Seeing India through the lens – from Ethiopia

In a unique peek into the wonder that is India, the Indian embassy in Ethiopia showcased a photo exhibition of religions in India at a national level for the first time.

The exhibition was opened in the presence of Ethiopia’s Minister of Culture and Tourism (MoCT), Amin Abdulkadir, the diplomatic community and representatives of different religions as symbol of harmony.

There are various ways of looking at India: through Bollywood, the economic figures, strategic depth, food, costumes, but religion somewhere is at the centre of the Indian identity, Indian Ambassador to Ethiopia and

Djibouti, Sanjay Verma, said.

“This is something we also share with Ethiopia. Both India and Ethiopia are recipients of great religions of the world. Ethiopia received Judaism, Christianity and Islam; similarly India has been a recipient of Hinduism,

Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. We have also extended hospitality to Zoroastrianism, Baha’i and so on”, Verma stated.

The theme of the exhibition, “India Celebrates”, by Amit Mehra shows India’s stunning diversity and exotic of its sights, its culture and its people. In vastly differing geographical settings, India allows for the beauty of many

worlds to be experienced in its breadth: from the tropical charm of its picturesque lengths of wave-lapping beaches to the sunshine-drenched magic of the dunes of the Thar desert. Spanning the gamut from the deeply

rooted mysticism of its spirituality to the vibrant evocation of its architectural marvels, India is the mood and destination of the moment.

With a colourful mosaic of various religions in India, as diverse as the land, the exhibition is a translation of India’s eternal expression of the spirit of celebration, which makes this civilization unique as no other.

“Religions in India would suggest diversity and respect among others for different ideas, identities, and many more showing that they can live together and prosper together”, the ambassador said.

Observed with enthusiasm and fervour, the different religions and their festivals are like gems ornamenting the crown of Indian culture. Annual interludes in the mundane routine of life, and the vibrancy of these festivals

punctuate the seasons with their flavours. As in Holi, the festival of color that unifies Indians as a people, without boundaries.

As seen from the photographs displayed on the walls of the Ethiopian National Museum, the religions in India bring along festivals, each a true celebration of the bounties of the rich traditions followed for time immemorial.

The gods and goddesses, saints and prophets, and great historical events, all find expressions in colourful festivities, though celebrated differently in various parts of the country; they all exhibit an eternal harmony of the

spirit of new attire, dance, music and rituals.

“I was born Hindu. I studied in Christian institutions, by cultural orientation I am tremendously influenced by the Islamic culture for a lot of contemporary popular Indian culture is the Islamic civilization”, Varma said.

“I as a representative, I as an ordinary Indian reflect Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. It is another matter totally that I finally turned out to be a non-believer and probably a non-believing ambassador celebrating religion is

a statement itself.”

“India is an exemplary living museum of ethnic and religious diversity which have managed to platform all harmoniously. India indeed is also an ancient nation with so much relation with our country during even the old

days, the Axumite period,” Minister Abdulkadir said.

“This is fantastic and the symbol of this exhibition — monuments, churches, Hindu temples, Muslim masjids, Catholic Christians from Goa — all tell stories,” Antonio Luiz Cotrim, Portuguese ambassador to Ethiopia, said.

“These are ways that help to join our hands to avoid clash of civilisations”, Cotrim told IANS.

In his exciting visual journey of 15 years, Amit Mehra has traversed through various genres of photography. He is currently working on a coffee table book project, titled “Indian Faces”, another on “Contemporary Indian

Design and Spaces” and a large format book on “India: a Holy Earth”. His works were exhibited in various parts of the world.

The exhibition will be open for residents of Addis Ababa for two weeks and then move to different parts of the country, including universities such as Ambo University, 119 km from Addis Ababa.

(Hadra Ahmed can be contacted at hadraahmed@gmail.com)

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