To showcase “the wealth of Indian knowledge”, the RSS’s cultural wing, Sanskar Bharti, has planned “the biggest cultural show” on the planet. To be held at Banaras Hindu University’s campus somewhere between September-December next year, the Sanskriti Naimisheya will be a “grand assembly of sages, scholars and artists” lasting over three days.
The event will see 11 “international awards”, the ‘Naimisheya Samman’, given to people working in various fields. The Naimisheya Samman, the Sanskar Bharti said, would be “comparable to any other global award in authority and prize money”.
That includes the Nobel Prize. For 2016, the Nobel Prize money stands at 8 million Swedish Kronor or Rs 6.24 crore. The Sanskar Bharti is planning to give away at least Rs 68.7 crore as total prize money, besides the cost of organising the festival.
“There are many centres of knowledge and arts in the world, but Kashi is the only place that has a sangam of knowledge, arts and spirituality. Therefore, Kashi has been chosen for this epic event. Kashi is the city of Natraj (Lord Shiva), the Aadiguru of arts. All streams of thoughts find their permanent abode here,” Amir Chand, veteran RSS pracharak and the Sanskar Bharti’s assistant organising secretary, told The Indian Express.
The word Naimisheya, meaning ‘like Naimisharanya’, is derived from a place in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh, where some 80,000 saints and scholars are said to have assembled in ancient times for deliberations on various issues.
Named after eminent Indian personalities, the awards, to be decided by an “international jury”, would be in the categories of Peace (Buddha), Human Rights (Mahatma Gandhi), Literature (Kalidas), Visual and Performing Arts (Bharat Muni), Science (Aryabhatta), Politics (Kautilya), International Unity (Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel), Social and Spiritual Unity (Shankaracharya), Integral Humanism (Deendayal Upadhyay), Education (Madan Mohan Malviya), Social Upliftment and Harmony (Dr B R Ambedkar).
“Kashi witnesses the confluence of Sakar (specific deities) and Nirakar (formless god). Buddha, Shankaracharya, Harishchandra, Tulsidas, Kabir — everyone visited Kashi. It’s the permanent abode of truth,” Chand said.
The awards though were just one aspect of the Sanskriti Namisheya, RSS leaders said, and the event, to be held once every three years, would be a reply to those who allege that the right wing lacks intellectual depth.
“There are enough people with nationalistic thoughts who are taking the lead in creative and academic fields. However, the Congress rule of 60 years has pushed nationalism on the margins. An atmosphere of nationalism has recently been created in the country, Indian thoughts have gained prominence on the global stage. The Naimisheya will be a platform to celebrate the richness of Indian thoughts,” said an RSS pracharak.
“It will create a platform for literary and scholarly dialogue, offer suggestions to the society and governments on various issues and provide a roadmap for the next century,” said another leader.
BHU V-C Girish Chandra Tripathi asserted that his campus is “the most appropriate place” to hold this event. “Indian culture proposes eternal values. But, from time to time, sages have deliberated these values in the light of contemporary conditions. We will also deliberate these values through the prism of contemporary political and economic scene and try to form a path for the next 100 years,” Tripathi said.
The Sanskar Bharti has involved people from various fields, including art, literature, cinema and industry, for the awards. Some of them are classical singer Girija Devi, film director Chandra Prakash Dwivedi, danseuse Sonal Mansingh, artist Vasudev Kamat, theatre personality Bimal Lath, folk singer Malini Awasthi apart from BHU V-C Tripathi. Some ministries and industries have also been approached for support and ideation.
The idea was discussed at a recent board meeting of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts. “Artists, intellectuals and thinkers who are involved in furthering Indian arts and ideas will come together to discuss, display, demonstrate, debate subjects of perennial significance,” Sonal Mansingh said.