March 2014 \ Cover Story \ COVER STORY—Dr Karan Singh
Dr Karan Singh President, Indian Council for Cultural Relations INDIA’S CULTURAL AMBASSADOR

“Philosophers must become kings … or those now called kings must genuinely and adequately philosophize…” —Plato in The Republic

  • At the launch of the 130th Commonwealth Essay Competition

 Dr Karan Singh is the king that turned philosopher.

He was born into royalty in 1931 and crowned over the years with myriad high titles that mortal men would find it impossible to acquire over many lifetimes. He is an engaging communicator and world figure on Hinduism in its deepest and most universal form, a learned philosopher with knowledge and understanding of other great faiths. Born a Yuvraj (Prince), he may have held a regal title and numerous top administrative and academic positions in India and abroad, but it is through his brilliant acuity, philosophical mind, and breathtaking oratory skills that he has come to hold sway over audiences around the world.

Today, he is the president of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, an organization that is tasked to spread India’s ancient culture and civilizational heritage into the far and near corners of the earth.

He was born into the ruling family of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, arguably the largest of over five hundred native states within the British empire at the time. In 1949, at the age of eighteen, he was appointed Regent of Jammu and Kashmir. He graduated from the Jammu and Kashmir University while holding the position of Chancellor in that very university, a unique moment in Indian academic history that is yet to be repeated. He earned his masters degree and doctorate from the Delhi University while continuing to remain the Chancellor of the Jammu and Kashmir University. Later in life he was to become Chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Benares Hindu University, positions he held for many years.

For 18 years since his coronation, he continued to serve in various capacities—Regent, Sadar-i-Riyasat (President) and Governor—all in Jammu and Kashmir. In 1967, he was inducted into the Union Cabinet by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Only 36 then, Dr Karan Singh became the youngest to become a Central cabinet minister in India. He won several Lok Sabha elections thereafter and continued to remain politically active for a very long time, including a short stint as India’s ambassador to the USA in 1989 – 1990.

He’s also been president of the India International Centre and is chairman of the Auroville Foundation at Auroville, having earlier completed his doctorate on Sri Aurobindo. To this day, he remains a colossal intellectual, a poet, a writer, an author, a singer, a musician, and India’s Cultural Ambassador.

He spoke at length to India Empire’s Editor and Publisher Sayantan Chakravarty at his residence