Culture plays a pivotal role in the development of a country and maintaining good relations with diverse cultures is a key for attaining significant changes that are beneficial for any nation. India is not unfamiliar with the concept of forming cultural relations with its neighboring nations. India has a vast geographical area, and it shares boundaries with several nations in South Asia. India is a peace-loving nation and believes in having genial relations with others as well.
A Historical Overview:
India and Bangladesh share historical, cultural, linguistic, and other associations. They also share border in Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya and West Bengal. Earlier, Bangladesh was a part of India. However, post-independence, followed by the India-Pakistan partition in 1947, it became a part of the newly formed nation Pakistan and was referred to as East Pakistan. The Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 resulted in the formation of sovereign and independent Bangladesh. India assisted Bangladesh in their fight for independence from Pakistan and was the first nation along with Bhutan to acknowledge Bangladesh as an independent nation. The trust between the two countries was evident and they signed a Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace treaty in 1971.
Cultural Milieu of Bangladesh:
The culture of Bangladesh has evolved over the centuries and has formed a unique identity. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity have influenced and shaped the culture of Bangladesh. Although most of Bangladesh’s population is 98% Bengali with Muslims about 90%, it is a multi-cultural land with immense diversity that comprises 45 small ethnic groups who possess different cultures like their own language, food habit, dress, music etc. Bangladesh is a monolingual nation with Bengali or Bangla as its official language and 98% of the total population speaks this. However, as many as 39 languages are spoken within the country like Bishnupriya Manipuri, Chakma, Tangchangya, Hajong and many more.The diversification in the culture of Bangladesh is also manifested in varied forms like art, literature, festivals, religious practices, food, and others.
There are various art forms, from literature to drama, that are practised widely throughout the nation. Bengalis have a rich literary heritage. During medieval times, under the rule of Mughals, Bengali literature developed considerably. Some of the famous poets of the period are Chandi Das, Daulat Kazi and Alaol. Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Laureate, is a vital part of Bengali culture. Kazi Nazrul Islam, Michael Madhusudan Datta. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhaya, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhaya, Mir Mosharraf Hossain and Kazi Ahdul Wadud are the pioneers of modern Bengali Literature.
Bengali music ranges from classical to modern and folklores. Classical music, both vocal and instrumental, are rooted in the remote parts of the sub-continent. Ustad Alauddin Khan and Ustad Ayet Ali Khan are two names in classical instrumental music known internationally. Lalan Shah, Hasan Raja, Romesh Shill are some of the lyricists of folk songs. Bangla music arena is enriched with Jari, Shari, Bhatiali, Murshidi and other types of folk songs. Rabindra Sangeet and Nazrul Sangeet are some of Bengalis’ precious heritage. Other than this, contemporary and western music, including pop songs and bands, are also practised mainly in the capital city Dhaka. In addition to this, there are several musical instruments like Banshi (bamboo flute), Dhole (wooden drums), Ektara (a single-stringed instrument), Dotara (a four-stringed instrument), Mandira (a pair of metal bawls used as rhythm instrument), Khanjani, Sharinda and others. Today, western instruments such as Guitar, Drums, Saxophone, Synthesizer, etc., are being used alongside country and folk instruments. The popular theatre groups are Dhaka Theatre, Nagarik Nattya Sampraday that perform drama shows. Baily Road in Dhaka is known as ‘Natak Para’, where drama shows are regularly held. Public Library Auditorium and Museum Auditorium are famous for holding cultural performances.
The nation is a ‘melting pot’ for all the different religions and marks the celebration of all kinds of festivals from Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha to Durga Pooja, Buddha Purnima and Christmas called as Bôŗodin. Pohela Baishakh or Bengali New Year, the beginning of the Bengali calendar and Bijoy Dibos are two important festivals here that are celebrated by every Bangladeshi citizen irrespective of their religion or ethnicity. Bangladesh is also home to notable painters like Abdur Razzak, Qayyum Chowdhury, Zainul Abedin, Jogen Choudhury, etc.
Many governments and non-government organizations in Bangladesh are committed to encouraging Bangladeshi art and culture like Bangla Academy, Nazrul Institute, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Fine arts Institute, Chhayanat and many others.
