Indian Buddhist Art Festival Set to Open at Wat Ounalom

More than 70 artists and Buddhist monks from India will be taking part in a festival celebrating art forms associated with Buddhism, which opens this afternoon in Phnom Penh.

Organized by the Indian Embassy in cooperation with the Cambodian Ministry of Cults and Religion, the two-city Buddhist Festival will feature some unique art forms practiced in Buddhist monasteries in India, such as butter sculptures.

The festival starts tonight with the opening of an exhibition at Wat Ounalom on all things associated with the Buddha’s life, Indian Ambassador Dinesh Patnaik said Wednesday at a press conference.

“There are many people in Cambodia who want to go to India [the Buddha’s birth country] but cannot go. So we have decided to bring the Buddha’s artifacts to them,” he said.

During the exhibition, which will be held through February 18, Himalayan Buddhist monks will demonstrate their unique way of chanting—producing distinct pitches simultaneously—and make butter sculptures, carving them on blocks of ice so butter will remain hard and can be painted, said Jhumur Sing, one of the exhibition’s organizers.

In Phnom Penh, the festival will include photos displayed along the riverfront featuring some of India’s Buddhist heritage sites.

Friday and Saturday in Siem Reap City and Monday through Wednesday in Phnom Penh, Indian classical dancers will present episodes of the Indian epic tale Ramayana, Ambassador Patnaik said.

Held at the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra hotel in Siem Reap City and the Chaktomuk Conference Hall in Phnom Penh, the performances will be staged by one of the best dance organizations in India, the Kalakshetra Foundation. Admission is free.

“India and Cambodia have a long history of cultural relations,” Mr. Patnaik said. Some Angkorian monuments show striking similarities with Indian monuments from the same period. “In modern times, our cultural relations have not been as close,” and this event is a way to reinforce them, he added.

There are currently around 16 Cambodian pagodas in India, Mr. Patnaik said. “We allow all the different countries to set up their own pagodas in India.”

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