Mr Gambhir Watts
President of the Sydney Centre in Australia


Mr Gambhir Watts, President of the Sydney Centre in Australia has been actively carrying out a range of cultural events with the help of his team. He also has plans to set up the International Centre for Nonviolence in February 2013. As a prominent newsmaker, India Empire interviewed him

Mr Gambhir Watts, President, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Australia

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan has an enduring and credible legacy in India. It has several centres in India and world over. When did the Sydney Charter begin ? What is the mission and vision of BVB Sydney?
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Australia was set up in Sydney in August 2003. As one of the largest NGO’s in the world, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (The Bhavan), literally meaning the House of Indian Knowledge and Wisdom, has over 180 centres in India. The Sydney Centre is its first in Australia. The other overseas centres are in the UK, USA, Canada, Portugal, Mexico, South Africa. The Bhavan has its headquarters in Mumbai, India. 
The organization has been playing a crucial role in educational and cultural interactions in the world, holding aloft the best of Indian traditions and at the same time meeting the needs of modernity and multiculturalism.
Since its launch on 30 August 2003 Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Australia (Bhavan Australia) has undertaken a large number of activities related to Indian culture and promoting multiculturalism in Australia. Many governments and local councils in Australia consider Bhavan Australia an ambassador of the Indian culture in Australia and approach us for showcase Indian culture in their multicultural festivals and events. 
Bhavan Australia’s mission is:
• To foster awareness of the contribution of a diversity of cultures to the continuing development of multicultural society of Australia.
• To foster understanding and acceptance of the cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity of the Australian people of widely diverse heritages.
• To edit, publish and issue books, journals and periodicals, documentaries in Sanskrit, English and other languages, to promote the objects of the Bhavan or to impart or further education as authorized.
• To foster and undertake research studies in the areas of interest to Bhavan and to print and publish the results of any research which is undertaken.

Mr Watts (centre)receives the Sardar Ratna (Jewel of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel) by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Foundation. He is flanked by Governor of Sikkim Mr B.P. Singh (left) and Mr Ram Avtar Sastry, Chairman, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Foundation

What are the main events being organized by BVB Australia. What is the ethos and thought process behind these events?
Bhavan’s ideal is “The whole world is but one family” and its motto says “Let noble thoughts come to us from all sides”. The Bhavan was established in India in 1938 with Mahatma Gandhi’s inspiration and blessings. We were guided by Bhavan’s Ideal and Motto and the Gandhian values in the selection and operation of our events.
The Major annual events are: 
l Holi Mahotsav in Darling Harbour over three days in March / April every year. Presenting around thousand artists and performers from India and other parts of the world, Indian traditional dances, music, as well as multicultural groups. The festival is free for everyone and takes place in the city center, Darling Harbour, Sydney. Supported by Australian Government: Department of Citizenship and Immigration, City of Sydney, CRC for multicultural NSW, Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and Indian Tourism.
• The International Day of Nonviolence—the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi—commemorating the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on 2 October every year which has been declared by the United Nations as the International Day of Nonviolence from 2007
• Interfaith Prayer Meeting every year on 30 January at the Parliament House, Sydney
• Essay competition "The Relevance of Mahatma Gandhi philosophies today in the context of: social responsibility, or world peace, or environment". Main prizes: return ticket to India. The competition is open for all University Australian students and the judges are the professors from major Australian Universities.
• World Culture Concert & Arts Festival—in October every year, in Sydney Town Hall, supported by City of Sydney. This event has been discontinued for the time being. New dates are about to be announced.

We understand that you are now in the process of creating an international centre for peace. You were recently in South Africa in connection with this peace platform. Please tell us about it, and also how the Indian diaspora can participate in it?
Recently I actively participated at the “Roots to Fruits: Nonviolence in Action” conference at Durban University of Technology, South Africa held between 31 July to 2 August 2012. 
The conference was organized by Gandhi Development Trust (GDT) which was founded in 2002 in Durban, South Africa with the aim to promote Gandhian values, build a spirit of reconciliation and create a culture of peace and nonviolence locally and internationally.
Inspired by Ela Gandhi (grand-daughter of Mahatma Gandhi) at the conference, I decided to set up an International Centre of Nonviolence in Australia.

Our Vision & Mission 
Our vision is of a non-violent society based on the celebration of our common humanity and of the natural environment that sustains us. We will work to make strategic interventions in education—development of educators and curricula, teaching and writing—that challenge structural violence, enable learning untainted by violence and advance a culture of non-violence. It works through reflective practice and focused research to develop and disseminate its understanding, and to build networks of educators with a similar vision and commitment.
The International Centre of Nonviolence (ICON) Australia is proud to have achieved an esteem list of dignitaries from different walks of life who have joined us as Patrons and confirmed their ongoing support.
Indian diaspora is welcome to join us in fostering our activities of action in nonviolence. I personally request our Indian diaspora to be more assertive in their action to prevent domestic violence and violence against women. We should not forget our ancient heritage in which women have the foremost respect and importance.

What other outreach programs do you have to reach out to the Indian community in particular and the Australian community at large?
Apart from the major events listed above Bhavan Australia supports a number of events and organizations with a view to multiculturalism and promotes the Indian culture in Australia. The supported organizations include Art Gallery of NSW; Sydney Alliance; Australian National Field Days, Orange; City of Sydney Harmony Festival; Ashfield Carnival of Cultures; Tribal Warrior Association; OzSpell Challenge; Circus Extravaganza; Community Relations Commission and various city councils in Australia; White Ribbon Foundation and other community organizations.

Your monthly magazine, Bhavan Australia, has a very high quality of content. It has a philosophical bent, and you have propagated traditional Indian philosophies like Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam and Spiritual understandings from all over the world. This is a wonderful, futuristic way. What is your own personal vision for the world?
Ekam Sdvipra Bahuda Vadanti—That is one whom the learned describe in variegated ways. I don’t see any difference in Krishna, Christ, Allah or whatever other religions call their ‘God’. I see the world as one big family where everyone, though could be different, have different ideas and concepts, and belong together.

Peace has been one of your central and abiding themes. It is one of the most important themes for mankind, for without peace, there can never be happy coexistence. In multicultural Australia, how does BVB help spread this message?
I am personally greatly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s concept of Satyagraha and nonviolent active resistance. We spread this Gandhian concept through our publications and events as can be seen from the list of our events in 2 above.

Please tell us in what way the Indian Diaspora and Indians in India can contribute to the growth of BVB?
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan worldwide is having the yearlong celebrations of its seventy five years (7 November 2013) and 125th birth anniversary of its founder Kulapaty Dr Kanhaiyalal Munshi. We request every Indian to join Bhavan in these celebrations.
In Australia we wish to set up Bhavan House for which we need donations both in cash and kind and volunteers.


January 2013

click here to enlarge