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Aiming to spread Indian traditional knowledge, including on its art, architecture, timeless epics and Vedas, among the global community, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) will soon launch online courses, and a portal dedicated is expected to launch on April 2, ICCR President Vinay Sahasrabuddhe said on Monday.

Addressing a press conference in Azad Bhawan here to share details of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) planning to hold celebrations under the ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, he also said that a craft fair of three-day ‘Coalescence’, will be hosted in the city from February 23-25, where artists and artisans from 11 states will showcase traditional art forms.

The MEA has already hosted events like the “GenNext Democracy Network Programme” (in November 2021) and many other programs are planned as part of the “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” celebrations, to which delegates from various democratic countries have been invited, he mentioned.

When a reporter asked him if Pakistan was an invitee, he replied, “As I said, only democratic countries were invited.”

On a question regarding several Afghan students who had received ICCR scholarships and wanted to come to India, Sahasrabuddhe said, “These are cross-disciplinary issues, involving the MEA and the Ministry of Interior. And, that’s their job, whether it’s giving or extending visas. Our work is thus limited to providing scholarships and facilitating their entry into India, and this is what we do whenever they obtain permission.

The situation in Afghanistan has changed since the Taliban took power last August, leaving the fate of many students in limbo. The MEA has planned multiple celebrations in the coming days as part of the “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” celebrations. Due to COVID-19, the schedule has been impacted, but by early April the situation should improve, he said.

During the ongoing celebrations to mark 75 years of India’s independence, “We will also be launching the Universalization of Indian Traditional Knowledge System or UTIKS, under which people living in foreign countries will be able to learn more about traditional knowledge of our country through courses and enjoy our art, culture and epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana,” said Sahasrabuddhe.

Asked about the courses to be offered, Sahasrabuddhe, also a member of Rajya Sabha, said: “It will be our own way of running an edX or a Coursera on Indian traditional knowledge.”

“There will be short and long-term online courses, ranging from four hours to 40 hours, on everything related to Indian culture. From a rosogullah recipe to fundamentals of Warli paintings, Madhubani art, appreciation of Ajanta and Ellora cave art, understanding the basics of the Vedas, introduction to Ramayana and Mahabharata , the life of Babasaheb Ambedkar, among other topics,” he said.

The academic partner of this program is Savitribai Phule Pune University, he added. “Other institutions may join us later, but to start with, Savitribai Phule Pune University is our partner. This permanent course is open to everyone, with no age limit or other. And the fees will be very minimal,” Sahasrabuddhe said.

The President of ICCR said that a portal for UTIKS is ready and is expected to be launched on April 2. Asked who will launch the portal, he replied: “We have asked our foreign minister to do so.” The portal will allow people from all over the world to register online and register for these courses. One can complete one course and move on to another too, the Rajya Sabha member said.

As part of the celebrations, the ICCR will also offer an “Indian Alumni i-card” to foreign students who have learned music or musical instruments from “gurus” in India and have completed their apprenticeship, a he declared. Regarding the artisanal mela, he said, it is perhaps for the first time in the history of the ICCR that an event of such a nature is organized there, because “art and culture are essentially represented in soft diplomacy through music and dance”. .

A senior ICCR official said Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture Meenakshi Lekhi was to inaugurate the event at Bikaner House. Several diplomats were invited to the event.

The opening ceremony will only be attended by the diplomatic community and general visitors can visit the fair later, he said. Artisans from 11 states will exhibit several forms of traditional arts and crafts such as bamboo art, textiles, traditional and folk art, beauty herbs and recycled products. Over the three days, participating artisans will take turns giving 45-60-minute lectures with demonstrations of the craftsmanship or showing videos to explain their creative processes to visitors, said the ICCR, the cultural wing of the MEA.

The lecture-demonstration will focus on the Gond art of Madhya Pradesh; the miniature art of Rajasthan; Delhi bamboo handicrafts; Kalamkari art from Telangana; moonj grass baskets from Uttar Pradesh; Warli art form from Maharashtra and natural dyed cotton from Gujarat among others, he said.

The “Craft Mela” aims to highlight how Indian artisanal practices can help balance the planet’s ecology while preserving India’s cultural heritage, local livelihoods and achieving the Millennium Development Goals, said the President of the ICCR. The “mela” was organized by Jaya Jaitley of Dastkari Haat Samiti, New Delhi, the ICCR said.