The first informal meeting for the foundation of the Hellenic Society for Indian Studies (that finally took the form of the Hellenic-Indian Society for Culture and Development) took place the evening of the 23rd July 2002 in the hospitable residence of Mrs Dione Dodis in the centre of Athens opposite from the green Lykavittos and the American Embassy. Chief Guests were H.E. the Ambassador of India to Greece, Mr Arun Kumar Banerjee, and the Honorary Consul of India in Salonica, Mrs Yvoni Alexandridou who honored the meeting with their presence. Despite the high temperatures of the season, which prevented many interested members from attending the meeting, Mrs Dodis’ residence was packed with scholars, artists, former students, and friends of India from all over Greece.
The discussion commenced with a remark by the Indologist scholar, Dr. Demetrios Vassiliades that there is a need to upgrade the present status of the International Studies in the country, particularly in the times of the Cultural Olympiad and the Culture of Cultures that Greece promotes globally. He also clarified that the upgrade must involve the introduction of a Department for Asian Studies and the teaching of Indology and South Asian Studies in the universities. The simultaneous foundation of a Civil Society could also further facilitate the collaboration with governmental, municipal and private institutions and the undertaking of related cultural and educational events for the benefit of the public in general.
Then, Alexis Karsiotis, a musician and organizer of Indian musical concerts, referred to certain individuals who have dedicated their lives in the promotion of the Indian culture. He additionally stressed that these individuals could undertake many more projects if the Society under-consideration could facilitate a collaborative support from the cultural institutions of Greece, India and European Union. Finally, he addressed the need to encourage all the concerned individuals and organizations to register themselves as members of the Society.
The Lawyer Antonis Papadopoulos advocated the statute of the Civil Non- Profit Society that allows it to function with the flexible form of an enterprise and he clarified the existing legal differences between the Non-Profit Society and the Association.
The yachtsman photographer, Antonis Vassiliades stressed that the new Society should not be seen as competitive to the already existing Greek-Indian Association, but on the contrary it will contribute considerably in the completion of their common objective that is the growth of the Indo-Greek friendly relations. The writer Yannis Manettas, who has served in the past as Vice-President of the Greek-Indian Association, confirmed this observation.
The Honorary Consul of India in Thessalonica, Mrs Yvoni Alexandridou pointed out that it is time to act upon this idea that has been in discussion for the last five years. She also explained that the Society would facilitate the organization of various cultural programs in Greece and collaborate with similar institutions in India and the World. Mrs Alexandridou’s observations were greeted positively by Ms Sophia Papoutsi who just returned in Greece after successfully finishing her postgraduate study in Sociology at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Dr. Ifianassa Karabatsou, director of the alternative healing center in Athens, referred to the low standard of many institutions that apply Oriental healing traditions in Greece and the necessity to reinvigorate these institutions with knowledge based on the principles of science and arts. Mrs Helen Kukubiki, who has taught gymnastics and yoga the last 20 years at schools in Greece, clarified that yoga is a science independent from religion and as such could be included in the courses that the under-consideration Society will provide to its members in the future. The Indian Ambassador supported her opinion and added that during his service in an African country, yoga had been imported as an obligatory course in the army.
Kostas Tsioulios, Dione Dodis, and Dora Konstada expressed concerns about the success of the Society as they judged that it requires co-ordination and dedication by many people – something rare in our days.
Finally, H.E. the Ambassador of India to Greece, Mr Arun Kumar Banerjee expressed his pleasure for the friendly interest that modern Greeks show to India and her culture and he welcomed the whole effort promising that he will provide every possible help via the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and other Indian institutions if he will be asked for.
The discussion closed with the unanimous decision that selected members will form the first Administrative Council and will approve the statute of the Society in order to submit it in the court for an official registration before undertaking any activity.