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  issue 2, year XIX, 2012

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H.E. Divyabh MANCHANDA, Ambassador of the Republic of INDIA to the Republic of BULGARIA

- Your Excellency, you have been in Bulgaria for more than two years, but you know the country from an earlier posting. How did you find Bulgaria upon your return here as Ambassador?
- I had been in Bulgaria during the period 1988-1990 as First Secretary in the Embassy. Since this has been one of my most memorable postings abroad, seeing the historic changes take place peacefully - I was happy and quite curious to return to Bulgaria as Ambassador. I find the country changed in many aspects – the traffic for one! The city infrastructure has improved considerably, unlike the infrastructure in the villages, many of which seem somewhat deserted. The Black Sea coastal region has been almost completely transformed. Some of the beach resorts have become a little too touristic – and while there is nothing wrong with that, one feels that the over-development of the area impairs to an extent the natural beauty of the region. The people of Bulgaria, however, have remained the same – warm and friendly. Further, many more Bulgarians speak fluent English which makes my stay here all the more interesting and enjoyable.
- Despite the changes in our country, Bulgaria and India have always kept wonderful relations. What is your evaluation of the relations between our two countries?
- The relations between Bulgaria and India are traditionally good. People here often take great interest and show considerable knowledge in areas such as Indian culture, philosophy and religion. Yoga is of course very popular. Bilateral trade is again steadily increasing and is near $ 200 million a year. Our official interaction is guided by the Joint Commissions in Economy and in Defence.
- The geographic distance between our two countries is somewhat of a hurdle in the way of developing business connections. Do you see opportunities for advancing of business relations?
- Of course, there are possibilities! Until recently the main problem that Indian business people wanting to visit Bulgaria faced was the long time taken in obtaining Bulgarian visas. Now (since late January 2012) the Bulgarian government permits short term stay in Bulgaria to holders of Schengen visas, without the need of Bulgarian visa. The business contacts between the two countries should be greatly facilitated.
- We Bulgarians know a lot about India’s rich culture. What is it that we don’t know about your country?
- I think that the main thing that Bulgarians, or for that matter other foreign nationals, take time in realizing about India is the country’s incredible diversity. Visits to the Taj Mahal and Jaipur in northern India, the Konark Sun Temple in the East, a beach in Goa in the West or the southern State of Kerala can prove to be four completely different cultural experiences, yet all within the boundaries of one country. Even I, as an Indian, often feel overwhelmed by the deep cultural extensiveness.
- What are the relations between Indians and Bulgarians apart from official visits?
- The Friends of India Club was founded in February 1991 and has been organizing events on India for the last 21 years. Other organizations have also emerged and have become active. The Indians in Bulgaria have recently formed an Association. My favourite is the programme of the Indian government for technical and economic cooperation (ITEC) which has been very successful in Bulgaria, with about 20 Bulgarians attending different professional courses in India each year. As I said earlier, Bulgarians are warm and friendly, making it a pleasure to work here.
- What do Indians like most about Bulgaria? And what surprises them?
- Indians who live here like the country’s beautiful nature, pleasant climate and relaxed atmosphere. I think what surprises them is the still unspoilt nature of this beauty, which is rare to see anywhere in today’s age.
- What do you like to do in your spare time? Do you have a favourite place in Bulgaria and any favorite dishes?
- In my free time I like to go for walks, either out in the open, or even in the city. I of course like to travel around the country and visit (and revisit) other towns. My favorite place in Bulgaria remains Sofia. As for the food, I really enjoy tarator as an excellent refreshment on a hot summer’s day.
Questions asked by Valentin Kostov, bTV

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The Republic of India is situated in Southern Asia and is the 7th biggest country in the world. The country’s relief is various: high mountains, wide planes and deserts. India’s climate is subequatorial and tropic. The biggest Indian river is the Ganges, which springs from the Himalayas.
India is a parliamentary republic. The President is Head of State. The country’s population is over 1 billion and 80% of the people follow Hinduism.

