel and clean energy technologies, future automobile solutions, nano-scale devices and photonics, new and smart materials, conducting polymers, broadband on power lines, infosecurity and network management and socially relevant technologies. “We at DTU are firmly committed to empowering young engineers with the wings of knowledge and power of innovation,” says Vice Chancellor Sharma. DTU has a strong bio-diesel research group which has carried out commendable research and development work in the area of bio-diesel reactor design, offered consultancy to the World Bank and has taken major development work for neat bio-diesel generator development with YANMAR Co. Ltd.of Japan. The group has also developed algae bio-diesel reactor and promoted energy farming. Another interesting project on broadband over power lines (BPL) has been taken up by

DTU in collaboration with the government-owned telephony provider Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), electricity distributor North Delhi Power Limited (NDPL) and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. BPL is a technology that allows the use of existing power lines/ cables as a transmission medium not only for energy but also for telecommunication signals. Using this technology, virtually any information suited to be digitised can be sent over the power line, be it data, voice, video, images, or control signals. With this kind of technology, the Internet can be provided to any place where electricity is available through a mere electric socket in a room that can be used as a communications port, with no new cabling needed for such a task. Then, the Centre of Relevance and Excellence in Optical Fiber and Optical Communications has emerged as a major hub for synergy between science and engineering and for promotion of



international collaborations for R&D in the area of photonic crystal devices with the University of Glasgow and Hokkaido University. A strong material science research group has established collaborative R&D with the Tokyo Institute of Technology. One of the areas where DTU students have brought laurels to not only the institution but also the country is automobile solutions. Inter-disciplinary student teams under the expert guidance of the faculty of the previous DCE and now DTU have designed and developed a number of new innovative products which have competed in international competitions in the US, Britain,

South Africa, Australia and Singapore. The DCE hybrid car designed and developed by the student team won the first place in the student category in the Green Car competition in the US. The DCE Supermileage Vehicle won the best design award at the world competition organized by the SAE international at Marshall, Michigan, in 2005. Similarly, the DCE Formula Student Car won the FISITA Best Design Endeavour Award from Britain’s SAE International, and the All Terrain Vehicle for Mini Baja, has participated and won accolades in many national and international competitions

during the last five years. The DCE robotic submarine has received the Most Improved Design Award-2008 at San Diego in an international competition organized by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). Similarly, the DCE Moon Buggy designed and developed by a DCE student team has received the Best Initial Design Award-2008 from NASA in an international competition organised in the US jointly by NASA and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The DCE student team has also developed a liquid nitrogenpowered engine and a car in

Prof. P.B. Sharma, Vice Chancellor, DTU

collaboration with the Nuclear Science Centre, Delhi. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed and developed by

a DCE student team has received the Most Innovative Design Award-2006 in an international Competition at Georgia organised by AUVSI, which was followed by Director’s Special Award for the best team effort at the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Competition at Maryland in July 2009. Impressed by the design, leading global security company Lockheed Martin Corporation expressed interest and has agreed to provide a funding of Rs. 17.5 million ($400,000) for the development of a next-generation UAV. Most recently, the UAV claimed the 10th position at the Eighth Annual Student Unmanned Air

Smart Classrooms equipped with ICT facilities

The Delhi School of Management offers MBA programmes in technology-related areas





DTU students designed and developed “V. Shera” (Versatile Shera), the robotic version of the highly popular mascot of the 19th Commonwealth Games to welcome the distinguished visiting delegates.

Systems Competition organised by AUVSI at Maryland in June. The DTU team was also placed among the top four teams in the oral presentation and at 2nd position in journal paper presentation. The team was also awarded a cash prize of $2,900. A major recent innovation of DTU students is the design and development of “V. Shera” (Versatile Shera), the robotic version of the highly popular mascot of the 19th Commonwealth Games. V. Shera is a functional robot with speech and gesture capabilities like blinking eyes, moving hands and greeting everyone with a smile. Faculty is the core of an

academic institution besides the students. DTU, by virtue of its reputation for quality education, research and innovation, attracts highly qualified and experienced faculty for its academic departments. A majority of the faculty hold doctoral degrees in engineering and applied sciences. The competence of DTU faculty is reflected by the fact that several of them are on the advisory boards of professional societies as well as national and international bodies. One of the parameters that determine the standing of an institution is its placements and here DTU easily surpassed even its own past records. The number of reputed organisations visiting the

university campus as well as the job offers being made has steadily increased over the years. In the 2007-08 academic year (JulyJune), 89 companies made 761 job offers, which implies that several students got multiple job offers. In 2008-09, 101 organisations came to DTU for recruitment and made 620 job offers. For the 2009-10 academic session, 138 companies came to DTU and made 683 job offers. The session for 2010-11 started only in July but already 31 companies have visited DTU and made 196 job offers to the final year students of under- graduate and postgraduate courses. Speaking about the road ahead for DTU, Vice Chancellor Sharma said: “We would like to develop DTU as a world class centre for education, research and innovations in the science and technology arena, focus on cutting edge technologies for education delivery and foster an environment of seamlessness between science and technology.”
◆ The author is a journalist.

Left top: The hybrid car designed and developed by a team of students won the first place in the student category in the Green Car competition in the US. Middle: Students innovations – Mini Baja (All Terrain Vehicle) designed & developed by the students of DTU won 4th position at the Baja SAEINDIA Event in January, 2010. Left: The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) developed by DCE received the Most Innovative Design Award, 2006 in an international competition at Georgia organised by AUVSI.



World mathematicians at ground zero


hen Radha Charan Gupta was conferred the prestigious Kenneth O. May Prize for the History of Mathematics at the International Congress of Mathematics at Hyderabad, it was a reaffirmation of the preeminent place India occupies in the sphere. Ancient India was a world leader in mathematics. The study of geometry was done during the Vedic period. There is also firm evidence that the Pythagoras theorem was known in India by the eighth century BC. The concept of zero as a number originated in India (probably as

early as 200 AD) as did the place value system of representation of numbers as it is commonly used today. “We had a long-standing contribution. In fact gradually it is now being established that the Kerala School of Mathematics probably knew about calculus 200 years before Sir Isaac Newton. Actually we are just beginning the study of the history of ancient mathematics. Since two or three people have taken up the study, the contributions of the Kerala School are becoming apparent but there is so much to study,” says Professor Rajat Tandon, Head of

More than 3,250 delegates from 94 countries attended the ICM held at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre (above) and delegates in conversation (right).

The Hon’ble President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil with the prize winners

the Mathematics Department at the University of Hyderabad. Renowned mathematician David Mumford of Harvard University believes that reification (making the subject more and more abstract) of algebra was done by Brahmagupta (6-7th century AD). Mumford, who is studying the history of mathematics, was in Kozhikode (Calicut) recently to speak on reification of algebra at a satellite conference on ancient mathematics. According to mathematicians, Aryabhata (5-6th Century AD) and Brahmagupta also made great contributions to astronomy and

trigonometry and were considered the greatest mathematicians in the world in their times. Bhaskara also made significant contributions in the 12th century. Thanks to the Kerala School, India’s contributions were immense during the 14th and 15th centuries. It independently created a number of important

mathematical concepts. The most important results – series expansion for trigonometric functions – were described in Sanskrit verse in a book by Neelakanta called Tantrasangraha. The theorems were stated without proof, but proof for the series for sine, cosine and inverse tangents were provided a century later in the work Yuktibhasa, written in Malayalam, by Jyestadevan. Mathematical activity more or less came to a standstill after the demise of the Kerala School. A section of mathematicians believe that the arrival of the British brought darkness for Indian mathematics. “There was little contribution during the 16th century but the



17th, 18th and 19th centuries turned out to be a vacuum till (Sreenivasa Iyengar) Ramanujan came on the scene and brought Indian mathematics up. After that there has been a steady stream of mathematicians,” says Tandon. Ramanujan (1887-1920) made substantial contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series and continued fractions. According to prominent English mathematician G.H. Hardy, Ramanujan’s talent is in the same league as legendary mathematicians such as Euler, Gauss, Newton and Archimedes. It was in 1914 that Hardy spoke on some of Ramanujan’s research at the meeting of the London Mathematical Society. Ramanujan’s work was presented formally for the first time to a

big professional mathematical audience. They included two Cambridge mathematicians who had been approached by Ramanujan but who did not respond. According to eminent mathematician Prof. M.S. Raghunathan, this was the first time an Indian work was presented formally on a forum outside India. The work Hardy spoke on was research of a higher calibre than work that had emerged from India till then. India thus announced its ambitions of joining the big league in mathematics.

