The festival of Indian culture is being held at the Mir Cinema-Concert Hall here. It is part of the Days of Indian Culture, conducted from August 8 to August 22 by the Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre (JNCC) and the Russian Ethnolife Centre. The events this year are devoted to the 60th anniversary of India's Independence.
The main guests Kanwal Sibal, the Indian Ambassador in Russia who will soon return home and Russian Deputy Culture Minister Andrei Busygin inaugurated the festival Wednesday by lighting traditional Indian lamps symbolising the unification of the two great cultures.
"We are lighting these lamps as we are lighting our hearts tonight. So Russian and Indian hearts will be together," said Georgy Aistov, the festival's general producer.
The official ceremony was followed by a concert starring sitar virtuoso Meera Prasad, a Rajasthani folk dance company and a Manipuri traditional martial arts group.
Aistov said that the Indian guests were remarkable, adding that the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) had sent wonderful performers to Moscow.
He noted that this was the sixth festival of Indian culture, and it attracts bigger and bigger audiences each year. Last year, some 6,000 Russians attended the various events.
He said that although it is hard to say how many would come this time, as August is the holiday season, the Days of Indian Culture are very popular with Muscovites.
Prasad, whose performance was her first in Moscow, believes that both the artistes and the audience enjoyed the concert.
"It was not difficult at all to play for the Russian public. I've never played for Muscovites before, for such a huge, warm, friendly and responsive public. At a programme this time there was more than a thousand people," she said.
After the concert, Ramesh Chandra, the Indian Embassy's Counsellor (Culture), said he believed that Indian and Russian cultures have much in common. He noted that there was a full house for the concert, just as there are no free seats when Russian performers come to India.
He added that he was looking forward to the Year of Russia in India. In 2009, Russia will also hold a Year of India.
Aistov said that the festival's programme would be expanded next year to include ancient Indian dances.