A crowd of about 500 people watched with rapt attention a performance by a group of Indian school girls of the patriotic Indian song, “Sare Jahan Se Acha.”
Originally an Urdu poem written in 1904, Mahatma Gandhi is said to have recited the same song while he was imprisoned in the 1930s. The acclaimed musician Ravi Shankar set the poem to music in the 1950s.
But Koreans and Indians showcased the South Asian nation’s cultural traditions of music, dance and fashion during an all-day family-oriented celebration of the 67th anniversary of India’s Independence Day at an auditorium above the Indian Cultural Centre on Thursday.
|A Korean student from the Indian Cultural Centre performs a traditional Indian dance for a crowd of hundreds during the “Joint India Korea Independence Day Celebrations” at an auditorium above the center in the diplomatic neighborhood of Hannam-dong in Seoul on Thursday|
|Indian Ambassador to South Korea Vishnu Prakash|
The celebrations were attended by hundreds of families and their children snacking on hot chai and samosas and other South Asian delicacies. Many Indians and Koreans alike sported traditional Indian costumes, and some participated in a contest for “the best dressed.”
One Western and three Korean women performed such traditional dances as the kathak and odissi, which they learned in a class offered at the cultural center.
The Indian Embassy and the Indian Cultural Centre organized a joint celebration with the government and an all day “Indian Bazaar” in the parking lot in front of the cultural center to celebrate the occasion.
India’s Independence Day and South Korea’s Liberation Day, or “Gwangbokjeol” in Korean ― both of which take place on Aug. 15 ― celebrate independence from colonial rule.
India and South Korea also celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties this year.
The Indian chancery opened at its current location in the diplomatic district of Hannam-dong in the 1980s, but in recent years the country’s diplomatic mission here expanded to include facilities at three additional locations in the neighborhood.
The Indian Visa Application Centre and Indian Cultural Centre, where the festivities took place, opened in 2011 and the country’s newly minted defense office opened this year.
India’s top diplomatic representative here also highlighted democracy in a welcome speech he delivered on behalf of Pranab Mukherjee, the president of India.
“Our founding fathers created the first oasis in the desert of a colonized world nourished by democracy. Democracy is much more than the right to vote every five years. Its essence is the aspiration of the masses,” said Indian Ambassador to South Korea Vishnu Prakash on behalf of the president of India.
Prakash underscored his country’s goal of investing in education to regain the position he said India had for almost 2,000 years from the sixth-century B.C. when India “was a magnet for the finest minds and scholars in the world.”
“A university is the banyan tree whose roots lie in basic education, in a vast network of schools that build the intellectual prowess of our communities,” he said.
Central to the all-day celebration was the Indian bazaar of about a dozen booths, including Indian community organizations, tour operators and handicraft sellers.
In addition to handicrafts, traditional decorative “henna” was on offer, as well as Indian dolls and dresses. The bazaar also featured Indian books translated into Korean, and some booths sold a selection of Indian cuisine.
About 7,000 Indian Nationals live and work in South Korea, many in Seoul and many with finance and high-tech firms.
The embassy held a raffle that gave away three prizes: A complimentary meal for two at Cilantro restaurant in the Seoul Millennium Hilton Hotel; a two-night stay for two at the hotel; and a round-trip flight for two to any place in India. An Indian woman with the surname Nidhi won the top prize, the trip for two to India.
By Philip Iglauer (firstname.lastname@example.org