The first BodhGaya Biennale was organised by the Bihar Government in the historic city of Bodhgaya in December 2016. The theme for it was appropriately selected as ‘Peace’ – as, “the intriguing idea of ‘peace’ is the focal point …this allusion is hopefully not too late to recall an utopian urge and, hence, a modern zeal to foreground the ‘region’ (from the catalogue)…
If one may say, Bodhgaya is the centre for Buddhism in India as this is the place where Buddha attained Enlightenment. Bodhgaya was important to the first large Indian democratic empire of the Mauryan dynasty. One of its most prominent Indian emperors, Ashoka, accepted Buddhism as an integral foundation to the administration of his vast empire in the 3rd Century BCE. He was a Mauryan from the region earlier called Magadha with its capital at Pataliputra but now known as Bihar with its capital at Patna.
The Biennale was organised at a venue close to the Bodhgaya where the exhibition was on view, performances were made and at the end of the day the stage was set for our presentations. The range of the events made it appealing for visitors who were local people, young students and tourists arriving from the world over to Bodhgaya.
The presentations and discussions with artists, art practitioners, museum professionals, the Biennale organisers in the creative space where even Bihari traditional crafts people displayed their work made the whole atmosphere dynamic. The logo has been designed by Amitabh Pandey, an NID Ahmedabad alumni.
Though I would have loved for a more equal participation by the Bihari crafts people rather than a small allocation of space. Why were they not up on the stage talking about their work? Maybe the organisers could take a cue and focus on them soon.
Loved their publication, it is well designed with useful information.
Before reaching Bodhgaya, I took a cycle rickshaw ride in Patna to the brand new Bihar Museum. It had opened to the public in 2015, with its 20, 000 sq feet Children’s Gallery, exclusively for children. I had a quick dekko as I had been invited to speak about it, and share some of the thoughts behind its design and curation. I had been part of the team which had made the master plan and design for the Museum.
Talking about diverse audience who became part of the Biennale were Amercian resident Indians Kalpana and Mohan C Mohan. They were present in the small town as tourists but walked in and were delighted to be a part of the entire space. I had decided to speak in Hindi but for them I kept switching to English – to make the presentation more accessible. A small video was taken of my talk, it is on Facebook and Instagram 🙂 They loved Bihar so much that they keep recommending visits to their friends, families and colleagues!
All photographs by author if not credited otherwise.