As I entered the exhibition, I discovered that the silence was hard to miss. It was amazing how the diversity and colours of the exhibits brought the place to life and shared the story of the land they came from.
The richness and variety of the Hungarian Folk art exhibition at the Hungarian Information and Cultural centre in New Delhi is so similar to Indian folk culture that you may forget that the art is not Indian.
"One of the prominent reasons behind the exhibition was not just to show the rich and diverse culture of Hungary to the Indian audience but also to share the common thread that Hungarian folk culture shares with India ", says Tibor Kovacs, the director.
Hungarian folk art grew and flourished in the Carpathian basin in Central Europe. You can find traces of this folk art today in ceramics, pottery, embroidery, talisman Easter eggs and laces, dresses and dances.
It is interesting to note, though traditionally belonging to a European nation, Hungarian art traces its roots all the way back to Asia.
"If you look closely, you can see tremendous similarities between Hungarian folk art and Indian folk art. For instance,a popular motif like the peacock is native to India but figures a lot in Hungarian art too. Other comparable examples are the designs and the intricate work native to Kashmir and folk art from Rajasthan that look so much a part of the Hungarian folk culture also."
The Hungarian folk art saw a setback in the days of Communist rule over Hungary forty to fifty years ago, when the young then did not find their art in keeping with the changing times.
"Maybe we are one of the few European countries who do not wear our traditional dresses as much as European countries like the Dutch or Austrians. The reason can be traced back to the days of Communist rule. In those forty years, Hungarian folk culture earned a negative connotation. People had stopped wearing traditional dresses although the embroidery and artwork had survived. But there was a revival of folk culture in the 90's and it has grown ever since." Reveals Tibor.
However, it is the Hungarian youth again who has played a vital role in reviving their folk culture.
"The interest of youth in Hungarian folk culture revived after the 'Dance House Movement' in the 70's, where youngsters from the city gathered together and encouraged the traditional folk dance. The movement has changed the perception of the youth about the Hungarian folk culture. Many children now are keen to learn about Hungarian folk culture."
But it's not just the art that the Indian and Hungarian cultures have in common. As Tibor says, "Hungarians are down to earth people and like Indians, we also like to preserve our rich traditions. After all, if you lose out on your traditions, it takes toll on your identity as well."