Last week, I participated in a week long 43rd ‘International Festival’ (Festival Internacional de la Cultura) that Boyaca (a Colombian State) organises every year at Tunja, a small town. It is an important cultural event in Latin America that is celebrated with the participation of more than 35 countries. It was created to show artistic and cultural expressions of the world, which enable cultural exchange, recognition of cultural diversity and public reaffirmation for strengthening their own identities.
Bharat was invited as a special guest this year. Programmes were performed all over the city and a 400 years old historic home of a famous local author was converted into ‘India House’. There were posters of Bharat, Bharateeya culture, Bharateeya architecture and Hindu Gods and Goddesses all over the premises. Many presentations, movies, documentaries were shown on Bharat, Hinduism and spirituality throughout the week. My wife Mannu, and my three children accompanied me. International Center for Cultural Studies (ICCS) coordinated the efforts of Bharat with various participating organisations from Bharateeya side and Boyaca government of Colombia. The Bharatiya organisations that participated in the festivals were ICCS, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), Sewa International, Isha Yoga and National Council of Indian Culture (NCIC) from Trinidad and Tobago.
A group of four dancers of Bharateeya origin from Trinidad and Tobago won the heart of the audience by their performances on classical and Bollywood numbers. On the request of local Colombian audience, NCIC group has started training classes in ‘India House’ on Bharatiya classical and Bollywood movies. My daughter ‘Siya’ was blessed to perform her ‘Shiv Tandav Satotram,’ Bharat Natayam dance on the international stage. There were many sessions of Yog by Isha Yog teachers.
There were many lectures/presentations organised in various local universities on different topics such as ‘Globalisation: The Impact on India’s Economy, Society and Culture’ and ‘What is Peace and how to achieve it?’ by Shri Saumitra Gokhale, international coordinator of the HSS), ‘India–Colombia Business Opportunities’ by Shri Digant, a HSS Pracharak from the US, ‘Youth Leadership’ by a young Hollywood director Aditya Patbardhan, etc. I was very lucky to be chosen by Sewa International to give a presentation on ‘Intelligent Social Service’ at UPTC (Universidad Pedagógicay Tecnológica de Colombia).
While in Colombia, I also got an opportunity to meet Xieguazinsa, the head of Muisca, an Indigenous community that is trying to preserve their thousands of years old culture in Colombia. ‘Pueblos Indígenas’ in Spain comprise 3.4% of the country's population and belong to 87 different tribes. When he talked about his culture, we found so many similarities between local indigenous cultures and Hinduism. It always amazes me how Bharateeya spirituality and Hindu Gurus are inspiring the entire world. In Bogota, we visited “El Jardin De la Alegria” (The Garden of Joy) in Cazuca.
During my 9-day trip in Colombia we met many people including university professors, teachers, students, pedestrians, Yogis and local community leaders. Each and everyone wanted to know about Bharat and Bharateeya spirituality. Colombians love Bharat and its spirituality. Everyone wanted to click pictures with us. I have never seen such a hospitality in my life. When we reached Colombia, we didn’t know any Colombians but when we left Colombia, my family had tears in their eyes, as did our Colombian translators, hosts and ‘India House’ volunteers. Swadesh Katoch