Resemblance with Indian Culture:
Bangladesh was once an integral part of India. However, the partition of India led to the separation of Bangladesh from India. Despite the judicial separation, India, particularly West Bengal and Bangladesh, share similar culture in art, literature, food, and many festivals. There is also linguistic affiliation with Bangla being the principal language of both regions. People of both areas enjoy music, cinema, drama, and other art forms. Literary works of Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and other poets and novelists are essential and hold unique value for both India and Bangladesh. Folk songs like Jhumur, Shyama Sangeet, Ghazals are spread across both sides of the border. In addition to this, both the regions celebrate some common festivals like Eid, Durga Pooja, Christmas and Vijay Diwas to commemorate India’s victory over Pakistan during the Bangladesh Civil War in 1971 and the liberation of Bangladesh. Some traditionally common foods consumed on both sides are rice, rasugulla, and biriyani.
Bangladesh and India have a multitude of robust, traditional, ethnic, and cultural ties. The year 2021 marks the celebration of the 50th anniversary of friendship between the two since 1971. Despite facing some downs in the relationship, both countries have sustained 50 years of camaraderie and are putting joint efforts to foster relations with each other. The Cultural Agreement between India and Bangladesh recognizes several areas of cooperation through Cultural Exchange Programs. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad founded the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in 1950. The organization aims to formulate programs and policies to promote and foster India’s cultural relations with other nations. Under the ICCR, Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC) plays a crucial role in commemorating the two countries’ shared cultural heritage. Yoga, Kathak, Manipuri dance, Hindi language, Hindustani classical music, and cultural performances by renowned Indian and Bangladeshi performers all contribute to the promotion of people-to-people relations. Recently, ICCR at Dhaka, Bangladesh, conducted online workshops on Indian Classical Vocal Music and Nazrul Geeti for Bangladeshi students. The workshop was commenced on 30th April 2021 and lasted till 21st May 2021. Renowned Gurus from Dhaka who studied in India under the scholarship provided by ICCR taught Indian art forms. Furthermore, the High Commission of India in Dhaka, Bangladesh, has published a Bengali literary monthly magazine — ‘Bharat Bichitra’ for the last 41 years. It contains various novels, short stories, poems, essays, art and culture, travelogues, memoirs, photo features. It also has translations of literary works in several Indian languages and juvenile literature by eminent and promising writers from both nations. The magazine acts as a bridge between India and Bangladesh’s literature and culture. Every year, India provides 200 scholarships to Bangladeshi students in various fields to pursue their graduation, post-graduation and PhD in the institutes of India like IITs, NIITs. Additionally, to study Ayurveda, Unani, and Homeopathy, the Indian Government grants scholarships to exemplary Bangladeshi students under AYUSH Scholarship Scheme.
Nepal: A brief overview
The culture of Nepal is influenced by its neighboring nations, mainly India and Tibet. Nepal shares border with five states of India- Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim. The cultures and traditions practised in different parts of Nepal are multifarious. The beautiful blend of this distinctiveness and diversity forms the shared national identity. On 18th May 2006, the parliament of Nepal declared it a secular country. It transitioned from monarchy to a federal democratic-republic nation on 29th May 2008.
Cultural Milieu of Nepal:
The religions practised majorly here are Hinduism (about 80%) and Buddhism. Other religions like Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Sikhism, and Bon also co-exist in harmony with Hinduism and Buddhism. A potpourri of various distinct cultures is manifested in the celebration of numerous festivals like Phagu Purnima (Holi), Janai Purnima (Raksha Bandhan), Mahashivratri, Krishna Janmashtami, Gaijatra, which is a procession of decorated cows to commemorate the dead and also involves mask dance, mockery, and traditional dance — Ghinta Ghisi, Buddha Jayanti, Indrajatra (a street festival involving mask dance), Eid-Al-Fitr, Dasain or Durga Puja, Christmas.
Nepali (also known as Gurkha, Gorkhali, Gurkhali, or Khaskura) is the language of around 78% of the total population of Nepal. It is the official language of Nepal as well. Nepali is related to northwestern Indian languages, particularly to Sindhi, Lahnda, and Punjabi. Other languages are also spoken in Nepal like Maithali, Bajjika, Bhojpuri, Tharu, along with multiple regional languages.
