Dr Mattur N. Nandakumara is a well-known and highly respected figure in the field of arts and culture in the UK. As the UK-based Executive Director of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, a global organisation dedicated to the education and cultural exchange of Indian art forms, he has significantly impacted the world stage.
Dr Nandakumara's dedication to promoting the rich cultural heritage of India and fostering cross-cultural understanding has earned him a reputation as a visionary leader who has recently been awarded the honorary MBE recognition by King Charles III.
Dr Nandakumara describes the recognition as a humbling experience and an affirmation of his life's work. He feels although the MBE has been awarded to him, it is, in effect, a recognition of the organisation itself.
"I believe this is a recognition given to the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, which has completed five decades of services to our art and culture in this part of the world. We are celebrating our Golden Jubilee this year; having this recognition come our way now is a great honour," he said.
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Talking about the significant milestone the organisation is celebrating, Dr Nandakumara reminisced on all the eminent artists like Pt Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar, Pt Hariprasad Chaurasia, and many others have frequently visited and performed in the last five decades. However, he also remembers the sponsors, without whose support, nothing would have been possible.
"I must remember here the support that we have received from Arts Council over the years and grant the support we have received from Air India support we have received from State Bank of India, and most importantly, in recent times, the support we have received from Mrs Sudha Murthy of Infosys Foundation. Without their support, no activity here at the Bhavan would have been possible," he said.
And the work Bhavan has been doing today is strengthening the special India-UK relationship even further, thinks Dr Nandakumara.
"Bhavan is based on Mahatma Gandhian principles, and it is not only for those of Indian origin but for everyone. In our yoga classes, 95 per cent of the students are Europeans. There are about 20 to 25 per cent non-Indians in our language classes and 10 to 15 per cent in dance and music classes. Even our live concerts include 25 to 30 per cent European artists," he added.
Dr Nandakumara has had a long association with King Charles III, who has been a patron of Bhavan for many years. He recalls the king's warmth and interest in the organisation's work and values.
"King Charles III had visited us four times since he was Prince of Wales. He came along with the Queen Consort very recently. Both of them enjoyed our activities. But his first visit was in the early 80s," he informed.
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Dr Nandakumara was born in a picturesque village, Shimoga, on the banks of the Tungabhadra River in Karnataka, India.
"I came here (the UK) in 1977 to do my PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies, part of London University. My guru or my guide was Dr John Ralston Marr, who received Padma Award from the Indian government. Under him, I finished my doctorate in 1983, and while doing that, I was teaching Sanskrit and taking care of the programmes and other activities here (Bhavan). In 1984, I was invited to be the Bhavan's Academic Director, taking care of the hundreds of programs that happen here. So, that's how my journey with Bhavan began. And the work Bhavan is doing today is truly remarkable," he concluded.