Scintillating dance performances by renowned Indian artistes marked the inauguration of the nearly four-month long 'Festival of India' at the Palais de Beaux arts (Bozar) in the presence of Queen Fabiola in Brussels.
In a rare gesture, the Queen attended the launch on Saturday night despite a personal bereavement. After opening the Nala and Damayanti exhibition, a collection by President of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) Karan Singh, she attended the inaugural function, before leaving for the funeral of her brother.
Karan Singh and Viscount Etienne D'Avignon, president of Bozar, inaugurated the festival in the presence of the Queen.
The highlight of the grand opening was Bharat Natyam and Odissi 'Samanvaya' dances by Indian exponents Alarmel Valli and Madhavi Mudgal who received a standing ovation from the packed audience of about two thousand.
This was preceded by enchanting performances by drummers of West Bengal, the 'Chhau' dance group and Sheikh Mehboob Subhani's deft playing of 'Nadaswaram,' at various places in Brussels and the premises of Bozar throughout the day.
The opening concert was a sell out, Karan Singh said, overwhelmed by the public response to the Festival.
It was a "very good beginning" for the Festival which would go on till January 28, 2007, Singh said.
In all there would be 109 events, encompassing different cultural activities. The next Festival of India would be held in Japan in 2007, he said.
"The focus of the festival is to raise the cultural profile of India in Europe in general and Brussels and Belgium in particular as for all practical purposes the city has become the "Capital of Europe", with all the European institutions based here," Singh said.