An artist’s impression of Aryabhata in a statue on the grounds of IUCAA (Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics), Pune. Aryabhata (476-550 AD) was a great Indian mathematician-astronomer and is known to have invented the digit zero.

Vedic Mathematics is the ancient system of Indian Mathematics. The most striking feature of the Vedic system is its coherence. The whole system is beautifully interrelated and unified. This unifying quality makes mathematics easy and enjoyable and encourages innovation. In the Vedic system difficult problems or huge sums can often be solved quickly. The simplicity of Vedic Mathematics means that calculations can be carried out mentally though the methods can also be written down. There are many advantages in using a flexible, mental system. One can invent one’s own methods and this is not limited to the one correct method. This leads to more creativity. Research is being carried out in many areas including the effects of learning Vedic Maths on children; developing new, powerful but easy applications of the Vedic Sutras in geometry, calculus, computing etc.

Ramanujan’s contributions were mainly in Number Theory and related areas, but starting from the mid-1930s, there were efforts to move into some other areas as well. Raghunathan points out that Indian mathematicians were at work in a broad spectrum of areas in all of which they have made a significant impact. Many are well recognised names internationally. “India has indeed become a player of reasonable standing in the international mathematical arena. Not quite a big power yet but with reasonable prospects of attaining that status,” feels Raghunathan, Homi Bhabha Chair Professor at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai. It was against this backdrop that the nine-day International Congress of Mathematics (ICM 2010) was held in Hyderabad, capital of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh (Aug 19-27). Raghunathan, who was Chairman of the Organizing Committee, says India winning the bid and hosting the international event is an indication of this country’s reasonable prospects of attaining the status of a big power in world mathematics. More than 3,250 delegates from 94 countries attended the ICM, held at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC), and which exposed India’s young doctoral scholars to international standards of the subject and brought into focus the contributions of India in the past for the promotion of the science.

Ramanujan (1887-1920) made substantial contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series and continued fractions.

Though India hosted the ICM for the first time, its organisers say it was the second most successful event in its 113-year-old history and the biggest in terms of the number of countries represented. India is the third Asian country to host the event after Japan (1990) and China (2002). It was only in 1950 that India joined the International Mathematical Union (IMU), which has been holding the event once in four years since 1897. Inaugurated by Hon’ble President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil, the ICM had a strong academic programme. There were 23 plenary speakers including two Indians. Out of 165 invited speakers at the meet, six were Indians and there were many others of Indian origin but settled in the US and other countries. More than 1,200 Indians attended the Congress. Thus, Indians played a prominent role not just in

organising the event but also in its academic content. “The feedback we have is that it was a successful Congress. There were minor glitches organisationally which we overcame very fast. It was overcrowded. We never expected so many people to come. There were eight sessions simultaneously and it was so packed that all the audience could not get in,” says Hyderabad university’s Tandon, the organising secretary for the congress. “ICM is a unique event where mathematicians of all subjects from finance to probability to applied mathematics gather. In no other subject do they have such an event. The purpose of the congress is to take stock of what were the achievements in the last four years and what is the likely future direction of mathematics,” Tandon says. Since IMU had invited 190 lecturers and the top people who spoke on the latest research and the lectures appealed to a broader audience, the Indian mathematicians hope that it inspired young doctoral scholars and also gave an idea to other mathematicians as to what top grade international mathematics is all about.
◆ Specially commissioned feature from IANS.




Conserving history


portrait of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore dating back to the early 1940s had become dull and lifeless. The colours had faded with cracks and stains visible on the surface but the canvas has got a new lease of life. This has been made possible by the Indian Conservation InstituteLucknow (ICI-L), which claims to be the largest centre for restoration of manuscripts and tomes in India. The ICI-L received the 61 cm by 75 cm oil painting in a dilapidated condition from a private collector. Beginning with its photographic documentation, the technical staff cleaned the painting with a soft brush using a solvent to undo the yellowing effect of varnish over the portrait.

Indian Conservation Institute, Lucknow

Further, the paint layer was consolidated with the help of heat seal adhesive. All the cracks were filled up carefully. A protective layer of varnish was applied over the portrait, restoring it to its original glory. Even the name of the painter and its commissioning date Oct 2, 1944, became clearly visible.

The ICI-L is a non-profit organisation set up in 1986 under The Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). It has counterparts in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa and New Delhi. The institute also undertakes conservation of artefacts such as stone, rock or wood carving, engravings, miniature or canvas painting, which are under threat from natural and climatic factors – not to mention man-made pollution. ICI-L Director Mamta Mishra said the restoration of hundreds of years old Adi Guru Granth and Dasham Granth housed at Hemkund Sahib in Uttarakhand – among the holiest of Sikh books – were

Guru Gobind Singh’s turban found in a tangled heap (left) and after restoration (right)

some of the biggest projects ever undertaken by the institute. “These scriptures are accorded all the reverence that accrues to a living saint and are referred to as the ‘Baba’. The followers brought the holy books with due ceremony from Uttarakhand, carrying it on their heads when they stepped into our premises,” said Mishra. “The magnitude of the task can be gauged by the fact that the books had a thickness of 11 cm and 13 cm respectively, with a combined weight of several kilograms,” she said. The pages were handmade, turning brittle and acidic after weathering centuries of use. They were fastened with tape at many places. “The conservation staff at the ICI-L took six months to restore the huge tomes, beginning the task in December 2006. They worked under strict instructions, one of which was to be barefoot in the books’ presence and never placing them on the floor,” added Mishra. According to an INTACH survey, thousands of manuscripts written hundreds of years ago on palm leaves or paper and housed in temple collections, libraries and private collections are languishing due to neglect or indifferent handling. They cover a bewildering range of subjects from astronomy, astrology, medicine, music to literature, history and religion. These documents form an
Left top to bottom: The Adi Guru Granth in a damaged condition; after its restoration and restoration of the Dasham Granth in progress at the ICI-L.





Restoration work being carried out at the St. Aloysius Chapel, Mangalore (above); a damaged painting in the Chapel (top left) and its resorted version (left).

The damaged version of the Bhagwad Gita written on birch bark (right top) and the restored version (right).

invaluable part of our cultural and artistic heritage and have a host of enemies. Presence of fungus, termites and silverfish, lack of ventilation, moisture, dust and dirt, acidic pigments and ink, excess of light and high temperature being some of them. Another notable work

undertaken by the ICI-L is the conservation of the wall paintings in an old Shiv temple at Meer Ghat, Varanasi. Algal growth on the temple steeple was also cleaned. The institute undertook the restoration of the beautiful wall paintings done by master artists

Nandlal Bose, B.B. Mukherjee and Somnath Hore at Viswa Bharati, Santiniketan, West Bengal. The ICI-L restored 16 important manuscripts having 3,054 pages in Persian belonging to Meherji Rana Library, Navasari, Gujarat. It carried out the work at an on-site lab it had set up for the purpose. Besides, the institute also conducted a detailed survey of 22 museums in eight districts of the state. Other projects include conservation of a rare collection of textile samples called the Watson Collection at the BDL Museum in Mumbai, dating back to the 19th century. In Uttar Pradesh, the ICI-L undertook the restoration of seven large mural paintings on the walls of the Vidhan Bhavan in Lucknow.
◆ Specially commissioned feature from IANS. Photographs courtesy: ICI-L.


Aadhaar A platform for inclusive growth


t’s a project on a scale never attempted before anywhere in the world and with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh making inclusive growth the fulcrum of his government’s policies and activities, the need to uniquely identify India’s 1.2 billion residents using biometric parameters has gained urgency. It’s precisely this that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is engaged in as it collects demographic and biometric data to ensure that the benefits of the government’s welfare schemes reach those who need them the most. “We hope to issue some 600 million unique IDs in five years,” says Nandan Nilekani, who quit as Co-Chairman of global IT giant Infosys Ltd. that he had helped co-found, to head the UIDAI.