Nepalese culture can be felt through its art, crafts, music, dance, literature, folklore, etc. The handicrafts include a wide variety of metalware, pottery, textiles, wood and stone crafts, paper products, goods made out of beads, bones, horns, leather, bamboo, lokta paper and silver ornaments, etc. The monasteries in Nepal are adorned with exquisite Thangka or Paubha paintings depicting Hindu and Buddhist deities. Nepalese architecture has two prominent features — the tapering multi-storeyed pagoda style and the dome-shaped stupa style. The Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu is one of the oldest examples of pagoda style architectures in the world. Boudhanath and Swayambhunath stupas are renowned stupa-styled structures. The Newa style that originated from the Newaris and the Mughal style can also be observed.
Nepalese share a close affinity with music, dances, and folklores. The different ethnic groups have their own dance and music, which are performed on several occasions. Popular folk dances include Deuda Naach, Maruni Nritya, Chandi Naach, Dandi Naach and so on. There are a variety of genres of music that people play in Nepal. Since there are more than 50 ethnic groups, the music played and listened to here is remarkably diverse. Genres like Tamang Selo, Chyabrung, Dohori, Adhunik Geet, Bhajan, Filmi music, Ghazal, Classical music, songs and Ratna music are extensively played and popular.
Nepalese literature is not as widespread as other forms of culture. Most of the writings are in Nepali, Newari, and Maithili. Earlier literature was chiefly influenced by religion. Bhanu Bhakta Acharya was the pioneer poet who wrote Ramayana (based on the Hindu epic The Ramayana). Currently, literary writings are registered under the umbrella of globalization. There is growth in literary works recently. Young writers are emerging, fictions and non-fictions are gaining popularity in the local areas. However, the nation still faces a dearth of writers and publishing houses. Literature is yet to be developed more in Nepal.
Resemblance with Indian Culture:
Nepal is similar to India in several ways. They share common grounds in terms of religion, food, language, and festivals. India and Nepal are both secular countries though the majority of the population is Hindus in both nations. They have the same religious history. According to the Hindu epic, the Ramayana Janakpur, a city in Nepal, is believed to be the birthplace of Sita.
Along with this, Gautam Buddha’s birthplace is located at Lumbini in Nepal. Bodhgaya in Bihar, India, is believed to be the place where he attained enlightenment. The people of these multi-cultural nations also celebrate festivals like Makar Sankranti, Holi, Raksha Bandhan, Janmashtami, Diwali, Dussehra, Eid, Christmas.
Hindi and Nepali languages both come from the Indo-Aryan language written in Devanagari script. There are various traditional food items that citizens from both regions eat regularly like Dal, Chawal, Sabji, or Tarkari, Roti, Curd, Lassi. Other than this, street foods like momos, samosa, chicken tikka, etc., are also preferable choices. Nepal and India are also connected by music and cinema. Nepali music and cinema are pretty popular in India, especially in Delhi and other northeastern parts of India. On the other hand, people in Nepal thoroughly enjoy Indian cinema and music.
It would not be much wrong to refer to Nepal as the younger sister of India. The numerous similarities between the two sovereign nations cannot be overlooked. The relationship between the two has continued since time immemorial. With evolution, Nepal formed a unique culture with distinctive local customs and traditions; however, it maintains a close affinity with India. India and Nepal work in collaboration and have formed organizations and programs to reinforce these ties.
Religion forms one of the significant factors for developing cultural relations between India and Nepal. There are several pilgrimage sites in both nations where people pay a visit. Pashupatinath in Kathmandu, Lumbini (the birthplace of Buddha) in Rupandehi district, Ram-Janaki temple in Janakpur (the birthplace of Janak and Sita) are some holy places in Nepal where people from India go to worship and similarly Haridwar, Rishikesh, Varanasi, Gaya, Vaishnodevi are regarded as sacred sites by Nepalese.
