Bilateral cultural relations

Florian Schiertz, Tabla expert during a performance in Germany Enlarge image Florian Schiertz, Tabla expert during a performance in Germany (© Christel Rossner, Singen, courtesy: Florian Schiertz) Cultural relations are perceived by the German government as one of the crucial pillars of foreign policy, alongside political and economic relations. Indo-German cooperation in the field of culture and the arts is as vigorous and multi-faceted as ever, be it in films, theatre, dance, the visual arts, literature and oral narrative traditions, or the printing and publishing industry.

In India, it is the Culture Department of the German Embassy and the six branches of the Goethe-Institut, named Max Mueller Bhawans after the famed German Indologist Max Mueller, that deal with bilateral cultural affairs – each complementing the other. The Culture Department is responsible for fundamental and policy matters of cultural affairs, whereas the Max Mueller Bhavans are involved in art practice, concentrating on executing cultural programmes and projects, mostly on a bilateral basis.

Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra at a press conference during the shooting of Don 2 Enlarge image Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra at a press conference during the shooting of Don 2 (© dpa) Today, bilateral relations between Germany and India are vibrant, being enhanced by people-to-people contacts, for example: German art galleries participate in art fairs in India; Indian contemporary artists are frequently shown in exhibitions in Germany, either in group or solo shows; the field of theatre and dance has seen a remarkable spurt in recent years with a number of joint programmes or performances inspired by each other's culture and visuality; and of course, cinema with Bollywood being a household name all over Germany.

Ever since German television started regularly screening Bollywood movies, Hindi films have become quite popular with the German public and German locations for Indian film makers besides Bollywood Stars like Shahrukh Khan, Irfan Khan are very much loved by Germans. Berlinale and Filmfest München regularly have India's greatest hits on their menu. German films, such as "Run, Lola, Run" and Oscar-winning "The Lives of Others" were extremely appreciated by Indians and was a great success in India. This spurt on the cinematic scene might be, to some extent, due to the bilateral film agreement signed in 2007.

Indian art, ranging from miniatures, bronzes, sculptures, ancient terracottas, fragments of wall paintings, ancient textiles and objects of everyday art, is superbly presented in various museums all over Germany, mainly in the Museum of Asian Art, the Museum of Islamic Art, the Ethnographic Museum (all in Berlin), the Völkerkunde Museums in Hamburg, Bremen, Munich and  Stuttgart, the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum in Cologne.

Holi celebrations in Germany Enlarge image Holi celebrations in Germany (© picture alliance/dpa)

Holi Festivals are currently taking Germany by storm. The ‘Holi Festival of Colours’ now attracts tens of thousands of young people every year. Detached from its religious roots, Germany’s version of Holi takes place in fenced-off areas between mid-May and late August, when the weather is good. On the occasion, the visitors also have the opportunity to treat their taste buds to some of the exotic cuisine from India, like chicken curry.

Likewise, Yoga, which originated in Asia is highly “on” in the West and has became "in" for the German public to participate in yoga classes. Over the years, yoga in Germany has become a valid and strong field with many skilled teachers and respected schools and in past few years boomed in the field of fitness and health. 

As far as Indo German partnership/alliance is concerned, Germany and India’s association is ancient. Indology and Sanskrit have fascinated German scholars and researchers. The study of Sanskrit and Indian culture was initiated in various German universities at the beginning of the 19th century. The first course in Sanskrit was offered by Franz Vorländer in 1843 in Marburg. India had many German scholars who came to study different languages, Fredinand Kittel, Max Mueller, Hermann Gundert, just to name a few.

Bilateral cultural relations

Indian star Aamir Khan is part of the jury at the Berlinale in 2011

The Historical Perspective

/Die Leuchte Asiens/ (/The Light of Asia/, or/ Prem Sanyas/) was one of the most popular films directed by Franz Osten in 1925.

Indo-German cultural relations go back many centuries. They have always been vigorous and multi-faceted, be it in the visual arts, literature and oral traditions, theatre and dance, or films. Here are short write-ups about a few aspects of these. 

Did you know.....?

Did you know that German looms spun borders for Indian saris, or that India's national bird – the peacock – has a special home in Berlin? The 'Did you know...' series of essays, originally published in the 'German News' bring you lesser known facts about Indo-German cultural relations.