For more than a generation, young post-army Israelis have been flocking to India to explore the vast continent and soak up its rich and vibrant culture. For many, India left such an indelible impression, that last year they flocked to the Celebrating India in Israel festival to greet the artists like old friends.

India and Israel have been building strong diplomatic ties over the past 20 years, and although the festival was presented to mark that historic point, it was obvious that Israel and India had a lot to celebrate in each other. India isn’t just a country or a culture, it is many states, many climates, many different people all contained in what is referred to as “the world’s largest democracy”. This rich tapestry is made of many different cloths. The classical and the traditional sit alongside each other in the rural traditions of the ragas handed down orally over generations, while Indian modernity dances to the desi beats in chorus lines to Bollywood scores, heralding a new urban India.

For the organizers of the upcoming (April 27 – May 18) Celebrating India in Israel festival – the Indian Embassy in Israel and Teamwork Productions India – it was a genuine feat to channel all that vibrancy and coexistent contradiction into the program.

Yoga, film, literature and, of course, Bollywood are all well balanced throughout the festival program, which is punctuated with music at every opportunity.

Indian food is renowned for its overwhelming array of spices and selections. So much so that the British have adopted curry as their national dish, even more than fish and chips, it seems – a strong testament to the enticing influence of Indian culture. So it is fitting that at the festival, there are events devoted to the country’s culinary prowess.

The festival begins with Indian films at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on April 27 and runs through to a series of literary events in Haifa and Jerusalem, culminating on May 18.

On the dance front, the festival kicks with free dance workshops at the Tel Aviv Port on May 1 with Gilles Chuyen.

All ages are welcome. From there on, the festival will touch on every genre of culture as it crisscrosses Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to Haifa. Musically, some of the events will dovetail with the venues of the White City Music music festival in Tel Aviv. In Jerusalem, the events will take place at The Jerusalem Theatre and Confederation House.

The artists in the program include the rich and colorful folk traditions of Rajasthan Josh, (cover photo), where Sufi traditions and popular folk songs of royal Rajasthan will be interspersed with captivating dances. Violin virtuoso Dr. L. Subramaniam and his ensemble will perform original works in the devotional Karnatic tradition of Southern India. The strings continue in more infinite variety with master Pandit Mishra playing the classical sarangi, the quintessential instrument of ancient India. Another classical instrument, the rudra veena, is placed in the hands of Indian master musician Ustad Bahauddin Dagar and his Israeli student Dudu Elkabir.

Together with support from a trio of Indian and Israeli musicians, the ethos of this festival will be expressed through music and celebrated in concert.

With domestic box office receipts for Bollywood movies being the kind of figures an LA movie mogul would swoon for, it is fair to say that the Indian film industry is in good shape. From the classic song-and-dance love stories of yesteryear to the action thrillers of today, throughout the festival there is something for everyone on screen in all the three cities.

The Company Theatre & Cinematograph Production will stage a satirical production of Nothing Like Lear at the Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv.

A lot has happened in those 20 years.

The pursuit of modernity may have caused a sacrifice of the classique to many, yet paradoxically, India has managed to balance the rich traditions of its multi-millennial culture and strike a harmonious chord with the contemporary, and this festival does a lot to celebrate that.

For more information: www.celebratingindiaisrael.com

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