Cultural programs, symposia, and events produced in conjunction with different local organizations in Nepal and conferences and seminars in Hindi are examples of Government of India activities to develop people-to-people relations in the domains of art & culture, academia, and media. Nepalese journalists/editors can visit India for familiarization visits and short-term training in India for Nepalese editors/journalists/experts/officials in the fields of print and electronic media and archaeology. Several India-Nepal Friendship Organizations are also supported to promote Indian culture and bilateral connections between the two countries. The following Memorandums of Understanding/Agreements are signed between — Sahitya Kala Akademi (India) and Nepal Academy; Doordarshan and Nepal T.V.; Press Councils of India and Nepal; Lalit Kala Akademi (India) and Nepal Academy of Fine Arts, Government of India and Government of Nepal for youth collaboration, and Sangeet Natak Akademi (India) and Nepal Academy of Music and Drama and for the twinning of sister cities Kathmandu-Varanasi, Lumbini-Bodhgaya, and Janakpur-Ayodhya between the Government of India and the Government of Nepal.
Moreover, in August 2007, the Swami Vivekananda Centre for Indian Culture opened in Kathmandu to highlight the best of Indian culture. The centre offers regular classes on Classical Hindustani Vocal Music, Tabla, Yoga and Bharatanatyam Dance from its venue inside the Embassy at Kapurdhara Marg, Lainchaur. The centre has built a strong reputation by hosting various cultural programs like International Yoga Day, Punjabi Folk Dance, Kathak and Bharatanatyam and Kathakali dance programs, exhibitions on Gandhiji, etc., from time to time. The Nepal-Bharat Library was established in Kathmandu in 1951. It is considered Nepal’s first international library. Its goal is to improve and strengthen India-Nepal cultural ties as well as information exchange.
A Brief Overview:
Bhutan is one of the smallest countries around the globe, with a unique culture and a peaceful environment. It is principally a Buddhist nation sitting in the lap of the Himalayas tucked between India and China. Bhutan shares a 699 km long border with India and adjoining Indian states — Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, and West Bengal. The country has a profound diversity in terms of culture as well as ecosystems. The richness in the ecosystem of Bhutan can be attributed to its location in the Himalayas, climatic variations, and various policies of the Government of Bhutan for the conservation of their environment. The vibrant festivals, multiple ethnic groups with their traditions and customs, add further to the richness of Bhutan’s culture. For example, Tshechu is an annual religious festival celebrated with much zeal throughout the country. Besides that, every village has its unique festival. The uniqueness of Bhutanese culture lies in its simple lives of people and harmony with nature.
Buddhism is the dominant religion in Bhutan; however, the constitution of Bhutan provides freedom to every citizen to practice their own faith and perform any form any worship as long it does not hurt the sentiments of others. Other religions like Hinduism, Islam and Christianity are also practised in Bhutan.
Buddhism is reflected in all the significant aspects of daily lives there. The Bhutanese practise Tibetan Buddhism or Sino-Indian Buddhism. It was brought to Tibet by Indian Tantric Master Guru Padmasambhava and Mahayana teacher Shantirakshita in the 8th century. Tibetan Buddhism evolved from the latest stages of Indian Buddhism, also known as Vajrayana Buddhism. Later, it gradually passed onto Bhutan and today, Vajrayana Buddhism is strongly upheld here. Before the arrival of Buddhism, the people practised Bonism, a religion that worshipped all forms of nature, remnants of which are still evident in some remote villages in the country.
The national language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, the native language of the Ngalops of western Bhutan. Bhutan has multiple lingos with over 19 dialects. There are three other dominant languages — Tshanglakha, also known as Sharchokpa, spoken in eastern Bhutan, Lhotshamkha, also known as Nepali, spoken in the southern region and Bumthangkha, spoken in central Bhutan. English is also spoken in the country. It is the medium for giving instructions in schools and colleges.
The people in Bhutan have dexterity in varied aspects ranging from weaving textiles to making ornaments and from casting iron for making bridges to weaving using nettle fibres. These art and crafts are carried out for centuries and were categorized under thirteen divisions during the reign of Gyalse Tenzin Rabgay, the fourth temporal ruler of Bhutan, and are collectively referred to as “Zorig Chusum”. Thag-Zo or the Art of Weaving Textiles,Tshem-Zo or the Art of Embroidery and Applique, Yig-Zo or the Art of Calligraphy, Shing-Zo or Skill of Carpentry, Par-Zo or the Art of Carving Intricate Designs, Jim-Zo or the Art of Clay Sculpting, Tshar-Zo or the Art of Weaving Bamboo and Cane Products are some of the traditional art forms that are in fashion till date.