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The bilateral relations between Bulgaria and India were established on 22 December 1954. India and Bulgaria cooperate in the UN and other international organizations. There is a Group for friendship with India in the Bulgarian Parliament and a group for friendship with Bulgaria in the Indian Parliament. Trade relations between the two countries are also well developed. India gives scholarships to Bulgarian students and Bulgaria – to Indian students. There is a traditional friendship, cooperation and partnership between the two countries.

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Over the years, India has emerged as a preferred destination for foreign investment. It has sustained a growth of 8-9% even during recent difficult times. Today the service sector accounts for near 60% of the GDP, growing by 10% annually, contributing to 35% of the total employment. As one of the world’s largest agrarian economies, the agriculture sector in India accounted for 14.2% of the GDP in 2010-2011. The Indian Pharmaceutical Industry ranks very high in terms of technology, quality and range. India is the fastest growing and second largest mobile telecommunications market in the world. The mobile subscriber base is expected to cross the one billion mark by the end of 2012.

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The rich or poor, Indians across faiths and regions pull out all the stops when it comes to a wedding. Like a massive juggernaut, the single-largest social phenomenon and behemoth industry, gets larger by the year, spawning more business opportunities, more related functions, more style and even more chutzpah. It is not just the scale of the wedding bazaar - calculated at an insane US$ 40 billion (a sum that could well be a reasonable-sized country’s annual budget) and growing at 25 per cent annually - that is a phenomenon but the manner of the marriage as well. In no other country, or culture, are weddings arranged the way they are in India.

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The article outlines the characteristics of historical experience and cultural heritage of India which account for the birth of "the phenomenon India". A preeminent place is given to ideas and the cardinal role of the notion of unity in diversity, which has preconditioned many of the main features of Indian culture - social and religious practices, as well as those of governance and politics down the ages. That is how India is able to constantly develop and yet preserve its fundamental spirit.

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Twenty two of the Indian languages are acknowledged in the Indian constitution. However, Hindi is the official one. About 480 000 000 people in the whole world speak Hindi. The language belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European group of languages. Many words in Hindi come from Persian, Arabic or English. Nowadays the dialects of Hindi are divided into western and eastern.

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Boryana Kamova
The Friends of India Club (FIC) was founded on February 8th, 1991 in Sofia. Its initiators were Vladimir Ganev, Evgenia Kamova and Margarita Georcheva. Founders are 101 Bulgarians - scholars, writers, journalists, diplomats, artists, translators, indologists and public personalities. A symbolic opening of the Club’s activities was carried out by Acad. Peter Dinekov, the poet Nayden Vulchev and the Chargé d’affaires of the Embassy of the Republic of India at that time Mr. Sani by lighting an Indian lamp. Acad. Vera Mutafchieva was elected President of the Club and Mr. Lyubomir Popov, who was the first Bulgarian ambassador to Independent India, was elected first Vice President. In 2010 a new Governing Board stepped in with Prof. Alexander Shurbanov as President of FIC, Vladimir Ganev as its Secretary General and Margarita Georcheva, Prof. Alexander Fedotoff, Daniela Kaneva and Dr. Antoaneta Zarkova as Vice Presidents.
In the 20 years of FIC’s existence there have been over 200 different events held by the club. One of its most successful initiatives is the Lectoria, started on June 16th,1999, within which talks on India’s culture, philosophy, literature, folklore, art, religions, past and present state are given by renowned Bulgarian or visiting specialists in the field of Indian Studies or by researchers working on India-related topics in various directions. Another cornerstone of FIC’s activities was starting its annual Svetilnik magazine in 1997. The FIC has won recognition as a way of expanding the long-lasting friendship between Bulgaria and India.

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The subject Indology was added to the academic curriculum of the Sofia University in 1983. In the early 90s Bulgaria was in the middle of an economic crisis. As a result, many subjects in the university were closed. In order to help the Bulgarian Indology students, the East-West foundation was founded in 1997. The foundation publishes books and provides students with textbooks. It also organizes public lectures, exhibitions, concerts of Indian musicians and theatre performances.

