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The arts and culture of a country, and the spaces that promote and preserve them, have always relied on the patronage wrought by the people of that country and complemented by cultural tourism from all over the world. However, the pandemic changed the way these models worked, depriving cultural spaces of the physical presence of people. More so than the financial loss brought about by the lack of people visiting these sites, it’s also a blow to the burgeoning arts and culture segment of the country, with places that intend to promote and preserve local culture and lost arts having no physical community to support their endeavours.
And yet, arts have always persevered in their dogged pursuit of patronage, community, and cultural relevance. In the wake of the pandemic, and undoubtedly prior to that as well, many of these spaces shifted to an online mode of exhibition and showcase, reaching people all over the world who have access to a screen and the internet. Here are five Indian arts and cultural institutions that have worked with the changing times and provided comprehensive online experiences in order to preserve, promote, and revive Indian arts and culture.
Established order to revive the ancient seat of learning at Nalanda, often considered to be the world’s first residential university, for the study of Pali and Buddhism, Nava Nalanda Mahavihara is an effort to preserve the ancient culture of learning and the history of Indo-China relations through an exchange of arts, culture, and people.
Through Google Arts and Culture, you can experience the Xuanzang Memorial, and all the arts and artefacts donated to or acquired by the university that traces the history of Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang in his travels to India to learn more about Buddhism, as well as the physical space that exhibits this memorial and the university. It is a fascinating look at the remnants of a lost time, with a focus on Buddhist history and works of art that weave the story of Nalanda and ancient Indian education.
The Indian Music Experience Museum is a one of its kind interactive physical space in Bengaluru, Karnataka. With the aim to celebrate the diversity of music, it intends to change the way people experience music, moving beyond just the popular to showcase the lost, the niche, and the regional sounds of the country. Through interactive exhibits and three-dimensional musical experiences, the Indian Music Experience Museum is a sensory and physical experience.
However, the pandemic changed the way this space functioned, as the lack of visitors meant that their exhibits needed a new space to grow. As such, they moved online to present exhibits of their static and informational exhibits, with the aim to reach more people and get people interested in the diversity of Indian music through their online offerings.
As India’s only opera theatre, the Royal Opera House in Mumbai has a very important part in the preservation of Indian heritage and cultural infrastructure. Inaugurated in 1911 by King George V, it’s one of the last remaining bastions of Baroque architecture in the country.
Sitting dilapidated for decades before being restored extensively to open back up in 2016, the Opera House is the story of neglect and subsequent conservation of a cultural relic of Indian history. And in ensuring the preservation of baroque and the fusion of Indo-European arts and architecture in the country, it became dubbed the crown cultural jewel of the city.
An online walkthrough of the space introduces people to the grandeur of the building, with the ability to focus on the baroque elements of the architecture, and where Indian and European styles meet to form something distinctly unique in the city.
Railways are the lifeline of India, and there is no shortage of enthusiasts that are interested in the inner workings of this mammoth transportation system. Rail Enthusiasts’ Society is one such organisation that aims to form a community of enthusiasts from around the country, holding discussions, debates, writing books, and publishing resources for the study of Indian railways.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Rail Enthusiasts’ Society is their focus on art and architecture as a way to promote the study of Indian railways and reflect the enthusiasm of their members. Their online exhibits consist of artistic recreations of abandoned, old, and decommissioned trains and railway projects, as well as a look into rail modelling, the hobby of choice for artists who are also railway enthusiasts. What is also notable is that their online exhibits showcase the best of Indian railways and works of art that have been influenced by this vehicle of public imagination.
One of the oldest, largest and most popular artist villages in Asia, the Cholamandal Artists’ Village can be seen as a reconstruction of a space dedicated to artisans as they established themselves in cities and villages throughout history. A modern-day rendition of that, the Cholamandal Artists’ Village is a space for artists, by artists, and is dedicated solely to the cultivation and preservation of modern and contemporary Indian art.
Their online exhibitions focus on a very important piece of Indian art history i.e. the Madras Movement, with works from preeminent artists such as K.C.S. Paniker (the pioneer of the Madras Movement) and L Munuswamy among others. It is a celebration of one of the pillars of modern Indian art, and an exploration of the diversity of indigenous art movements in the country.