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh at the National Launch of Aadhaar in Nandurbar District, Maharashtra on September 29, 2010

“We are confident of universal coverage (of India’s 1.2 billion population) over time,” he adds, of the mega project with which a number of Indian service providers and some multinational companies like Microsoft have said they would like to be involved. The project, which will cover even children, is aimed at providing identity proof for a majority of residents who do not have any form of identity documents, facilitate better delivery of public services, and prevent leakages in different government schemes. “We definitely think it has great value, especially for the poor and the marginalised, because they are the ones that are suffering today due to the lack of acknowledged existence by the state,” Nilekani said in an interview. The system will ensure that the genuinely deserving alone can access various benefits. It will ensure that duplicates and ghosts in various systems are weeded away. Then, the government will also soon introduce legislation to guarantee food security for the poor. Again, the poor will have to be correctly identified, so that the non-poor do not get away by availing the benefits meant for the poor. Reforms in the education and health sectors may also see the government offering direct assistance to families living below the poverty line so that the poor can avail facilities offered by the private sector. Again, this will require proper identification.

Dr. Manmohan Singh presenting the Unique Identification Number (Aadhaar) in Nandurbar, Maharashtra.

The UIDAI will identify target groups for various flagship programmes of the United Progressive Alliance government, including the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan on universal elementary education, the National Rural Health Mission and the Bharat Nirman initiative aimed at building rural infrastructure to implement the ambitious UID project. “At this point, it will give a unique identity number to a large number of people who are poor and marginalised, who don’t have any other identity proof, who are, therefore, not able to access public services. That is a very important

requirement in inclusive growth,” Nilekani says. Nilekani is eminently placed to carry this out. In Imagining India, he writes ‘A big source of heartburn for those running banks, managing elections and regulating the stock market in India is that the country is filled with people who are virtually invisible... Today, Indians can have a multitude of numbers with which to identify ourselves, depending on when and where we interact with the State... This makes zeroing in on a definite identity for each citizen particularly difficult, since each government department works a different turf and with different groups of people.’ The lack of a unique number has given space to plenty of phantoms — in voter lists and in below the poverty line (BPL) schemes and holding bank accounts with multiple PANs (personal account numbers issued by the Income Tax Department)... Creating a national register of citizens, assigning them a unique ID and linking them across a set of national databases, like the PAN and passport, can have far-reaching effects in delivering public services better and targeting services more accurately... ‘Too often though, we see issuing smart cards as the main challenge of implementing such a system. But building these intelligent little strips is the easy part. It is in making the back-end infrastructure secure and scalable, providing a single record keeper for the whole country and integrating the agents who issue




Nandan Nilekani

Iris Camera performs recognition detection of a person’s identity by mathematical analysis

Iris Camera uses infrared light to illuminate the Iris without causing harm or discomfort.

A fingerprint scanner is an electronic device used to capture digital image of the fingerprint pattern.


he appointment of Nandan Nilekani as head of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is itself unique: This is the first time a private sector entrepreneur has been appointed to a government job with the rank of a Cabinet Minister. Born in Bangalore on June 2, 1955 Nilekani spent his early childhood in the city, where his father was the General Manager of Mysore and Minerva Mills. Nilekani studied at the Bishop Cotton Boys School, Bangalore, and then at St. Joseph’s at Dharwar, after which he joined the Indian Institute of Technology, Powai (Mumbai) in 1973 and graduated with a B.Tech. in Electrical Engineering. Graduating in 1978, he joined Mumbai-based Patni Computer Systems, where he was interviewed by the iconic N.R. Narayana Murthy. Three years later, Murthy left Patni following a disagreement and his entire division left with him and thus was born Infosys. Nilekani became the Chief Executive Officer of Infosys in March 2002, taking over from Murthy, and served as CEO and MD from March 2002 to April 2007, when he relinquished his position to Kris Gopalakrishnan, to become co-chairman. He left Infosys on July 9, 2009 to take up his present position. In 2009, Time magazine placed Nilekani in the Time 100 list of the ‘World’s Most Influential People’. A recipient of numerous awards, both domestic and international, Nilekani was conferred the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour, in 2006.

these numbers that it gets tough... An IT-enabled, accessible national ID system would be nothing less than revolutionary in how we distribute state benefits and welfare handouts,’ Nilekani writes. Nilekani’s book devotes one full chapter to the problem of unique identification and the transformational benefits that would accrue if such identification became possible. That a technocrat and manager par excellence as Nilekani has been thinking about the unique identification problem for a fairly long period of time as is reflected by his book makes him uniquely qualified to head the authority entrusted to complete the task. If Nilekani can deliver, the government’s welfare programmes will then acquire a new edge and many new schemes for the betterment of the poor can be introduced. How then, will the unique ID scheme work? “For the demographic aspect, we will be recording the name, date of birth, sex, address and name of father/mother/guardian. On the biometric side, we will

be taking prints of all 10 fingers, a photograph of the face and an image of the irises of every individual,” Nilekani explains. Since the exercise is aimed at giving inclusion to a large number of people without an ID of any sort and ensuring they get the benefits of various government schemes, the UIDAI proposes to collect the data through various agencies of the central and state governments and others who, in the normal course of their activities, interact with residents. Such entities will be the “Registrars” of the UIDAI and include the departments of Rural Development – for data on the beneficiaries of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Scheme – and Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs – for data on the recipients of the public distribution system. As an exercise to prepare a National Population Register as part of the ongoing census is also underway, the Registrar General of India will also be an important entity for collecting demographic and biometric data for the unique ID project.

The task is daunting, to say the least, not only because of the scale of the project and the resulting organisational and operational challenges, but also for a number of other issues, such as how to build safeguards to prevent misuse of the database and address privacy and civil liberties concerns, how to continually update it, and how to keep down the costs. The UIDAI has drafted a law governing its functioning and to ensure that the data collected remains confidential. The draft law has been placed on the UIDAI website for inviting public comments. Nilekani says, “In addition, we have suggested an umbrella law to cover the protection of all data collected in any manner.”
◆ The author is a journalist. Source: IANS




Aharya in classical dances


he aharya abhinaya, or costume and make-up of the Indian Classical dance performer has a crucial role in enabling the evoking of aesthetic joy or rasa in the viewer. Apart from the purely decorative intent, this aspect is layered with psychological, cultural, mystical and even metaphysical associations. In traditions like Kathakali and Kuchipudi Yakshagana, where performers play definite character roles in the dramatic theatre being presented, costuming is designed for the character. But the solo Indian dancer of each classical form has a getup uniform to all dancers of the discipline, and this is tailored by conventions of regional sartorial culture with the ornamentation contributed by jewellery made by specialised handicraft skills common to the area.

Odissi dancer Aruna Mohanty in all her finery showing a tender moment in the abhinaya (facing page) and in another posture – reliving the ecstasy of the beloved’s touch (below).





Bharatanatyam Whether in the temple or the court where the devadasi of olden days performed, or in the proscenium situation in which the contemporary dancer performs, the Bharatanatyam dancer by tradition has always been richly turned out. From a draped uncut saree to the present stitched costume, what the dancer wears has shown changes. Today the costume comprises a pyjama type stitched lower garment separating the legs with a pleated front piece which opens out like a fan every time the dancer assumes the demi plie position, (the main stance of the dance technique), with a matching blouse. Another top piece covering the bosom and a back piece going round the hips to meet at the waist in front complete the attire. Variations of this costume can be seen worn by individual dancers. What used to be real gold and precious stones in the jewellery, is now replaced by gold plated silver and semi precious stones – (normally referred to as temple jewellery). On the top back of the head is the beautiful ‘rakodi’ a round disc set with semi precious stones. Running along the central hair parting is a thin strip adorned with pearls with a pendant hanging at the end on the forehead. On either side of the hair parting are two ornaments called the Chandran (moon) and Suryan (sun). The long braid is beautifully decorated with flowers and with a kunjalam (tassels) at the end and
A Kathak dancer as she finishes a pirouette with the swirl of her top frock coat.




