Beyond oil: PM’s Iran visit to give cultural ties a boost

23 May 2016


Apart from oil diplomacy, the centuries-old cultural ties between India and Iran will get a fresh stimulus when Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates the 'Cultural Festival of India in Iran' in Tehran today.

Modi, who left on a two-day visit to Iran on Sunday, will also inaugurate a two-day conference titled 'India-Iran Two Great Civilisations: Retrospect-Prospects' on Monday as part of the festival, Bonyad-e-Sadi, and Farhangistan-e-Zaban-o-Adab-e-Farsi, being organised by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in collaboration with the Indian embassy in Tehran.

The conference would review India's age-old association with Iran, the tradition of cultural exchanges encompassing art, architecture, language, literature and music among others and will also explore synergies for a mutually beneficial and closer partnership ahead, the ICCR said in a statement.

A major highlight of the festival's inauguration will be the release by Modi of a Persian manuscript called Kalila va Dimna, which is a translation of tales from the Panchatantra and the Jataka.

"The facsimile edition of the Kalila va Dimna is a tribute to the cultural interflow between India and Iran over millennia, attested by the nexus of the Rig Vedic hymns and Gathas of Zarathushtra, coming down to the reign of Akbar who introduced Persian as the language of administration in India, which continued till the middle of the 19th century under the East India Company," said ICCR president Lokesh Chandra.

"The Pahlavi adaptation of the Panchatantra was the prime mirror for princes and commoners," he said.

ICCR director-general C Rajasekhar credited Persian with giving "us a new language, Urdu" while "Persian literature influenced our literary and religious movements of the Medieval period".

"The Persian style of presentation influenced our stage and drama. Persian terms and style of writing are part of every modern Indian language, from Hindi, Punjabi to Bengali," he said.

Rajasekhar, who is already in Tehran preparing for the event, said that the influence of Persian culture permeated India's food habits to performing arts and languages to religious thoughts.

"In turn, Indian literature, poets and authors considerably enriched Persian literature. India has given poets like Amir Khusrau, Faizi, Bedil and Ghalib and 'Sabak-e-Hindi' or the 'Indian style' in Persian poetry," he said.

There will be a sample of over 100 books in Persian which are publications of those rare manuscripts.

"Persian is regarded in India, not as a foreign language, but as a classical Indian language," the ICCR statement said.

Besides the conference, there will be an evening of poetry recital and a "jugalbandi" in which India's Nishat Khan will pay the sitar and an Iranian artiste will play the tar, an Iranian stringed instrument.

There will also be a display of rare Persian manuscripts and miniatures.

(Also see: Sanction-free Iran presents huge opportunities, says PM)

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