On the auspicious occasion of the Divali Celebrations, the Indian festival of light, a cultural programme entitled “Magical Journey to India” took place at the Athenaeum Intercontinental Hotel from 13 to 21 November 2004. The programme was organised by Mrs. Suddha Stefane Iliades in collaboration with the Indian Embassy in Athens and with the active support of the Hellenic-Indian Society for Culture and Development (ELINEPA). As Mrs Suddha explains, the idea behind organising the festival was to bring the flavours, smells, sounds and colours of India to Greece through food, music, dance and art.
There were four Indian chefs who created mouth-watering specialities for lunch and dinner, four dancers from India who performed nine different dance styles and three talented Greek musicians who performed Indian classical music. For the lovers of folk art, three well-known Indian painters created unique Indian pieces depicting images from nature and mythology in the distinct style of Mughal, Madhubani and Pattachitra miniatures. The proceeds from the sale of paintings went to the UNHCR in Greece and Arz, an NGO working with street children in Mumbai. Parallel to this event was a Tea Festival to introduce to Athenians the rituals and pleasures of tea drinking.
There were daily seminars covering a wide range of topics: Yoga, Indian classical music, contemporary Indian literature, the textiles of India, Indian tourist destinations and the Indian film industry. Speakers were drawn from India and Greece. Mrs. Suddha, originally from Kerala, and who now lives in Athens with her Greek husband and children, spared no effort, time, energy or money on the successful organization of this wonderful presentation of Indian culture to Greek society. The response to the Festival was overwhelming, and we hope she will undertake to organise a similar event for Divali 2005.
The Indian Community in Athens and Koropi planned parallel events in November, while a three-week programme “Magic India” was organised by the commercial chain of shops ‘Notos Galleries Labropoulos’ in Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki. The latter programme included seminars in Yoga, Indian massage, Indian dances with Lida Shandala, Mendhi tatoos, an exhibition of Indian clothes, Indian food and Indian astrology. The Notos Galleries Labropoulos, in collaboration with Action Aid Hellas, brought 4.500 cloth elephants from India, and the profit made from their sale was donated for the creation of a school in the state of Orissa.
Programmes with Indian music took also place in Thessalonica. Mrs. Victoria Theodoridou, a talented Greek performer of Indian music and dance, presented her own magnificent programme “Bolywood” for music lovers in the Theatre “Aneton”. Another major and integrated cultural programme “Lets go to India” was organised by the Municipality of Thessalonica and the Consulate of India in January 2005 during the visit of the Mayor of Calcutta as the cities of Thessalonica and Calcutta were twinned. The programme included an exhibition of miniatures and crafts from the private collection of Ivoni Alexandridou, Consul of India, tea workshops, the projection of movies, Indian music, an exhibition of paintings by Jatin Das and Lazaros Pantos in the Yeni Tzami Museum, a live demonstration of Indian cooking from an Indian chef, a book presentation, a demonstration of Hatha Yoga and a lecture on the status of women in India.
Alexis Karsiotis presented the major musical event “The Greeks & the World” with a great success in the Lykabitos theatre at the end of June. Rare fire-dancers from North India, Africans, and Indian musicians from Varanasi with Greek folk musicians from Ipiros played together in an admirable collaboration. Karsiotis, who studied Sitar with Rabidra Goswami in Varanasi, has created the “Saraswati Foundation” and worked tirelessly for the promotion of Indian classical music in Greece for the last 15 years. In recent years, however, he has directed his work towards the melding of Indian Classical and Greek folk music and has produced a series of much appreciated CDs
entitled “Greeks and Indians”.
Some additional programmes were organised in various cities in Greece, such as: the participation of Giorgos Evangelou and his musical team “Sur” in the 1st Festival of Lake Pamvotida in September 2004; the successful tour of Nektarios Mitritsakis and his team in various cities of Crete; the participation for the first time of Indian dancers in the international cultural programme ‘Cosmopolis’ organised every August in the city of Kavala, are indicative of the growing interest of Greeks in Indian culture.