You don't have to empty your pockets to take a trip around the country anymore. The wonders of Incredible India are now available on the popular video sharing website Youtube. The public diplomacy division of the external affairs ministry's Youtube channel called 'Indiandiplomacy', will now feature films from the ministry's archives to showcase India's cultural diversity.
The purpose of uploading the films, some of which date back nearly three decades, "is to create more awareness of India and to make the films available to a wider and younger audience," says Navdeep Suri, Joint Secretary and head of the public diplomacy division.
An edited version of a documentary on the Golden Temple, produced with the Discovery channel, is being widely appreciated with over 13,000 views. One user responded with "Lovely! Can't wait to see its full version."
Another popular video is the short film, India and Afghanistan: Hamsaye, which talks about all aspects of the relationship between the two countries - from the Mahabharata connection to Kabuliwallah to the post-Taliban days. A user comments, "I am a proud Pakistani. I feel rather proud to watch our Indian brothers doing good stuff in the world." Another user comments (in his unique Afghani tone), "We love you and your culture my Indian Bai."
Six Yards of Grace talks about a "thousand-year-old romance" of saris, starting from the use of Terracotta two thousand years ago, to now when experiments by modern designers from across the world have become all the rage.
If you thought you knew the true India, you can now add to your knowledge at the channel. For instance, did you know that Musalman, perhaps the world's oldest handwritten newspaper, is still published daily in India? Or that we are one of the largest contributors to peacekeeping troops in disturbed regions of the world. Or, for that matter, that Beating of the Retreat of the army was originally an idea taken from the teachings of Saint Bharat Muni.
The ministry's collection has it all. A 2011 video called, Musalman, named after the newspaper, is the most-viewed video on the channel, with almost 65,000 hits within a few months. It shows how the eighty-year-old Chennai-based Urdu daily uses the dying art of calligraphy to write the newspaper manually, that too in a city where very few people are native speakers of the language.
"This channel is superb. It would prove to be an amazing tool not only to show the rest of the world what India is but also to many Indians who do not know these things," comments another user. The channel has more than 282 videos with over 1,80,000 views.
Short versions of all the films have been uploaded on Youtube, while full-length features can be purchased from the Magic Lantern Foundation. The films are screened by the ministry and Indian embassies abroad to increase awareness about the country.
Then there are the ones which have not attracted much viewer attention. Take for example Youth and Development, which talks about the role played by the youth of Kashmir in developing local infrastructure.
Another film, The Pathbreakers, documents the work done by real heroes from the grassroots who have contributed to their society and improved the lives of others.
The oldest movie in the collection was commissioned in 1980 and was directed by Mazahir Karim. Titled Aao Hajj Karen, it explains how the Islamic pilgrimage rituals of Hajj are performed. Then follows John Dayal's People of Peace made in 1982, which traces the origins of Christianity in India.
Talking about the diversity of cultures in India that is hardly noticeable in other parts of the world, Navdeep Suri says, "The videos convey India's soft power that is its democracy and rich cultural traditions."
But, its not only the Youtube channel where the diplomacy division is making itself known. The ministry even has a presence on Twitter, with almost 21,000 followers, and a Facebook page with over 23,000 likes.