Culture Connects: India, France bond over yoga, Ayurveda, urban heritage

paris-louvreParis the Beautiful, beloved of poets, boulevardiers, philosophers and painters. Paris has long been regarded as the cultural capital of Europe, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip would not be complete without forging enduring cultural connections.

The mutual cultural attractions spurred India and France to sign four pacts on preservation and showcasing of urban heritage, the promotion of traditional medicines like Ayurveda and promotion of tourism.

Preservation and promotion of Indian heritage has been on Prime Minister Modi’s agenda since he took office. Remodeling of the Sabarmati river front, his intention to renovate Varansai on the lines of Japan’s ancient capital Kyoto, cleaning of river Ganga (Namami Gange), all come within the rubric of rejuvenating cities, while preserving their cultural component. This feature is very prominent in European cities, and exemplified in Paris. Most of the European cities and towns have a dedicated ‘old city’ core which has been upgraded keeping ancient monuments and streets intact while catering to the 21st century tastes. It gives a picturesque amalgamation of the old and the new- having H&M and Nike stores in 18th century villas is a case in point. Well preserved old cities and clean water fronts in Europe, are a major tourist attraction, and something much desired for India, which has innumerable heritage cities, but very poor preservation systems.

france-modi-boatIndia stands to benefit much from taking a leaf out of European urban development, cultural preservation and tourism plans. Recognizing this Mr. Modi and President of the French Republic Mr. Francois Hollande, signed four agreements and a letter of intent in the area of cultural cooperation. Both leaders while taking in the beauty of Paris on a boat ride in the Seine (the much talked about ‘naav pe charca’), welcomed a range of initiatives to share best practices and promote and preserve the unique heritage of the two nations.

France has been a pioneer in conservation of monuments, excavations, collection of artefacts and very importantly, making cultural awareness a part of the public psyche. The French ethos holds art and culture in very high esteem, and public reverence and pride attached with their country’s unique culture showcases this unique heritage. Noting this there have been agreements to develop social capital by training a diverse range of professionals. Agreements have been signed on- training Indian heritage professionals between the Ministries of Culture; A Letter of Intent between Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques Préventives of France (INRAP), on training, and deployment of experts, especially in the area of Underwater Archaeology; cooperation between School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, and School of International Architecture, Paris, for training, joint research and exchange of students and faculty. Also, MoUs on urban heritage preservation and twinning of historical monuments and sites has been made with the intent to enhance tourism.

Intangible heritage conservation has also been noted, with a Letter of Intent between Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CRAS), Ministry of Ayush, and University of Strasbourg for cooperation in the field of education and research in Ayurveda.

Both sides welcomed the role of the Alliances Françaises in India, the Institut Français en Inde and the Indian Cultural Center in France in the promotion of cultural relations between our two countries and successful organization of two editions of ‘Bonjour India’ (the Festival of France in India) and the first edition of ‘Namaste France’ (Festival of India in France). The decision of the Government of India to support the organization of a Regional Hindi Conference, for the first time, in Paris in view of the growing interest of Hindi in France, was also praised.

The United Nation’s move in the declaration of 21 June as the ‘International Day of Yoga’ was lauded and two nations agreed to celebrate the ‘International Day of Yoga’ in a befitting manner.




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