plentiful tied jasmines, a special feature of south India, the home of this dance tradition. Around the dancer’s waist is the gold belt or oddiyanam. Bangles and necklaces like the kasumalai and adigai (choker) and earrings with jumuki and maatal, rings, mukutti (nose ring) and the bulakku (a ring at the bottom of the nose not worn much today) make up the adornments for the dancer. The facial make-up pays special attention to the Pottu or vermilion mark on the forehead and eyes which are made to look brighter and larger for a lot of the very significant expressional dance is communicated through eye movements. Kuchipudi The Kuchipudi Yakshagana form has royal characters with crowns, along with earrings called makarakundalamulu, bhujakirti (shoulder epaulettes) and kantha haaram ( a heavy necklace). The female characters are draped in a heavy silk saree with gold borders. The narrator or Sutradhar, a very important role in the dance drama, is turned out in turban and a dhoti, with a rudraksha mala and tulsi (basil) beads round his neck. The ornaments for the solo female dancer are all made of soft and light varieties of wood. Earrings (kundalalu), kantha haram, vaddadanamu (waist band),kadiyam (anklets) and an attractive upper arm bracelet called vanki are commonly worn. The mukkera or nose ring is very important and it forms part of the dialogue and narration in Bhama Kalapam, the main operatic form

Bharatanatyam dancer Priya Venkataraman – looking into the mirror (facing page) and Marie Elangovan freezing in a pose after finishing a movement in a Bharatanatyam recital (above).

of Kuchipudi rendered by the solo dancer depicting one character in different situations, here that of Satyabhama the darling heroine of the Andhra Pradesh region. Satyabhama’s act of removal of her nose ring, after a long period of cogitation, since she regards it as the symbol of her married state as Krishna’s consort, becomes a metaphor in the Kalapam for her shedding her vanity and ego. But the single most significant aspect of the heroine’s turnout in Kuchipudi, is her specially ornamented braid. This heavily decorated plait (generally pinned on top of the dancer’s hair), has a special significance because Satyabhama is believed to have

been presented this braid by her husband Krishna, and thereby hangs a tale. This plait was first worn by Lord Vishnu, who manifested in the female form of Mohini, the enchantress, in order to bewitch the demons and in the process distribute all the nectar churned out of the ocean to the Gods or Devas, thereby granting them the boon of immortality. Reassuming his natural form, he handed the braid as Krishna (a manifestation of Vishnu) to Satyabhama. The braid has in it a circular plate representing the Sun, a corresponding plate on the other side representing the Moon, topped by a small parrot symbolizing Nature, a hood of a serpent in the lower part representing knowledge, signs representing the three worlds or tribhuvanas, the nine planets, the 27 asterisms of Indian astronomy and in short a reflection of the entire universe. Standing hidden from view behind a cloth curtain held on either side by two people, with only her braid hanging outside seen by the audience, the dancer as Satyabhama in Bhama Kalapan is supposed to be throwing a challenge to all present to compete with her /his (Kuchipudi initially was an all male form and women’s roles were done by the males) enactment of the role, if anyone dares. Whether anybody ever took up the challenge is not known. But the Kuchipudi dancer showing off her braid held in front walking round the stage in a special gait is a very attractive sight at the beginning and ending of many solo items. The stitched costume is



in different parts and is a variation in design from the Bharatanatyam costume. Mohiniattam Very different from all the colourful getup of the dancer in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, is the aesthetically simple, white and gold costume of the Mohiniattam dancer. The white and gold Mundu veshti or two piece saree is the traditional Kerala bride’s costume. The Mohiniattam dancer’s white saree with gold border called kasavu, has great under stated elegance. The costume which drapes beautifully is highly pleated and when the dancer is in a plie (half seated position with knees turned out) the pleats look very decorative. The one colour costume accentuates the circular movement (andolika) of the torso. The top of the ears, the nose, and the head, unlike dancers in other classical dance forms, are completely free of ornaments. This makes the high one sided hair top knot or bun encircled with a bunch of white Jasmine (usually paper flowers today) stand out. Gold, or when not affordable, silver, seeds, nuts and stalks of certain seeds like the elanji, tiger claws or hair and teeth of animals worn as amulets and ornaments are common to women folk in Kerala. These are regarded as highly auspicious. The jewellery has the serpent (naga) motif and is all in shiny gold with no other stones as contrast. The large earrings called toda, the traditional nagapadam (cobrahead) necklace, the elakkatali (shimmering thin leaf

pattern pieces of gold fastened on to a main band of gold round the neck), the oddiyanam round the waist, are all part of what the dancer wears. The dance of the enchantress or Mohini is often mistakenly regarded as seduction by the average, less informed viewer, whereas it aims at transcending physicality of the body to enchant and mesmerise, and the severe but aesthetic white and gold costume symbolizes the idea of purity. Odissi The Mahari or ancient temple dancer of Orissa draped in the nine yard saree had its length taken between the legs to tuck it at the back to get the trouser effect. This was called the Kaniakacha. But the cut and tailored costume is as much a part of the present day Odissi dancer, as it is of dancers in other classical forms. This is a more sophisticated version of what has been worn by the Gotipuas (a tradition unique to Orissa for the last few centuries wherein boy dancers below their teens, are trained to dance in the guise of women outside the Jagannath temple, during special Jatras and festive occasions). The texture of the costume is silk or cotton woven in Orissa which is famous for its tie and dye textiles, with the typical fish, rudraksha and temple spire designs. The male dancer generally has a bare top with a saree tied and draped like a dhoti. The hairdo is special. It is made by gathering the hair at the back and pulling it through a large ring around which it is

spread, giving the back of the head a sense of fullness. The unique carved shoal pith flowers make a very distinctive ornament over the bun. And topping this is a tiara, again of shoal pith symbolizing the Jagannath temple spire. The make-up is unique with the eyebrows shaped like Manmatha’s (the Indian God of love) bow. The eyes are accentuated with black kohl which extends far beyond the eyes in a fish shaped drawing. The bindi or red vermillion mark on the forehead is surrounded by white painted designs, supposed to represent the sun and the moon (a common representation in many dance traditions, but taking different forms). The painted black

curls running down the cheek by the side of the ear is another feature which has become part of the Odissi dancer’s make-up. Alta, the natural red dye outlining the feet, the palms and the finger tips is another decorative device regarded as auspicious and serves to draw attention to the hand gestures and foot movements. The temple dancers used gold jewellery with filigree work, that Cuttack and the region near about is famous for. But on the feet only silver is used for it is considered inauspicious to have the feet ornamented in gold. The three tiered silver belt (Bengopatta- Bengo means frog, and the name derives from the frog

head engraving on the belt) has been in use for some time. Today’s dancer uses only silver jewelleryearrings with large jhumkas, necklaces, filigreed bangles, rings on almost every finger, silver bands, a large silver pin on the bun at the back, and tika in the hair parting with attached silver chains running from the forehead to ears. Kathak The constantly pirouetting Kathak dancer is dressed in a ghagra (a long ankle length skirt), choli (short blouse showing a bare midriff) or tight fitting pants and a frock like top, whose flair while the dancer revolves, adds its own visual geometry. The veil

Dreaming sweet dreams – Mohiniattam dancer Jayaprabha Menon




(dupatta) worn over the ghagra is important and ghungat andaz or ways of tantalizingly covering part of the face, while stealing glances at the loved one, is a part of the dance which has come down from the Mughal times, when the woman in purdah became a part of the culture of the North of India. As far as the male solo dancer is concerned, the olden day dhoti-clad, bare-chested dancer has yielded place to the churidar and angarkha or kurta clad dancer. Even sixty years back, Kathaks sported very ornamental caps and a long achkan draped over the angarkha, which was often used in creating different disguises

and images in abhinaya or interpretative dance. As compared to dancers in other traditions, the Kathak dancer has less jewellery on her. The tika adorns her hair parting and forehead. The ears are adorned with large earrings. Around the neck is a choker and also a longer necklace. The nose ring is worn by very few dancers today. Around the waist is a Kamarbandh. Stone embedded rings and bangles are worn and alta which has taken the place of henna of the olden days applied on feet and hands. The ghungroos (ankle bells) are common to all Indian dancers, but in the case of the Kathak dancers the bells

are tied to a long string which is wound round the ankle several times and tied. Special rhythmic tones and combinations produced by the bells with foot contact through soles, heels, flat feet, toes, is a very important part of the abstract dance. Manipuri Very similar in thematic concerns to the rest of India, Manipuri from the north eastern region of Manipur is, however, very unique in technique and costuming. Male and female roles are distinctly marked and so is the costuming. In the traditional Rasleelas, however, the all female cast has Krishna’s

A supplicant Satyabhama at the feet of Krishna from the Kuchipudi play Parijatapaharanam (facing page) and the Sutradhar or the narrator with Krishna and his consort Satyabhama in the same play (below).