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In India, tourism has played a pivotal role in social progress. A wide array of interests - entertainment, sports, religion, culture, adventure, education, health and business - drives tourism. India has allowed 100% foreign investment in the hotel and tourism industry. The country has launched a scheme for development of nationally and internationally important destinations. Foreign Tourist Arrivals in India during 2011 were 6.29 mln with a growth of 8.9%. Well-equipped infrastructure and comparatively low costs have paved India’s way to becoming a preferred tourist destination in the world.

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Mircea Eliade was a Romanian historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and profes¬sor at the University of Chicago. During his life he had deep interest in the ancient Indian culture. When he was 24 years old, he won a scholarship and went to India. There he learned Sanskrit and explored the traditional Indian philosophy. Yoga was what the young Romanian found most enchanting about India. He wrote a lot of books on India. They are now translated in different languages and published all over the world.

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Walking around Delhi, you get the feeling that you are traveling through India’s millenary history. The city has always been the country’s face. In Old Delhi you find medieval castles, mausoleums and monuments. The Red Fort is very famous - this is where Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru claimed India’s independence from the British Empire.
There are plenty of shops, restaurants and clubs in the New Delhi district. The Presidential House, the Central Secretariat and the Parliament are all there. The world’s highest minaret - Qutub Minar, the Lotus Temple and the Akshardham Temple are amongst the most visited tourist sites in the city.

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Mumbai is a mega polis with a population of 13 million people. It is the biggest port of West India and the financial centre of the country. The head offices of the Central bank, the biggest fund markets and Indian companies are situated here. The tourist area Churchgate is very famous - there you can find many cathedrals, museums and theatres. The most visited tourist sites are the 26 meter high Gateway of India, Mumbai’s markets, the Kanheri caves and the Ali Dargah Mosque.

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The Konark Sun Temple is one of India’s seven wonders. It was built in the XIII century by the ruler Narasimhadev I. It is created in the form of a chariot. There are two big lions in front of the Sun Temple. Life during the government of the Kalinga dynasty is depicted on the massive walls inside the temple. There are many legends about Konark. It is one of the most visited tourist sites in India.

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Indian cinema, universally labelled Bollywood, is the largest in the world in terms of films made per year, and has been flourishing since the turn of the 20th century. Annually, more than a thousand films are produced, with only 10 % of them having a chance to become ‘hits’. Multiplexes and I-Max theatres continue to spread. New generations of writers, music directors, actors and directors appear. Indian cinema is the happening thing as Twentieth Century Fox, Sony and Steven Spielberg make their way to Mumbai for collaboration. The next century of Indian cinema should be even more promising.

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In the global art world, Indian contemporary art has announced its presence with spectacular success in the past two decades, showing how far it has moved since Independence. Within world practices, Indian art stands distinct because of its particular character, one that draws on Indian mythology and politics, Bollywood films and street life with irony, passion and unbridled engagement. The strength of Indian art even on global circuits is undoubtedly the depth of its narrative, its ability to render the past in the present and to become an instrument in the reality of contemporary South Asia.

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Holi is one of the most ancient Hindu holidays. It marks the end of the winter and the beginning of spring. Usually the celebrations carry on for three days. Traditionally, on this day people spray each other with coloured water and visit their friends and relatives. Holi symbolizes the new beginning and the victory of life over death. There are several legends explaining the origin of the holiday.

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Indian dishes are characterized by the extensive use of spices, herbs, vegetables and fruit. Indian cuisine varies from region to region, reflecting the demographic and ethnic diversity of the sub continent. The staples of Indian cuisine are whole wheat flour, rice, millet and a variety of pulses. Curries form an integral part of the Indian culinary scene. Some of the most used spices in Indian cuisine are chili, cumin, ginger, coriander and garlic. The preferred method of cooking is frying. Here are four authentic Indian recipes: Samosa, Gajar ka Halwa, Butter Chicken and Seekh Kebab.