India’s first ever Interfaith Art and Dialogue forum is set to unfold in Mumbai from June 2 to 4, 2023

A Potpourri of Vestiges Feature

India’s first prime minister, the erudite Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, once rightly said that “The only alternative to coexistence is codestruction.” It is, therefore, imperative to keep finding ways to not just coexist, but to do so with love and mutual respect. India’s pluralism is her pride but also her recurring pain point, as we tend to get drawn into narratives of difference. India is a land of diversity, with a mindboggling number of faith communities, cultural and artistic traditions, languages, and cuisines, it is easy to harp on ‘otherness.’ And the divisive politics of communalism does not help.

However, there is another side to the diversity coin, which is beautiful, if a little underused. Through hundreds of years of proximity, the many communities of India have created beautiful fusions – common grounds that we can connect on and celebrate. India is, thus, the land of many “syncretisms” too. Whether in terms of religious, cultural, or artistic traditions, there is a lot we have built together. It is through an exploration and engagement with these syncretisms that we may find a harmonious bridge over to the other side.

IN SYNC has been designed with the intention of creating spaces and opportunities for the citizens of India to come together and not just celebrate India’s syncretistic legacy, but also engage in intentional and respectful interfaith dialogue. It is an attempt to present our syncretic arts to appreciate diversity and co-creation, and use that as a basis for kind and curious community engagement. In its pilot edition, IN SYNC is taking the shape of a 3-day event from June 2nd to 4th, 2023 at the St. Andrew’s Centre for Philosophy and Performing Arts (SAPP) in Bandra, Mumbai. The event will feature a visual arts exhibition, interfaith dialogue sessions facilitated by a peacebuilding professional, dance performances, poetry and music recitals, panel discussions, and expert talks. Performances include Kathak by Sanjukta Wagh, Whirling Mandala by Zia Nath; poetry recital and acoustic renditions by ‘Poets of Peace,’ Geet Sagar, Tripurari, Kiran Bhat and Sukanya Purkayastha; talks include ‘Many myths, one people: how syncretism and pluralism have shaped the Indian narrative’ by mythologist, Utkarsh Patel; and ‘Mary in a Saree – the Indo-Christian art of Angelo De Fonsec’a by Omkar Bhatkar; and Chants of Harmony by Leslie Nazareth, Mayuree Pandit Melody Dsouza, and Romana Shaikh. Facilitators Rhea Dsouza and Rukmini Iyer will lead sessions on interfaith dialogue.  

The forum has been created and curated by Urmi Chanda, a journalist, culturalist, and interfaith researcher. Although Chanda has been writing about Indian art, literature, and culture for years, she is putting it to use for the first time as a changemaker. “Through this forum, I am hoping to create a paradigm of social cohesion, by employing the healing potential of art and dialogue. Art is expansive, accommodating, and more forgiving than theology, and I believe the way to beautiful and successful interfaith dialogue between the Hindu and other minority faith communities will be possible through this route of syncretic art,” she said. A doctoral candidate of the interfaith studies program at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Chanda has spent the last four years formulating this unique model of interfaith engagement suited to the Indian context. She hopes the IN SYNC model will be replicated in various parts of India and beyond, wherever there a are diverse societies and interfaith conflict.

Celebrated historian, author, and a vocal advocate of the Ganga-Jamuni Tehzeeb, Rana Safvi, who is an enthusiastic supporter of this forum, said “Art and literature have always provided a space for expression of emotions, struggles of the people, and lived experience. The medieval and early modern era is full of such examples, which showcase the syncretism of that age. Whether it is the famous qawwali: Kanhaiyya yaad hai kuch bhi hamari or the Persian translations of Mahabharat and Ramayana, commissioned by the Mughal emperors Akbar, they showcase an era of involvement and assimilation… Creating a space which encourages interfaith dialogue through the medium of art is a brilliant concept. I congratulate Urmi on creating IN SYNC, where we can celebrate our commonalities through painting, music, dance, and poetry. This will long way in diminishing differences and divisions.”

Carnatic vocalist, author, and activist TM Krishna also shares in IN SYNC’s vision. He says, “Art can change us. But for that to happen, we need to work in art with the intention of becoming more compassionate human beings. I strongly believe that we need many intimate conversations that allow us to transcend our own limitations and embrace various ways of believing and living. I am so glad that In SYNC is providing such a platform for thought and art. And I do hope they inspire many more to curate such inspiring exchanges.”

The event is made possible with the support of various organisations including the St. Andrew’s Centre for Philosophy and Performing Arts (SAPP), Mumbai; GATHER – the impact arm of Seeds of Peace; Zimisha Communications; Pushkraj Shirke Films; Navodaya Networks; the Pir Makhdum Saheb Charitable Trust; and WIHUM, the World Interfaith Harmony and Unity Mission.

Dates: June 2 – 4, 2023

Timing: 10am – 9pm on all days

Venue: St. Andrew’s Centre for Philosophy and Performing Arts (SAPP), Bandra, Mumbai

Entry: Free entry but mandatory registrations (register on )

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