role performed by a female dancer. While the dancer as Radha is dressed in green colour, all the other Gopis are in red. Koktumbi is a conical bun made from one’s own hair or from carboard and fixed on to the hair with strands of silver (chubalei) hanging from its tip with sequins made into a diamond pattern called samjithet pinned on to the centre. There is a head band embroidered with silver sequins called koknam worn just above the forehead The gorgeously rich costume collectively called potloi comprises a lower skirt called kumin with a stiff inner lining of canvas and cane so as to make it stand out. The outer surface is a satiny material with elaborate mirror and gold work, sequins with the lower edge in an appliqué design based on a ‘pre-vaishnavite motif’. Over the skirt is a gossamer thin short skirt called poswak worn over the kumin. A cone shaped decorative piece crowns the head with a veil called maikhum draped over head, shoulders and face. Head decorations resembling sun, moon, butterflies, flowers – made of gold are also used pinned on to the veil. During performance of Nritya rasa head ornaments of brass and jari-damini at the parting of the hair, karma-phul covering the ears, kurak an ornament designed like a butterfly worn on either side of the parting and others ornaments like samjinam and samjithet clipped on to the bun are worn. Resham phurit the dark green blouse of velvet and white piece of cloth wound tightly over the shoulders above the breast called thabakyet are other features.

Lei-parenor garlands made of cloth are worn. A yellow coloured silk dhoti (phaijom), and a heavily adorned peacock feathered crown (mukut), hip belt (dhara), two side belts worn on the blouse called khwangnap and khwongoi are worn by the dancer as Krishna. Arm ornaments tanthak, tankha, rattan chud, anantha, sanakhuji, leikri are common to both Radha and Krishna. Krishna’s brass earrings are called chomoi. Ornate decorations round the hands and feet and necklaces, all with superb workmanship are generally hired by Manipuri dancers during performances. Special necklaces like marei, heibimaphal, sandrembi, heikrupareng and delicately designed earrings like kukhur and marei mawong are all part of the dancer’s getup. While performing non rasa items like Sankirtan and Nupi Pala, the dancer wears phanek (sarong of striped cotton wrapped under the shoulder or at the waist), a blouse and a transparent white scarf attached to the top of the head called inaphi. For the Sankirtan the male is in a dhoti draped in different ways and handsome turbans are an elaborate form of the costume. In the Pung Cholom when all the Pung players who are simultaneously drummers and dancers, perform, just shrugging off the turbans made to fall in a neat row in front of the dancers becomes an essential part of the dance geometry. Aside from the costume, even the cymbals held in the hand, decorated with coloured tassels on the sides, the parasols used in rasa and every

tiny object put on stage is crafted with a keen eye on aesthetics. Kathakali Kathakali an all male, highly dramatic art form, apart from eye catching jewellery, has the most elaborate tradition of makeup which transforms the dancer into a character, and serves to underline the high theatrical element of the form. The ornamental aspect alone has little significance without the makeup which provides the base on which the other
Manipuri Rasleela – Krishna in full regalia (right) and Krishna surrendering at the feet of Radha after declaring his love for her (below).

elements of decoration rest. For the main idea here is to totally camouflage the actor under all these accoutrements. The costume with the velvet blouse tied at the back and the voluminous skirt transform the dancer’s body into a larger than life circular, hemispherical shape, with the three hanging Uthareeyams (rows of closely bunched rope like cloth garlands, two white and one red, slung round the neck with two sides made to hang loose in front, the decorative edges frilled and flower-shaped with inserted mirrors and stones) exaggerates the slightest tilt of the body adding




to the super human image created in the dance. Long silver nails worn on the fingers of the left hand accentuate and exaggerate the hand gestures. The makeup which takes hours has a green painted face for the royal benevolent characters, with a white paper chutti as a special border which juts out, extending from the chin to temple on either side of the face, and eyes reddened with the juice of the dried ovules of the chunda plant. The Kati characters which are royal and heroic but with great aggressive bend, have the main paccha (green makeup) with chutti with a knife like pattern painted on either side of the nose suggesting a moustache and a knife like pattern on the forehead painted red. The chin under the chutti is painted red and a paper cap for the nose gives a bulbous look. In addition to the three uthareeyams a special twisted cloth (pati aranhan) is worn as a waist ornament. A fourth uthareeyam is worn attached to the upper arm ornament the paruttikamani. Above all are artificial fangs (damshtram) attached to the mouth, made to pop out at special moments during the dance to instill fear in the opponent. In the Kati characters there are degrees of aggression and cruelty and for this the slight nuances in makeup are prevalent. The dadhi (beard) characters are very important and the beard can be white, red or black depending on the character being portrayed. For instance Hanuman, a very important character has a white beard. The Kari character has black makeup with red patches

A Kathakali Paccha character in full regalia (facing page) and holding one end of the Uttareeyam (above).

near chin, nose etc. These are the demons with artificial canine teeth pushed in and out to express ferocity, and artificial protruding breasts to give a vulgar crude look. Large flat ear ornaments are worn. For minukku or soft characters like women and sages, the face is painted light- pinkish yellow with lips reddened and eyes and eyebrows elongated. Female characters wear ankle ornaments (tanda pattapu), and bells above it, and wear a cotton sari with a coloured border with a waist band and layers of wooden beads and disks covered by gold foil attached to a string. The long sleeved blouse is of brocade (Kuppayam.) Wrist bands and arm bracelets are worn. Since males impersonate female characters in traditional Kathakali, small breasts (different from what the demons have) give the male body shape. A bun on one side of the head with long braids, katila (wooden ear ornaments),

kurunira (forehead ornament designed in delicate silver peepal leaf shaped discs which keep fluttering as the dancer moves) with a long veil draped over the head complete the costuming. The head gear is immensely varied in Kathakali, and the gorgeous workmanship of the elaborate crowns worn on the head while the dancer moves with this weight baffles the viewer. The conical headgear sported by certain characters is called muti topped with decorative peacock feathers. Hanuman wears a white Zamorin hat. The dancer’s Ottanakku is the central ornamenting panel tied over the skirt. The colourful waist ornament is pattiaranham. Tolpottu (shoulder blades), arm ornament (paruttikamani) and toda hanging from the side are the ear ornaments with a second set of ear decoration called chevipu supported by the silver band, completes the top part. Artificial hair or chamaram is attached to the headgear. The chest plate is called Koralaram. Wooden wrist bands with inlays of imitation stones, silver and woollen pompoms (hasta katakam), bangles (vala), are also worn. Birds, snakes, other animals come under a special category called Thepu characters. This elaborate costuming – of which every little detail has evolved into a science of disguise – helps in creating the feel of an imaginary world of exaggeration. Aharya is an essential part of the distinctive identity of each dance tradition.
◆ The author is a dance critic and was awarded the Sangeet Natak Award this year.



Museum of hand printing
Text & Photographs: PRAMOD K.G


n enormous amount of interest has emerged for block printing, its history, continued vitality and use in contemporary textiles. At the same time the craft was at one time, at that crucial stage where it needed an impetus on several fronts – new design directions, improved technology and enhanced skills to deal with the onslaught of machine printed fabrics. One of the chief requirements was for the establishment of a repository of information on all facets of the craft. A centre that would disseminate information, exhibit and display the best of hand block printed textiles. An absence of any such facility to provide information, or show the best of hand block printing within Jaipur, Sanganer or Bagru, except in private collections, was a worrying fact. More worrying was the lack


of access that the craftsperson associated with this craft lacked to see and learn about the former highs of their tradition and the new possibilities for its contemporary application and innovation. The Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing (AMHP) was thus started as an attempt to focus attention on the existent tradition of hand block printing. It was set up to depict the traditional inherited wisdom of a living indigenous craft in all its facets and unbroken historic continuity, working towards the craft’s furtherance to contemporary aspirations, newer design initiatives, markets, technical improvements, and greater sustenance to its

practitioners, the craftspeople. Hand block printing in the 20th century was at its lowest ebb and in the 1960’s the craft showed very little innovation either in the production process or within the range of products. It required a strong commercial viability to make it attractive for a market increasingly driven and inundated by mill made fabrics and prints. From 1970 onwards export houses with access to newer markets led to the rapid development in the craft. The need of the hour was to make the craft viable by bringing in a new range of products and colour palettes, so extending the traditional to meet a contemporary aesthetic





