Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi inaugurated the 25th anniversary celebrations of seven zonal cultural centres with the ceremonial beating of drums here on Friday.
The function started with a Pung Cholam performance by Manipuri artistes followed by Zebro by Ladakhi artistes and Lahauli by dancers from Himachal Pradesh. Artistes from Punjab then put up a bhangra performance. Besides 39 dance performances, there were 10 music and song performances.
Nearly 800 artistes participated in the celebration on Friday.
The Prime Minister and other guests left the venue around 8.15 pm after watching eight dance performances.
Earlier, Manmohan Singh lauded the contribution of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad in strengthening cultural ties with foreign countries by setting up the Indian Council of Cultural Relations. He also said that Indira Gandhi during her tenure as prime minister set up a department of culture, while Rajiv Gandhi established the cultural centres.
“Zonal Cultural Centres (ZCCs) have to improve their functioning,” the Prime Minister said. “We have formed a committee under Mani Shankar Aiyar to suggest proposals. The ministry of culture is considering these proposals.” He suggested that ZCCs keep 70 % of their budget for rural areas.
“India’s biggest strength is unity in diversity,” he said. “ZCCs can play an important role in helping people develop respect and admiration for various cultures in the country.”
A short film on ZCCs featuring Rajiv and Sonia Gandhi was screened.
About 15,000 people viewed the celebrations on giant screens that were installed at the venue.
However, entry into the venue was largely restricted to VVIPS, VIPs, the media and representatives from ZCCs across the country.
Sonia Gandhi said several art forms had vanished, while others were on the verge of fading away. Artistes should be provided social and economic security, she said. “Rajiv (Gandhi) started the first cultural centre in Patiala,” she recalled. “He had a vision. These zonal cultural centres are now a movement.”
A total of 1,873 artistes from the different parts of the country are taking part in the event. Friday marked the commencement of year-long celebrations that will continue till February.
The venue has been divided into three sections and seven courtyards have been set up.
As water bottles were not allowed at the venue, the audience as well as artistes went without water for nearly four hours
Union culture minister and local MP Kumari Selja sought a railway line from Yamunanagar to Chandigarh. She also wanted an “innovation” university to be set up in her constituency, Ambala.