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By Saira Ansari, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The biggest show of the year, according to organizers, has opened in Rio with the presentation of “INDIA!” at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB). The exhibition opened on October 12th to massive crowds and can be enjoyed until January 29th, 2012.

INDIA at CCBB in Rio
Large sculpture of Lord Ganesh receiving visitors to the show, photo by Saira Ansari.

INDIA! is an ambitious effort on the part of its curator Pieter Tjabbes and a large international team to introduce Brazilians to the rich history and culture of Ancient and Contemporary India. Meticulous care has been taken to fit in nearly all aspects of Indian life and to not overlook the perhaps not so glamorous aspects of the land as well.

The show is divided into four themes – Man, Kings, Gods and Contemporary Days – and puts on display a fascinating array of objects that cover everyday living through the lens of crafts, visual arts, music, dance, and even cinema.

Upon entering the building, one immediately sees a large sculpture of Lord Ganesh in the center of the main hall. While large texts in Portuguese and English introduce visitors to the exhibition and explain the linkage between Brazilian and Indian histories, it seems that most are won over already.

The first floor of the building offers a meandering walk through the various phases of the exhibition. It starts with a video and photo montage of glimpses into Indian life playing to an interspersed mix of Indian pop and classical music, and moves on to more serious parts of the exhibit.

Gritty black and white photographs of street life, taken by renowned South Asian photographer Raghu Rai, are displayed next to the music room, which plays melodious classical compositions and has images of music maestros that have performed all over the world.

The histories of the first cameras and photographic societies are recounted and images of royal families and historical buildings provide a visual account of colonized India. A section on religion introduces Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam as the major religions and displays artifacts from each creed.

INDIA! at CCBB in Rio
A poster for the show, photo by CCBB.

Following this are the histories of the local Hindu Princely states, the Mughal Empire (the largest Muslim empire) as well as the Portuguese and British colonies. A large Portuguese settlement still exists in the beautiful state of Goa, perhaps linking Brazilian history with Indian much closer than people would expect.

The exhibit ends with a wonderful section on Indian cinema, ‘Bollywood,’ named after Bombay’s cinema industry. Bollywood produces the highest number of films every year, leaving even the United States’ Hollywood behind.

A family visiting this section explained: “We are loving the music and the films section and our children are truly fascinated with the demons and gods in the sculptures and paintings. They want to go to India now!”

The splendor of the show is perhaps made richer by the presence of beautiful bronze and terracotta objects dating as far back as 200 B.C.  Many of these have been given on loan from museums and private collections in India as well as from Berlin, Switzerland, Netherlands and even the National History Museum in Rio.

INDIA! is on till January 29th, 2012 at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB) Rio de Janeiro – Ground and first floor; Tuesday to Sunday from 9AM to 9PM. Entrance is free.

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