As compared to its neighboring nations, Bhutan does not have much literature in written form. The traditional folklore, mythologies and legends are passed on through oral recitations. In a conversation with IANS, Namgay Zam, an independent journalist, said that there is no “reading culture” in Bhutan. Whatever little has been printed is the retelling of myths, history and chronicling the lives of Bhutanese kings. “We don’t have any contemporary writers writing short stories or fiction. Academic books are greater. So, the need of the hour is to create contemporary literature”.
The treaty between India and Bhutan — ‘Treaty of Perpetual Peace and Friendship’ was signed decades ago and now, after 71 years, both nations are amiable partners in South Asia. Under India’s Neighborhood First Policy and Bharat to Bhutan (B2B) vision, India and Bhutan relations have enriched. India has drafted policies to amplify its assistance to Bhutan and encourage the cultural ties between the two.
Bhutan, a model of unity and peace in South Asia, has shared a long-standing connection with India. Bhutan has a long history of cultural exchanges with India. Guru Padmasambhava, a Buddhist saint from India, came to Bhutan to play a key role in spreading Buddhism and restoring old ties between the two countries’ peoples. The India-Bhutan Foundation aspires to improve people-to-people communication in environmental protection, scientific and technical research, education, and culture. The Nehru-Wangchuck Cultural Centre, ICCR, is instrumental in sustaining cultural ties between Bhutan and India. The centre conducts yoga classes, music classes to teach Indian music and has a gallery where exhibitions displaying photographs of ‘Buddhism in India’ are held. It organizes seminars, guest lectures, book launch, various therapies, scholarship for studies in Indian art and culture, cross-cultural exchange of art and artists. The Ngultrum “complete solution” initiative in Bhutan, funded by India, aimed to foster the development of a knowledge-based Bhutanese society. A large number of Bhutanese students are enrolled in various courses in India. Scholarships for undergraduates and postgraduates, Nehru-Wangchuck Scholarships, Ambassador’s Scholarship, Aid-to-Bhutan ICCR Scholarship, and the ITEC Training Program Scheme have all aided in developing the country.
A Brief Overview:
India and Sri Lanka are separated by Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar. India and Sri Lanka have 2500 years old relationship. The two nations have profound racial and cultural linkages. India, also assisted the Sri Lankan government during the Sri Lankan civil war which was fought between Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (minority Sri Lankan Tamils) and Sinhalese dominated Sri Lankan government.
India largely influences the civilization of Sri Lanka. The Theravada Buddhism, a widely practised religion in Sri Lanka, was passed on from India during the rule of the Mauryan empire, Ashoka, in the 3rd century B.C. Since then, Buddhism flourished throughout Sri Lanka and has become the most prominent religion here. Moreover, colonization by the Dutch, Portuguese and British, the influence of Indonesian culture and modernization have further added various shades to its culture. The nation’s majority population is Sinhalese, comprising 74% of the total population which is mainly concentrated in the southwest. At the same time, Sri Lankan Tamils, Burghers, Sri Lankan Malay, and Moors constitute the minorities. Sinhalese language, which finds its roots in the Indo-Aryan dialect from India, is Sinhalese’s mother tongue. Other languages spoken here are Tamil, English, and Urdu by Muslims.
Cultural Milieu of Sri Lanka:
Sri Lanka is a multi-cultural land and observes diverse cultures and ethnicity within the nation. Celebration of all kinds of festivals belonging to different religions like Duruthu Perahera, Navam Perahera, Avurudu (Sinhala and Tamil New Year), Pongal, Shivratri, Diwali, Id-Ul-Fitr, Christmas and others is a mark of cultural and ethnic diversity in Sri Lanka. Diversity is also reflected in the Lankan literature mostly in the Sinhalese language; however, a substantial number of works are composed in other languages as well, like Tamil, English, and Pali.
