20 cultural centres at Indian diplomatic missions named after Swami Vivekananda
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20 cultural centres at Indian diplomatic missions named after Swami Vivekananda

Indian Council of Cultural Relations says it wants to highlight spiritual leader’s role in creating “the idea of India”.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2018 14:28 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
Swami Vivekananda,External affairs ministry,Indian Council of Cultural Relations
Ambassador Gautam Bambawale speaks at a ceremony in Beijing marking India’s Independence Day.(Photo credit: India’s embassy in Beijing. )

The ministry of external affairs is rebranding more than 20 cultural centres it runs in missions across the world as Swami Vivekananda culture centres (SVCC), seeking to highlight the spiritual leader’s role in creating “the idea of India”.

As part of the project, the cultural centre at the Indian embassy in Beijing was renamed as SVCC on Tuesday.

“Of course, we respect everybody. There are Mahatma Gandhi centres, there are Jawaharlal Nehru centres, there are Tagore centres. In Bangladesh what we have is a (Tagore chair at the Dhaka University)...there are also chairs named after all these national heroes,” said Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, president of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR), in Beijing on Wednesday.

“But there are centres that didn’t have any particular name as such; it was just a cultural centre. We thought it fit to name all those centres under the name of Swami Vivekananda because Swami Vivekananda is a way symbolises Indian culture in multiple ways,” Sahasrabuddhe told Indian media in Beijing after a national flag-hoisting ceremony at the Indian embassy on Independence Day.

“Wherever there is no particular name attached right now (to the cultural centres), there only we will have SVCC. Otherwise, there is no question of renaming any centre. We are not going to change the names,” he said.

The ICCR, which operatures under the external affairs ministry, runs 37 cultural centres in missions abroad of which around 20 to 25 will be named as SVCC.

The cultural centres in Nepal and Sri Lanka, for example, have been renamed as SVCC.

Swami Vivekananda’s famous speech at the Parliament of World Religions completes 125 years on September 11 this year.

“We tried to utilise that occasion and name this (Beijing) centre as the SVCC,” Sahasrabuddhe said.

The ICCR chief added that most remarkable aspect of Vivekananda’s work is that he tried to create for the first time an idea of India through his famous speech.

Sahasrabuddhe said cultural ties with foreign countries were crucial to overall bilateral ties.

“Goodwill (of India) is very welcome but it is not enough. For any stronger diplomatic, strategic and economic relations, I believe the centrality of cultural relations need to be underscored,” he said, adding “…cultural relations pave the way for all other three relationships if not many more”.

He added that it was suggested at meeting of heads of missions in June, that they make a three-year country-specific plan to enhance cultural ties.

He said the ICCR was giving “serious thought” to launching an “understanding India” programme for big countries like China and the US.

“India is a riddle. We want to demystify India through this programme,” he said.

First Published: Aug 15, 2018 13:09 IST