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Festival of Bharat to cast the spotlight on India

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MUMBAI: History repeats itself but this time there’s a twist. A London-based investor and indophile is spellbound by India but he’s got better plans. Cory Bixler has co-founded a festival that celebrates and aims to promote India’s culture to the world - The Festival of Bharat (FoB).

A semi-retired investor and global traveller, Bixler fell in love with the culture and people of India during various visits to India with his English partners. With an experience of over 30 years within the US government civil service & military, he has served on various national and international committees focusing on developing policy and guidance toward defence interoperability and the sharing of information.

The festival swiftly gained the backing of the ministry of tourism, government of India’s Incredible India! campaign, and is also supported by the Art of Living foundation. Bixler admits that he does not know enough about India, but that he feels how special India is and wants to play a pivotal role in its revitalisation. He hired a professional team and strategic partners to institute and manage FoB, as well as to help others who, like him, find it difficult to find authentic and easily accessible sources from which to learn and experience India in her truest essence.

To be held at Tijara fort palace in Rajasthan between 1-4 March 2018, the festival lineup will consist of live music, literary fests, talks and debates, yoga retreat, organic Holi party and organic food fest all rolled into a four-day event. FoB expects more than 10,000 people consisting of high net worth individuals, global travellers from 20 countries and 6 continents, public figures, CXOs and academics to visit. It will also be the first mega event in India to openly welcome the LGTBI (Lesbian, Gay, Transexual, Bisexual and Intersex) community.

BookMyShow has come on board as the official ticketing partner for the festival and there are no ticketing slabs for booking. The passes are priced at Rs 3945 for one day, Rs 7945 for two days and Rs 16,945 for three days.

The official announcement for sponsors will be made in the second half of December which would include a top Indian bank, a purified water specialist, a prominent FMCG brand, and one of India’s largest entertainment brands. App-based taxi-hailing service Ola may also come on board as the official partner. Bixler adds, “The world’s largest radio network is about to finalise the contract with us.”

Organisers will roll out TVC-like promos in cinemas across India that will run from January to March 2018.

When asked whether prime minister Narendra Modi is expected to inaugurate or be present at the event, Bixler says, “We certainly hope so. But he is a very important and busy man and we have people in touch with the PMO, and hopefully, he will have time, but if not, we understand. Other dignitaries from his government will, of course, be there, and they have given us their support and blessings.”

The festival will be divided into three phases during the day. The day will begin with yoga sessions, meditation and activities that encourage relaxation and spirituality which will be monitored by The Art of Living teachers and volunteers. It will be followed up by debates, discussions and panels in the afternoon that would be educational and learning sessions, where the speakers will change every day for all four days. The days would be concluded by musical evenings where artists from around the country would come together to celebrate the music of India, from contemporary to traditional to modern music. The festival will also have an exhibition of ethical and useful Made In India products and service.

The speaker line up for the festival will see writer-diplomat and politician Pavan Varma, internationally known researcher, writer, speaker and public intellectual Rajiv Malhotra, Vedic teacher David Frawley and retired major Gaurav Arya among others. Among some of the performers will be renowned Indian classical flautist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Grammy-winning Hindustani classical music instrumentalist Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. Other performances will include crossover artistes Prem Joshua and Band, Aditya Prakash Ensemble known for its jazz and Indian classical music fusion, Sanskrit music band Dhruvaa Sanskrit Band, Chennai-based violinist and vocalist Karthick Iyer and his band and sitarist and a virtuoso cellist and composer Shubendra Rao and Saskia Rao De Haas respectively.

FoB’s food court will be one of many highlights at this four-day mega-festival, serving nutritious Ayurvedic vegan and vegetarian foods, street snacks and organic, non-alcoholic drinks. The organisers will ensure everything used on the venue during the event will be biodegradable and no plastic is left lying around and there is no wastage. Food and drinks will be served in sustainable containers.

The World Travel & Tourism Council calculated that tourism generated Rs 14.02 lakh crore or 9.6 per cent of the nation's GDP in 2016 and the sector is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 6.8 per cent to Rs 28.49 lakh crore by 2027. About 88.90 lakh foreign tourists arrived in India in 2016 as compared to 80.27 lakh in 2015, recording a growth of 10.7 per cent. With more festivals that promote India’s rich culture and diversity, it will only lead to increasing tourists and consolidation of India on the global map.

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