It's amazing that wherever we go in the world, there are always some similarities in diversities ~ and it is, indeed, the former which bind us together.
One such bond which has been a significant influence is the Persian connect. Did you know that the first Persian newspaper was published in Kolkata, even before it was published in Iran, and was called Hindustani?
The deep link between India and Iran dates back more than a thousand years, with cultural, literary and scientific relations between the two ancient cultures expanding during the time of Khosrow Anushirwan. In fact, one of the most significant pre-Islamic intellectual inter-exchanges was the travel of Burzoya (a physician from Persia) to India and the translation of the Panchatantra from Sanskrit into Pahlavi.
"For about 800 years, the Indian court language was Persian! In fact, the Iran Culture House in New Delhi is one of the oldest foreign cultural centres," says Dr Ali Dehgahi, Cultural Counsellor of Iran and Head of the Iran Culture House in New Delhi. It is a known fact that at the time the Iranian culture and civilisation influenced India, some elements of Indian culture also infiltrated into Persian consciousness.
The reign of King Asoka saw the permeation of Buddhism into Iran, across its eastern and northeastern border. The most prominent example of the existing people-to-people connect was the migration of Iranians to India. Actually, after the collapse of the Sassanid Empire and the spread of Islam, a group of Zoroastrians, named as Parsis, migrated to India, travelling to the western regions of India.
Another group of settlers who played a prominent role in developing the intellectual culture within the host society were mystics (Sufis), scholars and poets. Khowaja Moinuddin Chishty and Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani are some of the prominent names. These exchanges had everlasting impacts on societies in both countries and resulted in a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other's roots.
"Teaching Persian language and promoting the culture are our core activities. We strongly wish to build on this ancient people-to-people connect, which is why exchange of students, intellectuals and scholars, participation in Indian film festivals and book fairs, and promotion of handicrafts, amongst others, are very important aspects. More than 6,000 Iranian students study in various Indian universities.
On the other hand, students also study Hindi in Iran. Indian students apply for studies in a wide variety of disciplines like medicine, political science and Islamic Studies" adds Dr Dehgahi. In fact, going back in history, it is interesting to note that the 16th century was very important in the history of cultural relations between Iran and India.
This period saw the beginning of Mughal rule and is full of descriptions of Iranians travelling to India. Babur, founder of the Mughal dynasty in India, and his successor Humayun, both, were materially and spiritually supported by safavid to establish and expand his power in India.
On the other hand, they themselves contributed to the development of interactions between Iran and India and the expansion of Iranian culture in India. During the reign of Emperor Akbar, many scientific and literary works such as the Ramayan, Mahabharat and Upanishadswere translated from Sanskrit into Persian.
And it is not about just the above-mentioned aspects of culture, but a very important one, in addition: culinary delights. Iranian cuisine is exotic. The Iranian naan (sangak and barbary) along with kebabs, stews, soups and roasted vegetables of the most exotic kind are a delight for the palette. Though there are basic similarities between both cuisines, the condiments make all the difference.
These examples are just a part of deep cultural relations between Iran and India.
Even today India has special status in Iranian studies. Persian language and literature is one important subjects of Iranian studies in Indian universities as it is now being taught in more than 25 Indian universities.
Cultures of the world are all intertwined with one another, teaching us one important moral: in diversities lie similarities…it is for us to exploreand understand…