In a glittering ceremony on 1st March 2011, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in cooperation with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and Embassy of India inaugurated the magnificent festival "maximum INDIA" which showcases India’s rich and diverse performing arts.
Author Suketu Mehta, Senator Mark Warner, Co-Chair of the Senate Caucus on India and Indian Americans, Meera Shankar, Ambassador of India to the United States, David Rubenstein, Chairman of the Kennedy Center, Michael Kaiser, President of the Kennedy Center and Suresh Goel, Director General, Indian Council for Cultural Relations spoke at the inauguration. James Steinberg, Deputy Secretary of State, Congressman Ed Royce, Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, Congressman Dan Burton, Congressman Jim McDermott, William Burns, Under Secretary of State, Bruce Reed, Chief of Staff to the Vice President of the United States, Board Members of the Kennedy Center and other prominent members of the Administration and society were present including many from the Indian American community.
Author Suketu Mehta, in a thought provoking opening address talked of the flow of ideas between India and the United States which had influenced each other at important moments in their history – from Thoreau to Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther King. Mr. Kaiser observed that, "India amazes with the majesty and mystery of its culture. Its brilliance is that it is a country of extremes—intellect, innovation, survival, and experimentation. India offers the maximum." Senator Warner stated that as the head of the US-India Caucus, it is his privilege to be associated with a festival that brings the diversity of Indian arts to the USA. David Rubenstein recalled his 40 year association with India which he had first visited in “the footsteps of the Beatles” and stated that he was particularly pleased that this festival was being held at the Kennedy Center when he is the Chairman of the center.
Ambassador Meera Shankar described India as “a confluence of civilizations with diversity and tolerance as its hallmarks”. She said that the economic transformation, which India is currently undergoing, has also led to enormous creative ferment which is finding reflection in literature, dance, music, theatre, cinema and the arts. Ambassador underlined that shared democratic values and increasingly convergent interests have guided India and the United States in forging a global Strategic Partnership for the 21st Century. She emphasized the vital role of cultural exchanges and connections between people in nourishing this partnership. She quoted Mahatma Gandhi who said, "I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.” She thanked the Kennedy Center for their hard work over the past several years in developing this festival, the ICCR for supporting this festival and all the Indian artistes who would over the course of the next 20 days provide a window into India’s soul.
Suresh Goel, Director General, ICCR, thanked the Kennedy Center for hosting the festival and bringing under one roof not only the artistes from the ICCR but also troupes from India and internationally positioned Indian artistes like Ustad Zakir Hussain.
There were graceful performances by Indian dancers, Madhavi Mudgil amd Alarmel Valli and a dazzling Tabla recital by Ustad Zakir Hussain, along with others. The invitees also got an authentic taste of fabulous Indian cuisine representing all regions of the country, which was prepared by 12 award-winning Chefs from The Taj, specially flown in from Mumbai.
This visual, auditory and culinary extravaganza of India, appealing to all our senses, would be available at the Kennedy Center for the next twenty days. The eight troupes sponsored by the ICCR will also perform in different cities of the United States of America including New York, Chicago, and Houston.