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Can the Taj Mahal float on the Thames?

In a rare spectacle, Indian and British celebrities will gather to kick off India Now, a 3-month series of events and exhibitions dedicated to Indian art, film, theatre, food and business.
IANS | By Prasun Sonwalkar
UPDATED ON JUL 16, 2007 06:24 PM IST

Taj Mahal, India's most famous historical monument and now one of the "new seven wonders" of the world, will kick off the Indian summer in London. The unusual spectacle will happen on Tuesday as British and Indian celebrities kick off India Now, a three-month series of events and exhibitions dedicated to Indian art, film, theatre, fashion, food and business.

An intricately constructed six-metre high replica of the Taj Mahal will be launched on the Thames by Indian cricket captain Rahul Dravid, popular actresses Shilpa Shetty and Joanna Lumley, and London mayor Ken Livingstone.

The replica has been designed and prepared by Indian film set designer Bijon Das Gupta, and modern Indian artist Suchi Chidambaram. It is supported by a one metre high plinth, and hand-painted by Chidambaram, with modern Indian and London city scenes.

The Taj Mahal replica will travel up the Thames past London landmarks old and new; the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the British Airways London Eye, St Paul's, the Tate Modern and Tower Bridge before coming to rest at London Bridge where it will remain for the public to view throughout the day.

By Tuesday evening, it will be moored by the London Eye and then be relocated across London as the India Now season continues.

The India Now event will see over 200 cultural organisations contribute to the season, including a selection of London's most well known museums and galleries such as the British Museum and V&A.

Over 1,500 events will take place during India Now, with well over one million Londoners expected to participate in events during the season.

The event will recognise the existing strong relation between India and London and show that in the future, with India's emergence as one of the world's greatest economic powerhouses, this relation will become stronger.

India plays a crucial role in the business and culture of London. In 2006 the number of Londoners of Indian origin was over 430,000 - accounting for six percent of London's population, the largest national minority community in the city.

India has the second largest number of inward investment projects in London after the US. Over 212,000 Indian visitors came to London in 2006, spending for the first time more than the high-spending Japanese tourists.

Over 4,000 students from India are now studying in London, contributing an estimated 60 million pounds to London's economy. In 2006, over 40 Indian film productions were filmed in London, with an estimated annual worth of 14 million pounds to London.

London mayor Livingstone said: "India is an emerging economic superpower and also has one of the world's most important cultures. The India Now season will be an opportunity to experience the richness of Indian culture and offers something for everyone. It will truly showcase the very best of modern Indian culture for Londoners and visitors alike."

James Bidwell, Chief Executive of London Unlimited, the international marketing agency for London, said: "India Now will connect with one of the most powerful emerging countries of the future on cultural, sporting and business levels as London cements its relationship with this rapidly growing economy."

David Sharpe, Managing Director of the British Airways London Eye added: "We are delighted to support London in a celebration of contemporary India - India Now. As an emerging market, India will be key to the ongoing success of the London Eye."

India's tourism ministry is undertaking an extensive media campaign in the print and electronic as well as on buses, taxis and outdoor panels in central London during the three-month period (July to September 2007).

As part of the campaign, some of the buses and taxis plying along the main routes in London will wear a vibrant look with "Incredible India" colours.

Outdoor panels will highlight some of London's landmarks through "Incredible India" visuals and the print campaign covering important publications will focus on the close links between India and Britain, with the punch line "India is closer than you think".

A series of road shows has also been planned in August in collaboration with the Indian Association of Tour Operators, to facilitate greater interaction of the Indian operators with their counterparts in Britain, for promotion of India packages.

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