lifestyle. One such company that pioneered the revival of the craft of hand block printing in Jaipur was Anokhi. Anokhi is today well known for creating beautiful hand block printed products by blending contemporary sensibilities with traditions of excellence. For more than 30 years its ideals have been those of conservation and development, through the input of design, marketing and project funding. The company is well

known as an alternative role model for good business practices, and the ongoing revival of traditional textile skills. Anokhi’s foresight in understanding the need to maintain extensive archives from the very beginning has made the setting up of a museum dedicated to this craft possible. Setting up the Anokhi Foundation was the first step in creating a platform to help protect, conserve and further the art, culture and craft traditions of

the region. Today the Foundation works in areas where sustainable intervention benefits local communities. Its purpose is the promotion of people’s awareness to the protection of their history, material culture and traditions of art and craft. The company has worked incessantly to try and preserve older methods and techniques whilst at the same time creating a market for these traditional textiles in myriad forms of contemporary usage. The opening exhibition at the AMHP presented the story of print innovations and revival in the hand block printing industry and traces the contemporary history of the craft from 1970. The textiles and garments displayed are donations from the Anokhi archives and are significant markers of this changing face of the craft. ‘Print Progress – Innovation & Revival, 1970-2005’ the opening exhibition at AMHP documents this period of regeneration in the hand block printing industry. The pressures of a burgeoning export market and the proliferation of chemical dyes and newer printing processes led to several innovations as well as a revival of traditional techniques. Design directions made the textiles more appealing to the varied worldwide clientele. This export boom which sustained the continuance of the craft in the region was fortuitous, for the craft has come ‘full circle’ today with a revival of interest and increased patronage for hand block printed textiles by




the local populace. The future of block printing as a craft builds on a long tradition of steady and progressive innovations. The hand block printers have always shown immense ingenuity in applying and experimenting with newer technology, adapting to changing market realities and fashion trends. It is imperative to nurture this flexibility and allow the craft to consolidate and maintain its traditional markets, yet constantly generate fresh directions and perspectives. The basis for progress must be intrinsic to the craft itself. Support and recognition to established printing communities and their unique design sensibilities is essential. The hand block printing or Chippa community in Jaipur, Sanganer and Bagru number around forty thousand as per records available from the last Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly) elections of 2003. Of these around thirty thousand people are still involved in the

printing industry directly or indirectly. Dyers (Rangrez) and block carvers would include an additional five thousand people. Increasing opportunities for work in the hand block printing industry, in the Jaipur region was fuelled by a buoyant export and retail market leading to a large influx of skilled migrant workers. These hereditary Muslim craftsmen primarily came from Farrukhabad or Gujarat, historically known as major centres for hand block printed fabrics. This consequent addition of Muslim workers to the earlier predominant Hindu printers has evenly balanced the printer population across both religions. The Chippa community of Jaipur and its neighbouring areas worship Sant Namdev, the nonsectarian Vaishnava poet and saint from Maharashtra. The community has a very active and supportive social structure with temples dedicated to Sant Namdev in both Sanganer and Bagru.

However, the last few years has seen an increasing number of unskilled workers entering the industry purely to seek new avenues of earning. Their lack of knowledge and experience in the craft, and the absence of any training institutes to educate them, has resulted in a generation of printers not necessarily connected to the craft. Consequently, the quality of printing and technical application of processes shows a marked deterioration. Traditionally, the block prints of Jaipur and its surrounding villages were known not just for their quality of printing but also for their use of natural dyes. The advent of commercial screen printing in the early 1960’s was quick to spread across the dyeing and printing regions of India. This brought with it new chemical colouration processes, which block printers were fast to adapt to their own printing styles. Despite lack of training and technical input, these printers developed the new

Artisans at work in the print making and block carving workshops

Tools used by the skilled block carvers for making blocks of various designs for printing fabrics

colours through a sequence of trial and error. A fantastic new palette of colours and endless market opportunities emerged from this with far reaching implications. Unfortunately, the printer’s lack of technical knowledge led to expensive and time consuming experiments. Those who incurred the cost were unwilling to share the results, creating barriers in the printing community. None could predict the future costs on the environment. The museum today redresses this issue largely by helping printers with answers and solutions to several of their queries on how to improve on the technical aspects of their printing skills and also makes them aware of newer innovations available. Present day awareness of the environmental damage done in the previous decades is leading to steps to reverse these harmful effects. Printers are being encouraged to revert to the natural dyeing processes of old. Current trends and popularity to extend the range of natural dye colours

Chinwara traditional cotton prints of Jaipur.

is contributing to this move. The museum is trying to provide a lead to these initiatives. The museum built for the study of hand block printing in India is today housed in the Chanwar Palkiwaloan ki Haveli, in the historic city of Amber adjoining Jaipur. The building was restored to its original glory using traditional building materials and skills and is a fine example of adaptive reuse of a traditional

structure. The museum was created within this space with an emphasis on ensuring that the structural integrity of the building was not compromised and no permanent changes are made to it. The museum’s display systems, simple textual information and visitor outreach activities have made it a popular tourist attraction in Jaipur. With scholars, researchers and students working on India’s textile heritage making a beeline for it. The creating of a museum dedicated to the craft of hand block printing has hugely enthused and energised the printing community. They take enormous pride today in the visitor’s appreciation of their craft and tradition and the museum has emerged as a community centre for both the practitioners of this craft and those who love hand block printed textiles.
◆ The author is Managing Director of Eka Cultural Resources and Research. He set up the Anokhi Museum of Hand Printing at Jaipur in 2005.




Sufi Kathak:
Dance of the soul!

leading exponent of Indian classical dance, Manjari is acclaimed globally for being the creator and only performing artist of Sufi Kathak. She has combined the mysticism of Sufi traditions with classical Indian dance to create this stunning new school of performance. Thus, setting a historical step in the field of performing arts through the creation of an entirely new art form that is wholly original and, yet, follows the precedents of 700 year-old mystical traditions. So much so that Sufi Kathak is now a living tradition that integrates the rich heritage of poetry, literature, mythology, philosophy with spiritual and emotional thoughts. Manjari avers, “My own quest for the inherent spirituality in dance led me to this style and form. Something… Some force… Someone that makes me dance.” In this eventful journey over the last decade, Manjari has performed Sufi Kathak in more than 200 concerts all over the world including Europe and the US, Australia, the Middle East, South East and Central Asia at locations as prestigious as Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi and the Sydney Opera House.





Conceptualized and crafted by Manjari, Sufi Kathak has taken 13 years of intense work in Sufi music and classical dance and is representative of the great Sufi traditions of the subcontinent. She traveled extensively to countries like Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan and worked with artists from Iran, Turkey and Morocco to study the music and dance forms related with Sufi thought. Manjari reflects, “In Sufi Kathak, I incorporate the mystique of Sufism… the moving meditation… thereby blending both the Hindu and Muslim divine traditions.” Bred of Manjari’s knowledge and experience, Sufi Kathak melts the philosophical depth of Sufi poetry with the narrative beauty and grace of classical Indian dance to evolve a unique dance form that uses classical dance to narrate and interpret Sufi poetry. She explains, “Sufi Kathak covers the delicate nuances of expressiveness… alluring grace in movements… unique abhinaya to the accompaniment of spiritual poetry and music such as the rhythm of Qawwalli…” Even as Manjari is renowned for her efforts in creating Sufi Kathak, it has been an arduous journey for her as she traversed a path hitherto untraveled in classical dance. But in doing so, she shaped the emergence of a new art form based on a thought that, till now, was not extensively used in dance! This led to the inception of Sufi Kathak to center solely on the concept of the formless Almighty. Manjari elaborates, “My dance form spans

from earthly romance of Hindi folk to the evolved Sufi imagery of love in Persian poetry, from a beloved in flesh and blood to the abstract presence of the Almighty, from a form to formlessness.” Sufi Kathak brings out the nuances of Sufi music and poetry through the language of body, which expresses the rapturous heights of spiritual ecstasy. “While in existing classical Indian dance forms, there is a focus on a beloved in flesh and blood, in physical form, it is the abstract presence of the Almighty that becomes the focal point for the Sufi Kathak dancer. The dance thus becomes a communication of the Self to the Almighty of the union that is desired between

