Kuwait brings middle-eastern culture to India

New Delhi: A week-long panorama of Kuwaiti culture which opened in the capital May 15 has for the first time brought arts, crafts and performing traditions of the ancient port-nation to India to strengthen people-to-people cultural ties between the two countries.

The culture showcase, presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Embassy of Kuwait will move to Jaipur from the capital before closing May 19.

"The festival is a reciprocal gesture by Kuwait in response to a Festival of India in Kuwait in 2009. Kuwait and India share similar Islamic influences in architecture, tradition, festivals and rituals. The two countries share ancient trade links as well. Kuwait is one of the most peaceful countries in the Gulf region," director-general of ICCR Suresh Goel said at the inauguration of the festival.

"Ties in the contemporary context are more people-centric with a large number of Indian people working in Kuwait and adding value to its economy and social structure," Goel said.

Independent surveys say nearly 600,000 Indians are currently living in Kuwait, a source in the embassy said.

The Kuwait Cultural Week opened with an extravagant exposition of Kuwaiti art, textiles and handicrafts at the Lalit Kala Akademi.

A section devoted to the maritime history of the country featuring replicas of ancient schooners and diving and trading vessels drew visitors. The sturdy boats with multiple white sails were crafted in wood.

Miniature boat crafting is an important cottage industry in the country.

"Kuwait had different types of ships used for a variety of purposes like travelling, diving for pearls and fetching drinking water from Iraq and Iran. Large trading vessels sailed to India for business in wood, spices, timber, rice and textiles. Ships are vital to our nation`s maritime heritage," Talat-al-Sultan, who is heading the Kuwaiti media delegation, said.

He said, "Several marine clubs along the coast keep the traditions of diving and rowing alive by teaching enthusiasts and conducting diving competitions."

Diving for pearls was an important occupation of ancient Kuwait.

An exhibition of contemporary art exhibiting works by leading artists showed a perceptible Indian influence in art and idiom.

"We have integrated several Indian artistic traditions in our culture. Kuwaiti artists and filmmakers who visited India have brought back Indian influences to Kuwait and blended it with Kuwait`s traditional art," Kuwaiti Ambassador Sami M. Al Sulaiman said.

Sulaiman said, "The Kuwaiti cultural week was meant to be a bridge between Kuwait and Indian society."

"The two countries share excellent relations politically and economically. But we cannot forget culture. Kuwaiti citizens have been living in India for more than 100 years - for trading. They have integrated with the Indian society."

The ambassador, a self-proclaimed Indophile, is fond of Indian classical dances like Kathak and Odissi.

Another attraction of the festival was a concert by Kuwaiti TV band - one of the country`s oldest all-man television band which has been performing both in the country and abroad since 1978.

At a concert Tuesday, the 16-member band attired in the customary "dishdasha" sang traditional sea and folk music to the beat of hand drums and a lyre-like string instrument.

"Three different genres of traditional music form the basis of the country`s Spartan musical history. The Khammari is a slow music with heavy beats while the Samri is sung by a man and a woman. The Sot, a male music, is sung at the time of pearl diving on the coast with the musicians seated in a group. It is mostly vocal music. The Gadri is the devotional music," Habib Al Yahyouh, the leader of the Kuwaiti YV Band, said.

The band endeared itself to the audience with a Bollywood track, "Bol Radha Bol Sangam..." that it sang as a chorus.

"We watch Bollywood movies which are very popular. Ties between Kuwait and India date back to more than 400 years," Yahyouh said.