The Bhavan, London celebrated India’s Republic Day on 9 February and was joined by HE Vikram Doraiswami, the High Commissioner of India to the UK as their Guest of Honour.
The event began with a traditional Sanskrit prayer by Executive Director Dr M N Nandakumara, after which the Chairman Subhanu Saxena gave a welcome address. He spoke about the importance and quality of leadership in today’s world. He stressed on the leadership that unites. He also spoke about how Indian Classical Arts create and nurture these values and help in bringing communities together. He highlighted the partnership with the Indian High Commission and requested the High Commissioner to become a Patron of The Bhavan, which he gracefully accepted.
This was followed by a speech by Lord Navnit Dholakia OBE PC, Deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats and Patron of The Bhavan, who spoke about the history of the institution, and how it was one of the first institutes in the UK that identified Indian culture. He praised the power and contributions that the NRIs have made to Britain and to India. India, he said, has grown and developed leaps and bounds since becoming a Republic and now makes global contributions. Like all the other speakers, he also echoed his unending love for India.
Virendra Sharma MP in his speech threw light on the Indian Constitution, and how the country has respected it over the decades since it was first written while sharing a few lines from it. He proceeded to highlight the beauty of Indian culture and teachings and the essence of our ancient ‘parampara’ (tradition) which holds strong till today.
Cllr Daryl Brown, Deputy Mayor of Hammersmith and Fulham, shared her delight in the continued friendship of the Hammersmith and Fulham borough with The Bhavan and promised to continue supporting The Bhavan’s activities in its incredible work of spreading Indian culture in the UK.
The main address of the evening was delivered by the Guest of Honour, HE Vikram Doraiswami. He began by speaking about the importance of India’s Republic Day and the Constitution, and then emphasised on the responsibilities and rights of being a citizen.
He said, when India gained independence and became a Republic, the average longevity of a man was 32 years, literacy rate was at 23%, and various diseases were common. It was assumed that India was too large and too complicated a country to survive. The Republic Day is significant because it provided Indians the right to govern themselves, and they have made great strides since then. The day established who wielded true power in India – its citizens. India has made tremendous progress in various fields including tech, medicine, arts, etc. The High Commissioner also spoke briefly about the Magna Carta in the UK.
His Excellency added about the main qualities of being a good citizen - truthfulness, justice, equality, respect, and active participation in society. He added how the value of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ is embedded in the Indian tradition, and it includes not just the people but also their efforts to safeguard the environment.
While 1.7mn Indians live in the UK, they are proud of their heritage and their roots.
He quoted a shloka from Rig Veda - ‘Ekam sat vipraa bahudhaa vadanti’ – which means the one ultimate truth can be arrived at through different paths of understanding. He also explained how humanity can reach a high state of love and understanding, and we must constantly think of how we can help to make the world a better place. He also congratulated The Bhavan on being the representative of Indian culture in the UK.
The vote of thanks was given by Dr Surekha Mehta, Vice Chair of the Bhavan. She spoke on the incredible achievements of India over the years – the remarkable developments in tech and becoming the largest digital market of the world, delivering the largest covid vaccine, and the continual importance given to diversity and representation of various sections of the society. Speaking about The Bhavan, she expressed pride in it being the largest such institution outside India.
Gopi Hinduja of the Hinduja Group, Brigadier Vikramjit Singh Gill, Defence and Military Adviser at the High Commission of India and Murli Ramadoss of Chellaram Foundation were present among guests.
The speeches were followed by cultural performances by The Bhavan’s students.
The event concluded with national anthems.