creation and Creator, or soul with Spirit,” says Manjari. It is this, which makes Sufi Kathak the Dance of the Soul! Following the tenets of Sufi saints who varied the language of their poetry with the changing terrain of their travels, Sufi Kathak uses many dialects instead of one dominant language. “The poetry used in Sufi Kathak, has a history of always being sung, but never danced to. With dancing to this poetry in Sufi Kathak, comes a responsibility of the dancer to interpret and portray the poetry in its truest sense,” stresses Manjari. In her peerless journey, Manjari seamlessly blends her dance with diverse cross cultural music


in exciting collaborations. Her defining efforts have enriched the dance form with new dimensions such as a series of distinguishing music. By aligning Sufi Kathak with the Sufi music of Rajasthan, Kashmir, Qawwalli of Awadh, poetry of Bulleh Shah of Punjab, spiritual music of Iran and artists as different as Tim Ries (of ‘Rolling Stone’), Dhaffer Yousef and Ustad Shujaat Hussain Khan, Manjari has created for it a wider repertoire; one which was earlier never a part of any classical dance traditions. A notion she has learnt and taken forward given the strong knowledge of her roots, and constant efforts to bridge the gap between tradition and modernity. Trained in classical Kathak of the Lucknow gharana by Guru Pandit Arjun Mishra, Manjari embodies the Awadhi ethos of the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb comprising an intermingling of Hindu and Muslim cultures. She subsequently learnt the nuances of other classical Indian dance forms – the base being the Natya Shastra – a doctrine fundamental to them. An experience further honed with her work in Nrityagram in association with Guru Protima Bedi and Guru Kumudini Lakhia. Developing the detailing of expressions under Smt. Kalanidhi Narayan and Smt. Priyadarshini Govind, Manjari imbibed the art of abhinaya to be instructed in the use of mudras from the Bharatnatyam genre to enhance Sufi Kathak. Through more than a decade of Manjari’s dedicated endeavors, Sufi Kathak, now, has its own visual entity separate from other

Indian classical dance forms. “It is a misconception to say that Sufi Kathak is a form of Kathak, or is Kathak learned in Sufi tradition. It is a complete dance form with its own identity and thought process,” says Manjari. The poetry is separate, the use of language and movements, musical genre and even the costume, jewelry and aesthetics are all specific for a Sufi Kathak dancer. For instance, the representative color for the Sufi Kathak costume is absolute black with silver or gold edgings, depending on the poetry of the mystical traditions to be followed in the dance. Manjari elaborates, “The costume color is decided upon through references of states of mind, uses of metaphor and other symbolism in the poetry. Although an array of colors such as mustard yellow, green and red may be used – each particular to its relevance, prime significance is given to white and black because of their purity and completeness.”

But for Manjari, her dream is not just to nurture the dance form she has created but also to take it forward, with an added deeper involvement with the arts. She founded the Sufi Kathak Foundation, a non-profit registered society, to create awareness for Sufi Kathak and other related ancient performing art traditions. The Sufi Kathak Foundation aims to promote spiritual dance and music and world cultural unity, also initiating children and orienting the youth to become self-employed through arts – dance and music, and evolve a humanist outlook. The society’s mission is also to provide financial, technical and medical assistance to retired artists as well as needy students who are committed towards Sufi music and dance. Sufi Kathak by Manjari Chaturvedi transcends all religions to become a link bridging God and the devotees; taking one far away from materialism. Tantamount with serenity, piety and divine power, it is attracting the new generation at the international level, dissolving barriers as an example of unity in diversity. Truly a symbol of amity in times as trying as ours, Sufi Kathak breaks manmade boundaries of caste, creed, religion and nations and connects hearts through poetry, music and dance – thus creating a universal communication… a prayer!
◆ The author is a reputed writer.



Art fest at the Commonwealth Games 2010


t was one thought that led to another, according to art historian Rupika Chawla, that led to the idea of celebrating the Commonwealth Games Meet with a showing of Indian contemporary art. To bring forth this idea, from concept to fruition, meant a mammoth task of selecting the right works, placing them at points of interest throughout the city and then, making sure that the precious works were accessible to the common citizens as well as the numerous visitors to the Meet. The idea was a seller from

the start. Eleven of the city’s galleries offered their services and the Lalit Kala Akademi, the official body of the government, under its Chairman, became the prime movers in this act. But all this enthusiasm could easily have been swamped, if this collective art energy were not streamlined. This is when Rupika Chawla came into the picture as curator of an Art Fest to coincide with the Commonwealth Games. ‘If the Games are to be a celebration in a wider sense, then viewing art

gives a very nice feeling in the midst of this celebration. Hence the decision was to take this kind of art to everyone instead of just to the connoisseurs who might be coming to the Games during this period.’ Rupika set out a plan of action that followed a meticulous stepby-step approach. ‘The original works were to be procured from about a dozen galleries of the city. These are the galleries that the city viewers of art have known for a long time so that while selecting

art from them it was not a case of strangers moving in unknown space…The choice of galleries was made by charting out a criteria of selection. ‘The galleries had to be in the business for over ten years and should have held major exhibitions during that period. They should also have printed catalogues and publications to go with their shows and been in the art business on thoroughly professional lines.’ But then, as the number of galleries meeting this criteria began to pile up on

A spectacular view of Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium during the opening ceremony of Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010

The paintings in this article depict comtemporary Indian art to celebrate the Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010





Rupika’s desk, a tough decision or two had to made. ‘Like in any venture,’ she admits, ‘there has to be exclusion. One has to limit oneself and not take on more than what one can handle. Besides saying that, there were also limitations of time and energy, so a deserving few might have been overlooked, even if befitting. But in life there’s a selection in everything,’ she admits candidly. ‘The only concession that we made in the expansion of our exhibition partners was to include a private museum, the Kiran Nadar

Museum of Art. This was included to get a perspective of a privately run museum with a representative collection.’ With galleries in place, one needed to map out the kind of art that would be suitable for the display. The artists were given themes related to the event for a start. They could depict the city of Delhi in their art, or else choose an aspect of sport from their own perspective and depict it. ‘The galleries were free to give us works in their stock on the theme of sports or related to the

cityscape. They were also given the option to make fresh art based on the above themes.’ At the outset, displaying original works of art at public places for the convenience of all viewers was crucial. ‘We, then decided to make blow-ups of some of the major paintings for the show. These blow-ups are now put up as hoardings and thereafter they will be up for sale. The purpose of the sales is to create a fund for artists in need. The Delhi artists will have come to benefit collectively through

their participation and the Culture Ministry and Lalit Kala Akademi have backed the proposal.’ Again, the right spot to display these blow-ups came to occupy the curator in her. It led her to the Ministry of Culture for assistance. ‘We were very fortunate that the project was approved by the Culture Ministry. It simplified matters even further. The officials made a suggestion: “Why don’t you use Archeological Survey of India (ASI) sites to put up the blow-ups?” and we fell for the idea.’





Getting down to the details, Rupika soon worked out the ideal sizes for the blow-ups. ‘We selected three alternatives: 10x8 feet, 8x6 feet, and 5x4 feet. The choice of sites for display were dictated by several factors. It should be places where the expected footfalls were to be the greatest. The sites had to be protected and manned monuments under the ASI. They had to be on the road, for a too recessed site would lose the point. We chose the Subz Burj area in Nizamuddin because it is right on the road and not recessed like say, Humayun’s Tomb. The selection of the area outside Qutb Minar was because we rightly guessed that this would be the most visited of monuments during the Commonwealth Games. The entrance to the Red Fort, similarly, proved to be ideal because there are grills demarcating the landmark site and the hoardings could be conveniently hung up at eye level. As these hoardings are back lit, the paintings give off a glow. That’s also why Khan-i-Khanan’s Tomb was included.’ Choosing the kind of painting that would merit enlargement into a hoarding was also a concern Rupika had pre-empted. ‘The works of master painters as well as new ones were chosen to give a proper mix of works. The works chosen could not be very complex in their art inputs. The images needed to have a consistency to them. They needed to have a graphic quality. Since this is a celebration event, the theme of the paintings too, had to be




chosen carefully. Of course senior artists’ works and many of their earlier works had to be taken. But there are fresh works in plenty and artists have enthusiastically brought out art specially for the event. With the works on display, one is tempted to ask Rupika to step into the shoes of the visitor and admit her reactions. ‘Of course some of the works were brilliant to put up in the LKA Gallery but not convert into hoardings. Other works were a pleasure to see during the time of the Games. They were linked with sports …boxing, gymnastics, jumping, going over double bars, running, taking off,

