Introduction

 

THE BALASSI INSTITUTE HUNGARIAN INFORMATION AND CULTURAL CENTRE, NEW DELHI

It's not just by chance that Hungary's oldest Cultural Centre in Asia has been established in Delhi.  Hungarians have always turned with great respect and appreciation to India, to its vast and ancient culture, to its depth of philosophy and religions and its post-Independence democracy. India, with its rapidly developing, dynamic economy, and being a regional superpower in Asia, has been playing a strategic role in Hungary's foreign policy.

 

The Hungarian Information and Cultural Centre, founded in 1978 and working continuously for the last 36 years, is located on 'Janpath', one of the posh localities of the capital. The building of the Hungarian Centre, also known as Baikunth, contemporary and of the same style as the other major public buildings, is one of the most attractive mansions of the capital. This advantageous location has always given a kind of prestige to our Centre.

 

During the 36 years of its existence the Hungarian Centre has become a prestigious institute and has been regarded as one of the best and most frequented cultural institutes in Delhi. No doubt that it has become a favourite meeting point for the Indian intellectual circles since it offers a variety of interesting programmes almost every day, be it a concert, a filmshow, a scientific lecture, Hungarian language classes or an art exhibition. It is not only Indian visitors who, over the years, formed a very positive image of the Hungarian Centre, but the cultural diplomats of the former and the newly joined member countries of the European Union also keep it in a very high esteem.

 

The cultural relations between India and Hungary are, however, dated back to a much longer time than just these few decades since the establishment of this Centre. Famous Hungarian travellers, scholars and explorers have reached India as early as in the 18th century. János Honigberger, who had come from Transylvania, was the court doctor of the famous Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It was Alexander Csoma de Kőrös who made the ever first Tibetan-English dictionary in India, and during the centuries, also a good number of Hungarian artists came to get inspiration from this country. Indians do appreciate their Hungarian born countrymen. Paintings by Amrita Sher Gil, the outstanding 20th century  artist, born to a Hungarian mother and an Indian father in Budapest, are among the greatest art treasures of India today. Indians also remember that the legendary poet Rabindranath Tagore was treated in Hungary for his cardiac ailment, and that he used to recall the memories of his visit to Hungary with much fondness and gratitude.

Delhi's audience has a daily choice of world-class cultural programmes. The Hungarian Centre competes successfully with the cultural repertoire of such countries like Germany, Great-Britain, Japan, France or Russia.

 

The most important target of our institute is to strengthen the cultural, scientific and educational relations between the two countries as well as to increase the existing ones. Our Centre is also responsible for certain tasks of cultural diplomacy. We assist Hungarian scholars and scientists in finding the right Indian partner institutions, and pay attention to scholars so that they can utilize their scholarships in the most efficient manner while being in India. Our Centre's networking system facilitates research scientists and universities from Hungary and India to be able to contact each other, and also, that Hungarian and Indian ensembles can give guest performances in each other's countries. A good number of Indian students can study in Hungarian universities with the help of the Hungarian Centre. Hungarian language class students can learn Hungarian also in the Hungarian Centre and some of them have become recognized translators by now.

It is quite commendable that due to our Centre's efforts and activities the works by some of the most significant Hungarian artists – who are recipients of the prestigious Kossuth and Munkácsy prize – could be exhibited in Delhi. Paintings by Tamás Konok, El Kazovszkij, Márton Barabás, Eszter Balás, Ildikó Várnagy, Péter Márkus, Ildikó Bakos, Gábor Gyárfás, Róbert Swierkiewicz, Ádám Würtz were more than admired and appreciated by the Indian art lovers. Eminent Hungarian artists have participated in the Nasik, Jodhpur and Goa Art Residency.

After many decades of pause we could manage to organize a church organ concert in Delhi. Performances and recitals were given by today's world class Hungarian soloists and orchestras like the Liszt Ferenc Chamber Orchestra, the Hungarian Virtuozi Chamber Orchestra, pianists Ádám Fellegi, Károly Mocsári, Ernő Fehér, András Suki, Adrienne Hauser, Vilmos Szabadi, Endre Hegedűs, Gergely Bogányi, the Auer String Quartet, the Hungarian Festival Quartet, the Kodály String Quartet, the Quintessence Medieval Music Ensemble, the Bihari János Folk Ensemble, the Rajkó Ensemble, Makám Ensemble, Samsara (an ensemble playing Indian fusion music), Jazz Timers and Cornelio Tutu Band, Ágnes Herczku, Róbert Sinha and Veronika Harcsa and her Jazz Ensemble. Our Centre's Bartók Music Club, Fábri Film Club and Petőfi Book Club are also well known in Delhi and their programmes are frequently visited by their members.

 

We organize approximately 150 programmes annually that include events in the Centre's headquarters as well as in other cultural institutions in the capital and in various regions in India. We had a series of commemorative programmes on the occasion of Attila József's birth centenary, Béla Bartók's 125th birth anniversary, Arthur Koestler's birth centenary, we paid homage to Zoltán Kodály on his 125th birth anniversary and also to Ferenc Liszt on his bi-centenary. Our Centre's  programme offers have increased remarkably, for example with a lecture series on the contributions of research work in various fields of science by eminent Hungarian scholars. We pay special emphases to cherish the memory of such outstanding Hungarians who lived in India and got inspiration to their creative work in this country. Our Centre's activities, besides Delhi, take place in 15 other cities of India.

Thanks to our determined PR activities the press coverage of our programmes has increased tremendously and nearly 200 major articles are being published annually about our events. TV channels also feature the Hungarian events regularly.