Starting from humble beginnings, center plans to grow with Koreans
Indian culture is rich and diverse and, as a result, is unique in its very own way.
The cultures of India are an amalgamation of languages, religions, dance, music, architecture and food spread all over the Indian subcontinent with traditions that are several millennia old.
Now, Indian culture has found a home in Korea with the opening of the Indian Cultural Center which aims to introduce the social and political forces that influenced the growth of one of the nation’s most trusted allies.
“There is a feeling both in Korea and India that our people don’t know enough about each other’s cultures,” said Indian Ambassador Skand R. Tayal to The Korea Herald.
“Trade and political relations are growing very well, the popularity of Indian films are also growing, food is becoming also popular, but not our dances and our music.”
Early last year, the presidents of the two countries decided to address this issue at the highest level.
The results are festivals in India and Korea that celebrate each other’s cultures throughout the year and the establishment of cultural centers to host those events.
In India, the celebration is already under way; in Korea, Tayal said that a slew of events such as cultural performances, film and food festivals, fashion shows and everything that falls under the category of culture will be unveiled in the weeks to come.
What makes this festival even more special is that it will visit many parts of the nation.
In Seoul, the Indian Cultural Center recently opened its doors for Koreans who want to learn about Indian food, dance, music and of course yoga.
“We found that yoga is very popular here but many people don’t know that yoga comes from India,” he said.
The idea is simple; the center will house 2-3 teachers from India who will teach yoga, dance and later on, musical instruments such as the tabla and sitar.
“But we will try to leverage Koreans who are here that have some knowledge or expertise, or some talent in any Indian cultural practice to hold classes at the center,” said Tayal.
In the meantime, classes will have translators when need be.
Since there are different forms of yoga, the embassy decided to focus their efforts on hot yoga and stress buster yoga.
Hot yoga is practiced in a heated environment and helps the body to sweat our toxins while allowing the practitioner to workout safely and beneficially.
Manojaay Dbral (on stage) teaches kathak dance at the newly opened Indian Cultural Center. (Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald)
Stress-buster yoga is exactly what the name implies ― yoga that reduces stress caused by everyday life.
“We have a qualified doctor in traditional Indian medicine who is offering free consultation on health related problems,” said the Center’s director and Second Secretary at the Indian Embassy, Banu Prakash.
“If there is demand for other classes like prenatal yoga he will hold those classes also,” she said.
While the center is starting with humble beginnings, its philosophy is also simple ― to give Koreans what they want to learn.
“Let’s see how it grows but our attempt would be to have connections with a large number of Koreans,” said Tayal.
Another angle of the center is to hold art exhibitions by local artists whose focus is on India.
Starting early next month, the center will unveil its first art exhibition, a photo journey through India by local photographer Lee Chong-sun.
As for film festivals, no Indian Cultural Center would be complete without the entertaining rhythms and storylines that have made Bollywood an international brand appreciated the world over.
One important feature of Bollywood films are their dances and the center plans to hold classes that teach those famous moves that have graced Indian theaters as well as Hollywood blockbusters such as “Slumdog Millionaire.”
One of the eight forms of Indian classical dances, kathak, is also currently being taught at the center.
Indian food has been growing in popularity in Korea not only due to the numerous restaurants in virtually every hip district but also with the sale of prepackaged Indian food by local companies.
“We will also hold cooking classes using the Indian ladies who are here to demonstrate the delicate intricacies of our cuisine,” he said.
The center will also hold intellectual discourses about the different aspects of India with speakers who have visited the country.
On April 22, the first forum will be held in collaboration with the Indian Chamber of Commerce.
“We invited businesspeople from LG who served in India who will discuss how to tap into the Indian market,” said Prakash. “They will also discuss how the Indian market is very favorable for Korean companies.”
For those who would like to learn Hindi without having to sign up for extensive university programs, the center is offering beginner courses.
The Indian Cultural Center is located in Hannam-dong, across the street from the Indian Embassy in the same building as the India Visa Office.
Best of all, the ambassador noted that all courses are free of charge except for the cost of materials.
For more information call (02) 792-4257.
By Yoav Cerralbo (firstname.lastname@example.org