Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the Nation, was honoured in the Netherlands in a special way through opening of an Indian Cultural Centre named “Gandhi Centre” in The Hague on the occasion of his birth anniversary on 2nd October 2011. Gandhi Centre was inaugurated by H.E. Dr. Karan Singh, MP and President of Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) in the presence of H.E. Mr. Jozias van Aartsen, Hon’ble Mayor of The Hague and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. The opening of the Centre fulfills the long standing aspirations of the 200,000 Indian and Surinami Hindustani community in the Netherlands as well as the Indian Embassy and Government of India.
2. The Gandhi Centre is the 36th Centre established by ICCR worldwide. The Centre, located in the historic and beautiful area of Scheveningen in The Hague, is acting as an important platform for developing and maintaining contacts with Dutch friends including students, teachers, academicians, cultural personalities and artists to project the rich and diverse cultures of India and the Netherlands. Indian Cultural Centre (Gandhi Centre) since its inauguration in The Hague in October 2011 has now developed into a vibrant physical entity, equipped with staff and infrastructure, for promoting Indian Culture, and deliver its Mission Statement of leveraging Public Diplomacy as a tool of promoting friendly relations and cultural cooperation with the Netherlands and also integrating sizable Indian Diaspora in Mission’s activities.The Embassy, through activities of the Gandhi Centre, continued to bring to Netherlands, a great variety of India’s rich cultural and civilizational heritage and influences that have worked to create modern India
3. Since October last year, Embassy has been pursuing vigorously with ICCR to operationalize the Centre. Since its inauguration, the Centre has travelled a long way transforming from a place of worship to a beautiful and lively Cultural Centre. Several major infrastructural additions and modifications to the building have been undertaken to boost its image as a Culture Centre worthy of India’s multicultural and secular image. The Centre received a large bronze bust of Mahatma Gandhi from ICCR as well as a bronze dancing Nataraj for installation at the Centre. Some portraits including that of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, paintings and photos dealing with Gandhiji’s life have been put on display. All these add to the grandeur of the Centre. A Reception Room has been developed and kitchen has been furnished all the relevant items of day-to-day use including cooking range, oven, coffee maker, refrigerator, etc.
4. Library has also been furnished with essential furniture and provided with books, publicity material and CDs. Major operational changes have taken place at the Gandhi Centre. To mark the celebration of our Republic Day, a flag pole was installed at the premises in January. Later, a stage was set up at the Centre along with a new podium. Subsequently, provision was made for sound and lighting systems as well as curtains. A large portrait of Gandhiji has recently been installed at the Centre. This portrait was painted by Mr. Ashok Bhadra. Two large murals on both sides of the walls next to the stage are also in the process of being executed by Mr. Bhadra.
Cultural Activities undertaken till January 2013
• Christmas Concerts were organized by Netherlands Malayali Association on 3 December 2011 and the Grand Chair and the Chamber Choir of the American Protestant Church of The Hague on 16 December 2011.
• World Hindi Day was celebrated on 10 January 2012. On this occasion, Ambassador read out the message of Hon’ble PM. The programme was organized with the support of Netherlands Hindi Parishad.
• Flag hoisting ceremony for the 63rd Anniversary of India’s Republic Day was organized at Gandhi Centre.
• Holi Milan was organized on 8 March 2012. Holi folk songs were rendered by Mrs. Kakoli Sengupta as well as dance performances and traditional music were held during this event. Members of Diplomatic Corps as well as Indian Diaspora were present on this occasion.
• Meeting of local residents took place on April 10 wherein a debate was organized on development plans for Scheveningen area with the concerned Alderman of City of The Hague in different political parties. More than 100 people from the neighbourhood attended the event
• A special commemorative function to conclude 150th Anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore in the Netherlands on 12 May 2012.Friends of Tagore and Embassy of India organized the event jointly. Magnificent cultural function was held to mark the occasion with rendering of songs by Mrs. Kakoli Sengupta.There were also enactment of “Shesher Kobita”, Kathak dance performance and other activities. Women's empowerment activist - Smt. Elaben Bhatt conferred with "Dutch Freedom Award" at a ceremony attended by Queen Beatrix and PM Mark Rutte on the same day also graced the event.