several on football and all of them giving off great energy.’ The series of works that dealt with the city’s architecture were another fascination altogether. ‘The architecture of the city, ranging from the high-rise style to the kind around Red Fort, had its attractions. Others were dealing with identifiable landmarks such as Purana Qila. And then there were some delicious ones, such

as the focus of glasses filled with mausambi (fresh lime), and in the background the hazy outline of the Red Fort; very evocative. Elsewhere, the works portrayed the angst of tree felling, and yet the red colour in it did not look negative. The peacock has been used as a recurring theme and the runner group going along Jantar Mantar is another eye catching one. The giant Hanuman statue

and the mini scooter and the metro in focus, is another image that sticks.’ Having put to rest all the nitty gritty of the art fest, Rupika makes light of the hard work and the grind behind the success of the event. ‘It was just an extension of my work,’ says this art historian and curator. ‘I am familiar with the artists’ thinking and involvement. After all, they are a part of my world. In doing this fest I was not taking on something I did not know. This is my experience; the world I interact with. I have known the artists, the galleries and the history of the place,’ is her confident summation.
◆ The author is a noted writer on art.

Photographs: Deepak Mudgal/Janyta.


Fashion industry goes from niche to global


t all started on the back of a paper napkin in a Paris cafe, when India’s top-notch designers Suneet Varma, J.J. Valaya, Rohit Bal and Ravi Bajaj decided to integrate the Indian fashion industry by forming a body they named the Fashion Design Council of India (FDCI), and which is now the apex body that represents the interests of India’s growing fashion industry which is likely to touch 7500 million rupees by 2012 from the current level of 5250 million rupees (growth rate of 35% p.a.) because of heavy investment in the industry, consumer focus towards designer wear and its ready availability in the shopping malls.
Designer Ritu Beri with models during her show at the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week-2010 in New Delhi (below) and models showcasing for Monisha Jaisingh of HDIL (facing page).





Ever since the formation of FDCI in 1998, the Indian fashion scene has grown by leaps and bounds and has acted as a bridge between the designers and the markets. Today, innovative and creative works from our designers have not only become popular in India, but some of them are doing wonders in the international market as well. Be it Suneet Varma’s tie-up with international luxury accessory brand Judith Leiber, or Manish Arora, the first Indian designer to show at the Paris Fashion Week, the hub of fashion, this proves that Indian designers are definitely going places, showcasing around the globe and wooing people with their textiles and creative designs. But, if one presses the rewind button, one would realise how “fashion designing” as a term has evolved from being just a mere “tailoring” and “useless” job. “I still remember when I had got through a fashion school in London, I needed money to support my education, so while I applied for a loan, a banker asked me with a great sense of amusement: ‘Why are you wasting precious money on this useless degree and that too when you will end up being only a tailor,” recollects Suneet Varma who graduated from the London College of Fashion way back in 1986. There were regular “taunts” one had to hear if one aimed to be part of this developing industry.

Designer Rohit Bal with Bollywood actor John Abraham during his show at the Ven Heusen India Mens Week in New Delhi.




The perseverance led to an era of designers like Ritu Kumar, Tarun Tahiliani, J.J. Valaya, Suneet Varma, Ritu Beri, Ravi Bajaj, Abraham and Thakore, Rohit Bal, among others, who, through their efforts and designs have come a long way in putting Indian fashion industry on the global map. In the early days, due to the lack of proper channels and distribution networks, the designers had to depend on private clients just to make ends meet. “I still remember, how I used to make 2-3 garments, sell them to a

private clientele and head towards Chandni Chowk (wholesale market in Delhi’s old quarters) in a rickshaw to buy material for my next garment. So the business has picked up slowly but steadily,” said Suneet. Thus, these designers were feeling the pinch of doing their own stuff which was not at all contributing to the industry’s growth. One fine day, in Paris, they decided to get organised and FDCI was formed with 10 founding members, Suneet being one of them, with the aim of

working together as a group and overcoming fragmentation. The work of FDCI, which has as many as 300 designers as its members, is more than just organising fashion weeks to bring business to the designer, as FDCI President, Sunil Sethi puts it, the body is meant for servicing the fashion industry and designers. “Over the years we have begun to move from the glamorous side to the business side of fashion. So while established designers are important entities, we do try to give opportunities to young and

budding designers by sending them to international fashion weeks,” Sethi pointed out. Sethi, who used to be a regular buyer at the fashion weeks has helmed FDCI for the past twoand-a-half years, strategized the business of fashion by demarcating fashion weeks and making it more organised for buyers and consumers. Previously there used to be just two editions of the business-tobusiness event – Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW) – in New Delhi and two editions of

Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai – and the designers used to showcase the best they had to offer. But, under Sethi’s aegis, the industry has now got three more fashion weeks in its kitty, starting from HDIL India Couture Week in Mumbai, the Pearls Infrastructure Delhi Couture Week and the Van Heusen Men’s Fashion Week, the last two in New Delhi. “When I took over, these different streams of fashion shows were already planned but they never saw the light of the day. So,

Tarun Tahiliani’s Bridal Exposition in New Delhi

Showcasing J J Valaya’s creations at the Delhi Couture Week 2010





Manish Malhotra’s creations at the HDIL fashion show (facing page) and models showcasing Suneet Varma’s designs at the Delhi Couture Week 2010

I decided to take it forward,” said Sethi. “These different fashion weeks have given the business of fashion a defined structure. Earlier, not just designers, but consumers and buyers too were confused because every designer was showcasing everything under WIFW. There was a bit of pret, a bit of diffusion, a bit of couture and a bit of men’s wear. “This demarcation has helped the business by making it more organised and now consumers and buyers know where to head depending on the kind of garments he or she is interested in,” Sethi pointed out.

Designer Leena Singh of designer duo Ashima-Leena, who is also a FDCI board member, says all the designers wanted was a platform and the council has acted as a bridge for all of them. “When we started, the fashion industry was at a nascent stage and there were just 7-8 designers, so it was manageable. But with the years, competition has grown and hence, we needed a body like FDCI to regulate the industry and help the younger lot,” Leena maintained. There is also a perception in some quarters that the fashion industry comprises mainly of “pseudo intellectuals” and that

it is very celebrity driven, FDCI is doing its bit to overcome this image. “For the survival of certain properties like the couture weeks, one has to have the glamour quotient, but apart from that our prime effort is to generate more business for designers and promote them,” explained Sethi. “I want to change the perception of people towards this industry who feel it’s very flippant and not a respectable industry. A lot of people feel fashion designers are known only for parties and page 3 events but what they don’t know is how much of hard work they put in their collection.



Malini Ramani show at the grand finale of Lakme Fashion Week (above) and a model walks the runway in an Ritu Kumar design (facing page)

“So, in the end if they work hard, they also play hard. One should study the life of a fashion student till he becomes a young designer – it’s really a lot of blood and sweat,” Sethi added. Sethi also feels FDCI has to move beyond organising fashion weeks and for this, they want more support from the government. Top on the agenda that Sethi has, in his to-do list, is to change the perception of people towards buying designer clothes, as most people discard fashion labels by saying they are “unaffordable” and only meant for the elite. “Yes, high-end couture does come for a heavy price, but fashion designers also sell street fashion which comes for just a few

thousand bucks higher than what you get on a regular store. So, it is affordable,” said Sethi. Today, studying fashion is no more considered “taboo” and there are government-promoted schools like the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and in the private sector, schools like the Pearl Academy of Fashion (PAF). The other thing that has happened in the last two years is the mushrooming of state-specific fashion shows to enable designers to reach out to more people, but Sethi feels otherwise. “Initially I thought it was a good thing but later I realised I had misjudged the whole situation. I didn’t realise that standards would go down so much that people who

◆ Specially commissioned feature from IANS. Photographs: IANS

are organising them, would be doing so for their own commercial benefit and to get attention,” said Sethi. “If through these shows, they are able to generate business for the designers, then it is good, but unfortunately this is not happening. So it is doing no good to the industry,” he added. Overall, it can be said that thanks largely to the FDCI, India’s fashion industry is on a firm footing and set for growth.


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