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INTEL: India

Jan 31, 2020

The Australia Council launches INTEL with INTEL: INDIA

Cross-border art and exchange with a focus on Asia engagement.

Arts and Culture is one of the best entry points to explore India, simply because it is woven into daily fabric of existence. 

யாதும்ஊரேயாவரும்கேளிர்Yãdhum ūré yãvarum kélīr 

‘To us all towns/places are our own, everyone our kin.’ (Purananuru – 192)

These beautiful lyrics are in Tamil, from the Purananuru by Kaniyan Poongundran, an astronomer from the Sangam era, 6th to 3rd century BC.

How does one explore a new land, find points of resonance or even dissonance? Feel at home while feeling like a stranger? On arrival, India can be an assault to the senses – colours, smells, sounds, tastes. Every part of India demonstrates an incredible complexity of geographies, histories and social structures all seemingly stitched together without context.  So how does one reach a point of understanding or connection and say – ‘This too could be my town/place and these my people.’

In this series of INTEL, we explore a number of aspects that reflect the unique environment that is India.

Cultural diversity

India has vigorously resisted homogenisation – every part of India has its own local languages, food specialties, traditional textiles, clothing styles, performing art forms, literary canons, visual signatures and craft practices. These are often interconnected – the symbolism and metaphor in language is reflected in the music, echoed in dance and even seeped into the way food might be prepared in different communities.

The beauty of this is that a simple home cooked meal can reveal as much about belief, balance, creativity and creation as learning a traditional art form.


Local people are mostly very happy to talk to you, ask about your journey and answer a wide variety of questions. Curiosity is not rude at all – it is the national pastime. And if you learn a smattering of local language to pepper with your English, you could speak to a broad range of people across India. To experience the rich diversity of India, one needs to access different classes, castes and communities.

To truly dive into a more authentic, layered experience during your stay, it is essential to remember that Indian society can be very hierarchical and many art forms and aesthetic practices remain marginalised.

Doing your research prior to arrival, speaking to a range of resource persons who could introduce you to the landscape, leaving the urban centres for the villages and mountains are all excellent strategies to have a more profound immersive experience of Indian art and culture.

Explore other chapters in the INTEL India series

More chapters to come soon.

INTEL: INDIA is co-authored by Shreya Nagarajan Singh of SNS Arts Development Consultancy, incoming Australia Council arts leader Sangeeta Isvaran of Katradi and the Australia Council International team.

Listen to the latest episode of INTEL: Podcast Series.