Fijian Group Wows Crowd
A group from the Sat Sang Ramayan Mandali in Wailekutu, Lami, returned home last week after a successful tour of India.
The group was the first Indo-Fijian group to be invited by the Indian government to participate in the inaugural International Ramayan Mela in Delhi hosted by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
The Mela was opened by Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Mandali president Akhilesh Prasad said the group was selected with 10 other countries.
The mandali recited the Ramayana and presented the ‘Katha’ in the manner it is done weekly in Fiji.
“The crowd was mesmerised by the perfect chanting of the mantra and recital of the Ram Stuti. The fact that Fiji was the only country (apart from India) presenting in Hindi made them (group) extremely popular with the audience, officials and the local press,” Mr Prasad said.
He said the audience converged on the stage immediately after the presentation to congratulate the group and to express their appreciation.
“People could not believe that this was a group from outside India. They kept on asking how we maintain the use of Hindi in Fiji while other countries seemed to have lost it.”
Following the Delhi performance the group travelled to Noida where they performed one of the acts of drama and also presented ‘Ramayana the Fiji way’.
Noida, short for the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority, is a city in India under the management of the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority.
Apart from presenting the drama and the Ramayana the group also sang the traditional Holi song, ‘Chautaal’.
“The singing of the Chautaal brought about huge round of applause from the audience who could not believe that the traditional form of the Holi songs which has become extinct in most parts of India are still being performed in Fiji,” Mr Prasad said.
He said an 80-year-old man came to him and said very emotionally that he was so proud to have experienced the singing of the Chautaal after about 70 years.
The group also performed in Lucknow, the capital city of the state of Uttar Pradesh, where they gave another memorable and historic performance.
After Lakhnow, the group travelled to Ahemdabad in Gujarat for their final performance.
Overall the group’s tour to India has been described by authorities in India as a cultural exchange initiative which has given a great boost to cultural diplomacy between Fiji and India.
Mr Prasad thanked the Indian High Commissioner to Fiji, the Director of ICC in Suva and the Fiji High Commission in India for their support, guidance and assistance provided to make the trip a success.
High Commission of India Cultural Centre former director Kamal Mishra Fiji has created a new avenue.
“Ramayan is needed in our contemporary life and thanks to this group for showcasing their talent,” Mr Mishra said.
“During my tenure in Fiji, I assisted so many Ramayan Mandil and I always hoped that such a group would reach India with their talents,” he added.
“I am very happy that maximum outreach had been achieved and India enjoyed their performance on stage.”
The Fijian High Commissioner to India, Yogesh Karan said this is first time that a Ramayan Mandali from Fiji has performed in India and also it was the first time that ICCR had organised the International Ramayan Mela in India.
“Shri Narendra Modi said the time had come for us to realise the potential of soft power as an important strategy for external affairs and foreign relations,” Mr Karan said.
“Mr Modi also said that world affairs are no longer on one track.”
Mr Modi said India should leverage its great traditions and culture in forging ties with countries around the world in a way that was deeper, more personal, and therefore, far more powerful.
He said the Ramayana, thus held the wisdom behind every aspect of an ideal society.
“Cultural-diplomacy is an important component of enhancing international relations in an increased globalised interdependent world now,” Mr Karan said.
“It is also needed to foster peace, harmony, and stability throughout the world and once applied, possesses the unique ability to influence the “global public opinion” and ideology of individuals, communities, cultures or nations, which can accelerate the realisation respect and recognition of cultural diversity and heritage and global intercultural dialogue,” he added.
He said the Ramayana and Ramayana Mandalis in Fiji had a constructive role in the social fabrics of Fiji for more than 130 years.
“Such grouping known, as ‘mandalis’ are source of inspiration for our youth,” Mr Karan said.
“Every settlement in the country has unique Ramayana Mandalis and their recitations on weekly basis to educate and preserve religion, cultural and heritage in Fiji,” he added.
“I hope we are able to get across similar groups, includingthe fusion of both, the iTaukei and the indo-Fijian cultural performance in future,” Mr Karan said.
“We will work together with ICCR in both Fiji and India to seek opportunities for future participation and promotion of Fiji’s culture and traditions in this part of the region,” he added.
“I sincerely thank the director of ICCR in Fiji, Shri Kanojia, the director general of ICCR in India, Shri Suresh Mehta and India’s High Commissioner to Fiji, Gitesh Sharma for all the support given to the group to represent Fiji in India and its states, Lucknow, Ahamedabad and Noida,” Mr Karan said.
Minister for External Affairs of India Sushma Swaraj said it was a pleasure and an honour for her to inaugurate this event and meet people from Fiji.
“This is a unique event, both in its structure and content and it is also very timely, because we are living in an era in which the cultural heritage of many societies is under threat, from war, from social and economic upheaval, and the forces of globalisation and cultural homogenisation,” Ms Swaraj said.
She added that cultural heritage does not end at monuments and artifacts.
“It also includes living traditions, the wealth of knowledge and skills that is inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants,” Ms Swaraj said.
She added this was what gives us a sense of identity and continuity.
“The diaspora’s role in preserving cultural heritage is particularly important,” Ms Swaraj said.
“Today there is hardly any country where the sons and daughters of India do not live and in which they have not made a name for themselves,” Ms Swaraj said.
She added this journey, which began with the indentured labours was a saga of supreme courage, unbending will, unwavering belief in their faith, culture and traditions and triumph against all odds.
“Mr Modi investors and professionals from the diaspora to take part in the India growth story,” Ms Swaraj said.
She said the Indian government share a symbiotic relationship.
“To put it simply, in India’s march forward to its rightful place in the comity of nations, our fates are bound together,” Ms Swaraj said.
The group has successfully completed their tour and have returned to Fiji.