Cultured dialogues

ADITI NIGAM | Updated on February 02, 2012

Suresh K. Goel , Director General, ICCR. - Kamal Narang

With Delhi Metro bringing in the crowds, ICCR is buzzing with exciting international festivals.

Even as Dastaan-e-Dilli, to celebrate the Capital's centenary, warms up Delhiites this winter, Suresh K. Goel is thinking of the future programmes lined up by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR). Nudge the former IFS officer and current Director-General of ICCR, and he says that a yearlong ASEAN festival and a colourful, foot-tapping Latin American cultural extravaganza are on the way, as also a German festival themed ‘Innovation'.

Goel, who was recently conferred an honorary doctorate by the University of Edinburgh, is satisfied with his journey with ICCR so far. The Council has been in the news almost every week, with a string of programmes, exhibitions, collaborative functions involving dance, music, paintings, puppetry and so on.

“When I took over, to be truthful, I did not think about what direction I would take. But, there's one thing I realised, that ICCR's and its founder Maulana Azad's vision of projecting Indian culture and civilisation to the world has to be a two-way street. This is happening. We have had so many cultural groups from across the world come over,” he says.

Goel lists the Jazz festival, the Buddhist Arts Festival, Korean Dancing Angels, Italian Opera, Brazilian music and International Dance Festival, among the most successful ones. In the Buddhist Festival, there were groups from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Cambodia, Republic of Korea and Bhutan. From India, groups from States such as Ladakh, Shillong, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, and Delhi-based group Nirvana took part.


Founded in 1950 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, independent India's first Education Minister, the ICCR's Azad Auditorium, thanks to Delhi Metro connectivity, has now become a hub of cultural activities. It promotes not just foreign cultures to Indians but also showcases Indian talent, drawn from across the regions, to the world.

Goel strongly believes in a ‘benign cultural dialogue' to bring together cultures, civilisations and countries, even those in conflict.

“In keeping with Maulana Azad's vision, we need to allow groups to talk to each other... not stay in separate compartments. I feel it is better to use the benign language of culture to bring countries together, especially those in conflict,” he says.

Of late, ICCR has attempted to bring together two different performing genres, mainly dance forms. This gave rise to some rumblings within the cultural community. Some felt that fusion was destroying the ‘purity' and ‘character' of different art forms.

Goel smiles and shrugs off what he calls ‘another view', not criticism

“Some do say that this is fusion... but I don't think so. Fusion doesn't allow interaction... My thinking is bringing artistes to perform together. And believe me, it is being widely appreciated.”

As a sort of experiment, the Council conceptualised Spanish dance along with Bharatnatyam. “A Bengali artist wants to bring together Ballet and Kathak. We are also thinking of combining Flamenco with Kathak,” he adds.

After all, the vision of ICCR is a “communion of cultures”.

“We have worked with Johns Hopkins University in the US to promote Sufi Islam. A conference was held in France on liberal cultural traditions of the world, and talks are now on with the UK, where we will focus on liberal and intellectual traditions in the arts,” he says.

Culturally, Indian history, philosophy and civilisation are closer to South East Asia, he says. So, after the Buddhist Arts Festival, the next big thing is the upcoming ASEAN festival. “It will be a huge festival, spread over a year,” he adds.


Goel rues that the Indian corporate sector's role in nurturing cultural traditions is disappointing.

“Only public sector companies such as GAIL and ONGC come forward. Private sponsorships only go for glamour events — F1, Bollywood or cricket,” he says.

But, he hasn't given up hope. “We are trying hard to establish public-private partnerships in culture. Let's see.”

Published on January 05, 2012

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor