Cover Story : India India

India India

Nearly 200,000 people attended INDIA INDIA in Zurich in August. This is the second straight year that the event provided a dazzling array of colours, beats and sounds from India. This event will be a regular feature in Europe in years to come
Text by Arun Amirtham
Photos by Augustin Saleem in Zurich

Organizers of INDIA INDIA, Zurich

For the second year in a row, Zurich Hauptbahnof, Zurich’s central station, was home to a three-day festival which saw the colours of India, the rhythms of classical and folk dance, the beats of Bollywood, the fragrance of the delicate Indian cuisine, the drapes of colourful and exquisite textiles, and the taste of munchy Haldiram savouries.




The three-day festival, from August 28 to 30, 2009, hosted under the patronage of the City of Zurich and with the support of India Tourism was planned, organized and run by the India India Association, a newly founded institution to further Indian culture and friendly relations in Switzerland and in Europe. The primary focus is to host an annual three-day festival in Zurich along the lines of the 2008 Grüezi India Mega Mela which celebrated sixty years of Swiss-Indian friendship.


The cultural content at the festival included a vibrant display of Indian classical dance forms ranging from Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri and Bharathanatyam, all seamlessly woven together with folk dance forms such as Kalbelia, Dandia and Rajasthani folk dance, entitled Glory of India, bearing the signature choreography of the award-winning choreographer and director, Maitreyee Paharee of the Lok Chhanda Cultural Unit in New Delhi.


Each evening also featured a Bollywood dance extravaganza, Ticket to Bollywood, put together by the Mayuri Dance Group of Zurich. This show demonstrated the roots of the Bollywood dance scene in the folk and classical dance forms of India and highlighted the different trends since the 1940s and 1950s to the contemporary style. DJs from Masters of Entertainment, UK, kept the crowds thumping to the beats of Desi Music until the wee hours of the morning.


The inaugural ceremony on Friday, August 28, additionally saw the impressive beats of the Chenda drums from Kerala. Mr. Roland Ulmer, General Manager of the Renaissance Zurich Hotel and Mr. Bal Balaji, CEO of ColorMailer were the chief guests. Mr. Arun Amirtham greeted and welcomed the guests on behalf of the orgainsers, the India India Association.


The bazaar stands at the festival boasted textiles, jewellery, handicrafts, antiques, sweets and savouries, mangoes, CDs and DVDs as well as a wide variety of Indian cuisine ranging from masala dosa and coconut chutney to fresh naan from the tandoor accompanied with butter chicken masala. The bazaar alleys were packed and the stands were bustling with activity from opening hours until the closing of the bazaar each evening.


There were also activities for the guests and visitors to participate in and to experience Indian cuisine and culture first-hand. The Bollywood dance workshops held every morning were packed with enthusiastic Swiss students ranging from age 5 to age 65! A live cookery theatre demonstrated the subtleties of India cuisine to an eager audience. The stand offering Henna tattoos was also well visited with a bee-line of guests eager to carry a mark of their presence at the festival back home!


In the words of Mr. Daniel Sarbach, Director of the Swiss International School, “It was a fantastic festival with a tremendous amount of people from all over the world. The concerts were spell-binding, the bazaar stands were spread out well and represented a very wide range of interests from food, textiles, fashion accessories, travel and Bollywood, and there was ample opportunity for encounters. The organization was impeccable and all sponsors and partners were well informed ahead of time to allow for a smooth operation in setting up the stands at the festival”. “It was the best public event where the school was ever represented”, he says, “count us in for the 2010 festival!”


The partners and sponsors at the 2009 festival included the Swiss Railways Authorities - SBB, the City of Zurich, Renaissance Zurich hotel, ColorMailer, Lufthansa, Vectone, Swiss International School, UNICEF, SK Traders, Kales Airline Services and a host of Indian as well as South Asian businesses from the greater Zurich region.




The objective of celebrating Indian culture in the heart of Europe and furthering friendly ties with the local community was not only amply met but commemorated in a festive spirit with a splash of colour and the exuberance that marks any Mela.


The India !ndia Association has identified the 27th, 28th and 29th of August as the dates for the 2010 festival. The highlights next year will include a guest state from India, participation of businesses from India at the festival stands and workshops on theme India for children and the young at heart. 

—(We look forward to your participation and presence at the 2010 festival! Further information may be found at You may also write to or call +41-79-630 83 25)

Organizers of INDIA INDIA, Zurich

INDIA INDIA has now been organized for the second straight year at Zurich. By every account it is a unique carnival, and a grand opportunity to showcase India to the European community. Please let us know the thought process behind this event…
Last year's festival was a one-time commemoration of the 60 years of Swiss-Indian friendship. The idea behind INDIA INDIA is to make it a regular annual celebration of India in the heart of Europe, Zurich. Our main aim in organizing this event is to popularize India, Indian life style, Indian values, Indian dance in all its variants—the trendy Bollywood and the ever popular Bharatnatyam, as well as local folk and classical dances. It is essentially a cultural dialogue between the local Swiss and European communities, the Indians living in Europe and the artists from India coming here to perform at the festival.

What kind of programming do you have at INDIA INDIA?
We have had two shows each day that have been repeated on each of the three days of the festival. The first show is entitled “Glory of India”. It is choreographed by the award-winning Maitreyee Pahari, director of the Lok Chhanda Cultural Unit, New Delhi. She uses classical and folk dances from various parts of India and creates shows which dazzle Indians as well as the local community with the variety of dance forms that are woven together seamlessly.
The second show is “Ticket to Bollywood” and is performed by the Mayuri Dance Group, a group of young Indians, few of them secondos in Switzerland. They are mostly students who live in and around Zürich, pursuing their studies and professions, and dance in the Mayuri Dance Group to keep and strengthen their connections to their roots in India. We concluded each day with a DJ party and dance to the beats of Bollywood music provided to us by the DJs from UK.

INDIA INDIA will be a milestone in the cultural agenda of Europe during the last weekend every August. We seek to work in partnership and in cooperation with other organisations, groups and persons to make it a vibrant and colourful celebration of India in the heart of Europe

Where the artists who performed at INDIA INDIA mainly from India, or do you have local talent too?
We have 17 dancers joining us from India. These are from Maitreyee Pahari's Lok Chhanda Cultural Unit and represent the cultural and folk traditions across the length and breadth of India. The Mayuri Dance Group is from Zürich. Some of the dancers are Indians born and brought up here but want to maintain strong ties with their roots. Others are here on a temporary basis as students or professionals. The Mayuri Dance Group has some professionally trained classical dancers while others participate since dance is their passion and they want to share it with the rest of the world. The DJ artistes are from the UK.

Who are your main partners?
We are privileged to have the patronage of the office of the honourable mayor of the City of Zürich at this festival. Our main sponsors and partners are India Tourism, Kerala Tourism, ColorMailer, Renaissance Zürich Hotel, Lufthansa, Vectone, Unicef, Kales Airline Services, SK Trading and various other local businesses.

How many people visited / attended the event this year? How many of them are members of the Indian diaspora? Did you have people from other parts of Europe in attendance?
We had 200,000 people attending this event over three days. About 3% of the visitors were from the local India daispora. The event was mainly to cater to the local Swiss. We also had visitors also from neighbouring Germany, Austria, Italy and France as well as a few from the UK.

Would you like to keep INDIA INDIA an event based out of Switzerland, or would you move it to other parts of Europe in coming years?
We clearly see the potential to evolve India India into a celebration for the whole of Europe, at least continental Europe. In an initial phase, we would like to first take this event to other cities in Switzerland, such as Geneva, Basel, Bern and Lugano. There is a lot of interest for India all over Switzerland. In a second phase, we do intend to explore the feasibility of developing this into a true celebration of India in Europe, either based out of Switzerland or with festivals in locations in Germany, Austria, France and Italy first.

Apart from organizing this carnival what are the other activities that you are involved with during the year?
The India India festival concept has emerged from our experiences in the Indian cultural milieu in Switzerland and is today feasible because of our involvement in Indian culture and its propagation over a span of over two decades. There are several events organised during the course of the year on a smaller scale. We have been showcasing India at the Asian Food and Cultural Festival at the Renaissance Zürich Hotel every autumn for over 10 years now. We have dancers from India, artisans demonstrating their arts and chefs serving Indian culinary delicacies. Other such big and small events are organized throughout the year at different location such as shopping centres, art galleries and museums. We are also involved in various development projects based in India.

How many exhibitors participated at the carnival?
We had 50 exhibitors which include restaurants, and shops with Indian wares, and travel agencies. Anything to do with India is embraced.

In the larger picture, do you see INDIA INDIA turning out to be an event on the scale and size of Festival of India?
India is a land with a rich, wide and very long cultural heritage. Like the Festival of India in Potsdam, it is indeed the idea behind INDIA INDIA to offer a platform for, and to celebrate, the cultural, art and literary traditions of India. The idea is also to make it accessible and relevant to the public. INDIA INDIA will be a milestone in the cultural agenda of Europe during the last weekend every August. We seek to work in partnership and in cooperation with other organisations, groups and persons to make it a vibrant and colourful celebration of India in the heart of Europe. The dates for next year will be Friday 27th – Sunday 29th August 2010.

September 2009

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