Dancers, performers and yoga instructors gave a taste of what’s in store during the ‘Festival of India’ that stretches out over three months and 15 cities. (JG Photos/Tunggul Wirajuda)

India Gets in A Festive Mood for a Celebration

JANUARY 18, 2015

Indian dancer Acharya Pratishtha commanded the stage with her solo performance of the Dasavatara dance. The Jawaharlal Nehru Indian Cultural Center dance teacher mesmerized her audience with the performance’s vigorous, dynamic movements which culminated in a series of twirls.

The twirls, each of which were more dazzling than those before it, had the effortless look that comes with years of practice.

The dance was followed by her students’ take on “Radha and Krishna,” another Indian traditional dance depicting the courting of the eponymous characters. Less lively than Dasavatara, the allgirl ensemble captures the theme with subtle, graceful moves — not least by the lead dancer who took on Krishna’s role. 

Meanwhile, violinist Johar Ali Khan highlighted Indonesian and Indian traits with a medley of tunes from both country’s catalogues.

Emphasizing percussion-heavy musical genres like dangdut and bhangra, he brought out their commonality with his take on hits like “Terra Djana” and A.R. Rahman’s “Chaiyya Chaiyya,” his virtuosity with the violin leading the way. The sitar and drums took a back seat, setting the tone and atmosphere for the songs. 

The performances and a yoga presentation by instructor Ravi Dixit and his students gave a preview of the 2015 “Festival of India” in Indonesia. 

The three-month spectacle will offer a range of events from traditional music, dances and puppet shows, to more contemporary fields like fashion shows and digital technology.

Grammy Award-winning musician Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt will kick off the festival on Jan. 26.

“[The Festival of India] is a tribute to Indonesia as a friend and partner of India. It pays tribute to the links and similarities between both countries, particularly cultural monuments, and a young population,” said Indian Ambassador to Indonesia Gurjit Singh of the festival, which is the first of its type to engage Indonesians. 

“The festival will be held in 15 cities including Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya and Medan. The venues will be just as varied, ranging from malls, university campuses and houses of worship, particularly [Hindu] temples and Buddhist viharas.”

Esti Andayani, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s director general for information and public diplomacy, agreed with the ambassador.

“[The festival] will go a long way in promoting people-to-people exchanges between [Indonesia and India]. Cultural exchange is one of the fields that lasts, such as Bollywood movies continuing to be popular in Indonesia,” she said.

Bollywood is echoed by a number of Indonesian celebrities on hand to spread the word about the festival.

“I grew up on Bollywood movies, as my mom was a big Amitabh Bachchan fan. So much so, that I thought Rhoma Irama was Indian,” said actor and comedian Ringgo Agus Rahman. 

Indian film buffs will get their fill and then some, as the film festival forms a major part of the festival. 

Other celebrities, like celebrity chef Farah Quinn, hope the festival will set a new learning curve for Indonesians and Indians alike. 

“The extent of cultural giving and taking between Indonesia and India is surprising. For instance, I realized that one Indonesian delicacy, kue putu, actually originates from India,” she said. 

“I hope the festival will generate more interest in India and prompt more Indonesians to go to places like Jaipur and Taj Mahal. I’d like to see more Indians go to places like Labuan Bajo and Yogyakarta.” 

Best-selling Indonesian writer Laksmi Pamuntjak echoed the sentiment, though she said that much needed to be done.

“Indian myths like the Mahabharata and Ramayana have been a constant inspiration for my work and played a formative role in my upbringing.”

Sintesa Group chief executive Shinta Kamdani noted the festival made the most out of momentum from close Indonesian-Indian ties. 

“India has been Indonesia’s fourth-largest export market in recent years. Trade between both countries have grown by up to 14 percent annually in recent years,” Shinta said.

“The people of both countries still have much to explore and learn about one another.”