In the sesquicentennial year of Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary, artists from over 150 countries have contributed to a medley rendition of his favourite devotional song 'Vaishnava Jan To' in an eclectic tribute to the iconic leader.
The video was screened Wednesday at the Pravasi Bhartiya Kendra here after the launch of a coffee table book by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, detailing its journey, from conception to execution and the challenges faced by the team.
Last year, to mark October 2, we had made the video featuring artists from 125 countries. Now, we are in the 150th year of Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary and we have expanded it to artists from 155 countries. Many local artists have brought in their own flavour by including ethnic instruments," a top Ministry of External Affairs official told PTI.
The over 320-page book contains biographical details about the various artists, drawn from countries in Europe and Africa, along with anecdotal accounts and pictures of some famous landmarks in their countries.
"When the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) expressed his desire to have such a video, I was a bit apprehensive in the beginning about executing it. But the heads of missions showed great enthusiasm and turned this idea into something that was beyond my expectations," Swaraj said in his address at the event.
The Union minister said the artists were told the meaning of the song 'Vaishnava Jan To', which is originally in Gujarati and they sang with such ease and emotional expression that amazed the team.
"This book is a tribute to Gandhi and dedicated to the artists who are part of this project. In our different missions we want them to be felicitated for their contribution," she said.
The project was conceptualised as part of the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of the Father of the Nation.
The famous Gujarati hymn was penned by 15th century poet Narsimha Mehta and was one of the favourite 'bhajans' of Gandhi who included it into the roster of prayers routinely sung before his meetings, it said.
All Indian missions abroad identified local artists or a group to record the 'bhajan' in the run-up to Gandhi Jayanti.
Swaraj said, "This song is neither a religious prayer nor is related to religion, rather it talks about being a virtuous man."
A cultural performance by artists showcasing different art forms and themed on Gandhi's struggle for Independence was also staged on the occasion, while a patriotic medley dance performance preceded it.
Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh, members of the diplomatic corps, well-known artists and senior officials of the MEA were also present on the occasion.
Incidentally, last year also marked 125 years of the Pietermaritzburg station in South Africa, where he was thrown off a 'whites-only carriage' of a train.
On the night of June 7, 1893, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was then a young lawyer, was thrown off the train's first-class compartment at Pietermaritzburg station for refusing to give up his seat.
Last year, Swaraj on that day had undertaken a train journey from Pentrich to Pietermaritzburg as a tribute to Gandhi.
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