• An Inter-faith dialogue where Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Swami Sarvatmananda of Ramakrishna Mission, Amstelveen also took part, was held on June 18. They delivered addresses on the theme titled “Eternal Values in Changing Societies.”
• Ms. Kirti Menon, a descendant of Mahatma Gandhi, delivered a lecture on “Eternal Legacy of Mahatma Gandhi in Today’s Troubled World” on June 29.Two Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awardees, viz. Shri R.L. Lakhina and Shri Wahid Saleh were also honoured on the occasion by presenting them with gold lapel pins provided by MOIA.
• Concert showcasing rich repertoire of traditional Classical music and fusion music by Grammy award winner and Tabla Maestro Bikram Ghose and his father Pandit Shankar Ghosh on 31 July 2012;
• Independence Day was celebrated with patriotic fervor on 15th August at the Gandhi Centre.
• Odissi Dance performance on 2nd October 2012, by a 11-member ICCR sponsored troupe led by Ms. Aruna Mohanty, took place at the Centre on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti and also marking the commemoration of the first anniversary of establishment of Gandhi Centre;
• On 14 October 2012, the Surinami-Hindustani community organization celebrated theHindi Diwas. The function was organized, with the support of the Embassy of India in The Hague,by Hindi Parishad Nederland.
• Colourful extravaganza of Rajasthani folk dances, traditional music and acrobatic performances by Dhoad Gypsies of Rajasthan on 16 November 2012.
• On 14th December 2012, a Concert Choir of The American Protestant Church of The Hague featuring soloists from various Musical Conservatories of the Netherlands presented G.F. Handel’s ‘Messiah’.
• On 10th January , 2013 the Embassy of India in the Netherlands association with the Hindi Parishad Nederland celebrated the 38th World Hindi Day at ICCR Cultural Centre, Gandhi Centre. Members of other affiliated organisations, notably, Foundation Sarnami Netherlands, Netherlands Hindu Council, Hindi Prachaar Sanstha Nederland and Stichting Fedratie Eekta and nearly 45 schools run by Surinami-Hindustani community were present at the function. The programme commenced with Hon’ble PM’s message on the World Hindi Day being read out by the DCM. A comprehensive programme was organized which included speech by Shri Narain Mathura, President of the Hindi Parishad Nederland as well as a colourful cultural programme presented by the students and other members of the community.
• Republic Day was celebrated on 26th January at the Gandhi Centre. Ambassador of India unfurled the Indian flag and read out the Hon’ble President’s Address to the Nation. Members of Indian community in Netherlands were present in large numbers.
Future plans for Gandhi Centre: The Centre would organise regular lectures, panel discussions, seminars, and performing arts on subjects of contemporary and cultural interest, aimed primarily at promoting Indo-Dutch relations.
• Another important element of the Centre’s activities would be teaching of Yoga, Meditation, Dance, Music, Ayurveda, Indian languages, etc.
• A projector has been installed at Gandhi Centre in November 2012. In future, it will be used for showcasing select documentary films on India, Indian Tourism activities, screening of films on a monthly basis, holding of seminars relating to cultural aspects etc.
Activities scheduled in the near future:
• 2013-2014 is the Commemoration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda across the whole of India. Embassy of India would also be organizing special events in this year to mark the occasion.
• Holi festival is scheduled to be celebrated on March 28, 2013 at Gandhi Centre.
• Celebration of 30 years of the establishment of Netherlands Hindi Parishad with events like poetry recitation, essay competition, debates etc. It is scheduled to be held in April 2013.
• Seminar / Lectures with audio-visual presentations on History and Civilisation of India for Indian diaspora and their children.
• ICCR would be sending a cultural troupe (classical dance) from India to take part at the Annual Holland Festival in June 2013.
Other initiatives of the Embassy
5. The Mission regularly publishes the “India News” newsletter without any additional manpower, through its limited publicity budget. This is a full colour Newsletter and is published on a quarterly basis. It has a circulation of 750. The publication is in the English language. Apart from the circulation of the hard copy of the bulletin, it is also placed on the website of the Mission. It has been a huge success and is regularly displayed at cultural as well as business events.
6. The Embassy has a Facebook account. The same was established on 4th May, 2011. We have 740 friends and 25 likes of our page. The updating of the page is done on a regular basis and is open to all those who wish to enter. This too has been commented upon favourably by local community here.