The culture here also has varied forms of visual arts and crafts, performing arts like music, dance, and cinema. Buddhism and other religions have a significant influence on the art and culture of this nation. Buddhism inspires many paintings and sculptures, like the Buddha idols in different poses, namely, meditating, standing, and reclining. Caves and temple paintings like paintings present in Dambulla temples and Temple of Tooth Relic are also notable artworks in Sri Lanka. The influence of colonization by European countries is also seen in some of the architectures of Sri Lanka. Other than this, under the broad blanket of Buddhism, many Buddhist architectures like Dagobas (stupas) of Lord Buddha are spread through the nation. Several Hindu temples that worship Lord Shiva are also situated here. Kandyan dance form is a traditional dance form and is regarded as the country’s national dance. The country has deeply rooted traditional music, which is popular today too. HakGediya – The Most Memorable Flute, Tavil–Drum from Tamil Nadu, Dawula–Drum of Buddhist, and GataBera – Traditional Drums played during weddings are some of the traditional musical instruments of this nation. Additionally, the music has still retained the touch of Portuguese like baila, and koffringha. The effects of Jazz, Rock n Roll’’ and Latin American music can also be found in the music of Sri Lanka. Lankans have expertise in making an extensive medley of handicrafts. Masks and decorative face wears, batiks, jewellery making, metal works, mat-weaving, lacquer works, and others are some of the traditional and renowned craft forms widely practised in the contemporary era.
Resemblance with Indian Culture:
India and Sri Lanka share historical and some cultural relations. According to the historical records, Sinhalese are descendants of the Indo-Aryan ethnic group in Northern India. Immigration of a legendary Prince Vijaya along with his 700 followers from northern India around 5th century B.C. formed the first Sinhalese kingdom. Then Buddhism also came from India during the 3rd century B.C. in Sri Lanka. A few centuries later, Tamils from South India also settled in Sri Lanka. The Sinhalese language is also derived from the Indo-Aryan dialect. Moreover, southern parts of India and Sri Lanka have some similar cuisines as well. Rice and curries made with coconut are staples of each, as are tropical fruits such as mangoes, bananas, and jackfruits. Curry leaves, turmeric, chillies and mustard seeds are also frequently used in cooking. Pongal is a common festival observed in both Southern India and Sri Lanka. Apart from it, Diwali, Eid, etc., are also celebrated in both nations. Ravana, the main antagonist in the Hindu epic Ramayana, was the ruler of Lanka.
Albeit India and Sri Lanka do not share borders they both have mutual respect and courtesy towards each other. Separated by water and united by Buddhism, these two nations uphold robust cultural cooperation. Over the years, the joint efforts by both countries have escalated the cultural relations between the two.
India features a legacy of intellectual, educational, cultural, and non-secular synergy with Sri Lanka. The People of Indian Origin (PIOs) who have settled down in Sri Lanka have contributed to fusing the cultures of both nations. The two Governments signed Cultural Cooperation Agreement in 1977 for Cultural Exchange Programs. Through combined events, India and Sri Lanka honoured the 2600th anniversary of Lord Buddha’s enlightenment (Sambuddhathva Jayanthi). The India-Sri Lanka Foundation aims to augment scientific, professional, educational, and cultural collaboration through civil society dialogues and magnifying association among the younger contemporaries. ICC in Colombo fosters awareness about the Indian culture by offering yoga, music, dance and Hindi language classes. The Indian government granted an aid of $15 million for the advancement of Buddhist relations between the two nations.It is believed to deepen the religious linkages of people between the two nations.
Education is another significant field of collaboration. India annually offers various scholarship openings to Sri Lankan students. Furthermore, since 2017–18, Sri Lankan students are allowed to sit for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for dental and medical admissions in Indian colleges. IIT JEE (Advanced) entrance examinations have likewise begun in Sri Lanka since 2017. In addition to this, India also gives 370 spots annually to Sri Lankan nationals under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Scheme and the Colombo Plan.
There is a need of creating a conducive environment that focuses on promoting more people-to-people exchange to enhance diplomatic relations in terms of culture. Few potential solutions can help in fortifying the cultural diplomacy among India and its subcontinents:
The Indian film industry, including Bollywood, ranges from commercial to art films and parallel cinema. Bollywood is widely popular in Sri Lanka and Nepal. Bollywood films are broadcasted in Lankan theatres and even on local cable television with Sinhalese and Tamil subtitles. In addition to this, Sri Lanka also serves as the host country for Bollywood’s International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA).
