Bharatiya Bavan Prepares for the Next Millennium

By Thilak S. Fernando

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, The Institute of Indian Art and Culture, which has been a beacon for Indian art culture for the past twenty five years, spreading the light of appreciation, learning, and excellence throughout the United Kingdom is preparing for the next millennium.

Few organisations can have contributed more to understanding than the Bhavan Centre in London, and in this respect the Bhavan has been involved in teaching children of immigrants and their children to appreciate their cultural roots in a process of cultural regeneration. The Bhavan has always welcomed members of the general public also to learn about Indian Music, Dance, Languages and even Yoga. After twenty five years of success, the Bhavan is now poised to embark on a major expansion scheme.

In their forward planning, the present building in West Kensington will be expanded to provide much-needed space. New facilities, such an art exhibition area and workshops for visual arts, will be provided. Extra classrooms and courses are also in view.

Moving with the times and not be missed out, a new Archive Resource Centre will be a treassure chest of knowledge, providing national and international access through the Internet. In addition, there will be improvements in accessibility, with a new reception area, cafeteria and extra facilities of those with special needs. With such expansion, the Bhavan is confident that it will retain its position as a major link in London between generations and between Asian and Non-Asian communities.

A fund-raising project - Bhavan 2000 Plus - is due to be launched on Thursday 18 June 98, the aim of which will be to raise 400,000 with a further amount from the National Arts Lottery. The occasion will be punctuated with a press conference at 12.45 followed by a presentation and demonstration by Indian dancing by some of the young Indian dancers.

His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, Prince Charles, is a Honorary Life Member of the Institute of Indian Art and Culture - Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's contribution from London has been viewed by the some of the world's renowned personalities as follows:

Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, KG - former British Prime Minister - " I emphasise that the Bhavan is making a great contribution to Anglo-Indian understanding and to the cross-fertilisation of our cultures through arts".

George Harrison - Singer - "The Bhavan provides us with a tremendous amount of knowledge and I hope that you are able to continue to develop your activities well into the future".

Pandit Ravi Shankar - Musician - " The Bhavan will always have my continued support in its efforts to carry on the invaluable work into the next century".

Lord Menuhin - "I believe that the work of the Bhavan enhances the understanding of Indian culture and the traditions and is of real value to the cause of human understanding".

Sri Lanka had its Students Welfare Centre at Hyde Park Gardens, only a stone's throw from the High Commission building up to mid 1980s. It was then a popular rendezvous for Sri Lankans with accommodation facilities and a subsidised food canteen where students as well as other Sri Lankans could have social intercourse and satisfy their taste buds too .

Unfortunately due to sluggishness on the part of those government officials who were in charge of Sri Lankan affairs in London at the time who did not foresee or take an interest in their own community, either to assist them or to propagate Lankan culture, the student centre received a sledge hammer blow when the building which could have been bought for a sum of 45,000 - peanuts in terms of monetary value even at the time - was allowed to slip away .

Today Sri Lankans living in London and the metropolis are handicapped in the absence of such a Centre, as a direct result of such short-sighted policies of bureaucrats of yesteryear . It is rather unfortunate that at a time when the cultural regeneration has been seemingly on the asscend Lankans have to depend on rented halls and be at the mercy of money spinning landlords of commercial halls today. In this respect, at least to a greater extent, Bhartiya Vidya Bavan, with its expansion programme be able to extend a helping hand to Sri Lankans who are inclined towards their own cultural rejuvenation.