The Bollywood industry has guided the cinemas of the neighboring nations in one way or another. For instance, Bhutanese films were based on the Bollywood format. The first Indo-Bhutan collaboration film ‘Rolong’ was released in the year 2020. Nepal also seeks inspiration from Bollywood films and music. The first movie made by Kollywood or Nepal’s film industry was produced in Kolkata, India. Nepalese films are made in various languages like Nepali, Maithali and Bhojpuri. Mala Sinha, Udit Narayan, Manisha Koirala, Sunil Thapa have made several contributions to Nepalese music and films before gaining immense popularity in Bollywood.Besides this, Sri Lankan films also followed the norms of Indian cinema and were earlier made in South India. Bangladeshi films or Dhallywood that are made in the Bengali language also draw inspiration from Bollywood.
Music and other art festivals also facilitate people-to-people exchange. Cultural festivals attract international audiences and are emerging platforms for showcasing the distinct art and culture of every nation. It also encourages artists all over the world. Jaisalmer Desert Festival, India, Rann Utsav, India, Kala Pola, Sri Lanka, Annual Bhutan International Festival, Bhutan, Pohela Boishakh, Bangladesh, Kathmandu International Art Festival, Nepal are some of the cultural festivals that provide a glimpse into the unique cultures of these nations.
The ICCR, in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and SEHER, organized the first South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) band in India in 2007. These festivals focus on improving regional cooperation among South Asian nations. Since then, many music and dance festivals are organized in India to recognize the music culture of South Asia. The eighth edition of the South Asian band festival welcomed 14 rock bands to perform at the Purana Quila, Delhi. Kabul & Rock Veda, Mrigya, The Ska Vengers, Indus Creed, Alobo Naga and the Band, Donn Bhat + The Passenger Revelator from India. Chirkutt (Bangladesh), The Forsaken (Bhutan), The Herb & The Remedy (Sri Lanka), Mukti and Revival (Nepal) and other SAARC countries played music at this festival.
The FOUNDATION OF SAARC WRITERS AND LITERATURE (FOSWAL), headquartered in Delhi, India, was founded in 1987. It is responsible for nurturing and strengthening cultural bonds among South Asian regions through literary interactions. Notable writers and scholars from India and its neighboring nations participate in the literary festivals organized by FOSWAL.
India should continue to arrange such events to advance cultural and people-to-people exchange.
India faces certain issues with its surrounding neighbors, which consequently affects its relations with these countries that otherwise are on good terms with India. A common challenge that hinders the fortification of India’s ties with its South Asian neighbors is China and its expansion in South Asia. The current relations between India and China have gone sour over the Indian borders. China is aggressively expanding its relations with other neighboring countries of India. Pakistan also has feelings of animosity towards India and is considered the closest ally of China nowadays. Apart from this, China is establishing strong diplomatic and economic ties with Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. Hence, becoming an evermore growing matter of concern for India.
Besides this, there are issues that India separately faces with these nations. Like India-Bangladesh face water disputes over the Teesta river whereby Bangladesh demands a larger share of water. India has so far failed to achieve fruitful results for Bangladesh. Other conflicts are over religion, border, and refugees.
There are border disputes between India and Nepal as well. Along with this, issues such as delays to implement several projects by India has caused a feeling of mistrust in Nepalese towards India.
India and Bhutan also have encountered fair shares of complications. Bhutanese think that India’s intervention in the internal matters of Bhutan sometimes steps over the mark. They also feel that India’s help to Bhutan is more beneficial to Indians rather than Bhutanese.
There are obvious impediments to the development of India’s relation with neighboring nations. Nevertheless, it is not a cinch to break the thriving bond of India with these four nations — Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal And Sri Lanka. India indeed has a noteworthy stand in influencing the culture of its neighboring nations and there is a multitude of similarities among the cultures of all these nations. However, when one digs deeper, it is observed that these nations have come up with their unique culture over time, which is different from that of India’s. From distinguished local traditions and customs practised by the people to distinctive cuisines, these nations stand out from each other. Programs that focus on cultural exchange and boosts people-to-people exchange help to better appreciate the individuality in the cultures of these closely located countries.
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