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Central Asian Programme

Report on the Seminar 

A five day Seminar on “Cities, Roads and Caravan Sarais on the Silk Road – An Emblem of Relations through the Ages” was organized by the Indira Gandhi National Centre For the Arts on 8th-12th January 2008 at New Delhi . The Seminar was inaugurated by Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs’ Minister who described Central Asia as one of the “Priorities” for the nation. 

The strategic significance of Central Asia for India had all along been recognized since time immemorial. Throughout medieval period, the rulers of yester years tried to protect Kabul and Qandahar --“the Twin Gates of India” as buffer states. The ‘Great Game’ was, thereafter, played by the Imperial powers in the nineteenth century as a protective measure over the possession of Indo-Central Asian regions. A second scramble for Central Asia started when the Central Asian region became independent with its people and states divided and its resources truncated. Yet it attracted the attention of foreign powers in various ways. Now as ever, the political savants of India are keen to establish and maintain good diplomatic and friendly relations with Central Asia in order to ensure better mutual cooperation as well as other fruitful linkages, because India-Central Asia destiny remains inter-linked. Hence, there is need to build bridges-- to provide a solid and enduring edifice for future relationships for which our age old multidimensional contacts can serve as a firm foundation. 

The cities and roads have been silent spectators of the rise and fall of dynasties and of the fluctuating fortunes of communities.They testify to the numerous activities going around their environs. While new towns were built by imaginative kings, old ones were destroyed by reckless adventurers. Dotting the Silk Road were thousands of big and small caravan sarais, where the travellers, traders, fortune seekers ,missionaries and men of fine arts assembled from different corners of the world after a long and arduous journey .The keepers of these inns ensured that the atmosphere at these sarais was such that the inmates could relax in a free and jovial atmosphere, away from their homes and in the company of newly found friends ,with whom they share their experiences, these travellers experienced new relationships and (even mis) adventures, in a cosmopolitan atmosphere. The commingling of different cultures generated new avenues for development,fresh cultural identities,binding diverse living traditions. The Seminar addressed the cultural and socio-religious dimensions of the movement of ideas, men and commodities and the events marking the different centuries.

The silk route – “the main artery of trade and interactions” among civilized nations of Eurasia crisscrossed the land from east to west.It served as the road of Trans -cultural dialogues and global multilateral contacts. The term Silk Road applied to the vast network of trade routes and not to a single silk selling road symbolize the close cultural contacts existing amongst regions through the ages, and contributed to the energence of a global culture, each country contributing legacy of its cultural endowments. Silk was not only the most valuable commodity which passed through this route, but it served also as the route for migration of religions,ideas and arts. The silk route started from Chang’an and on the western side crossed Lan-Chan to Tun-Huang got bifurcated, one branch moving towards south, the other towards north. The northern branch passed from Tun-Huang to salt regzar crossed white Dragon and moved via Lop Nor to Turfan. This was the main silk road and the guides, guards and drivers on this track were mainly Sughdians or Balkhis, who were well versed in several languages, and whenever needed. From Turfan, the Silk Route passed through Chiu Tzu to Aq-su and from there to Kashghar ( through Samarqand to Farghana) and from Antioch to Marghian. The Southern route passed from Tun Huang to Khotan, from Yarkand to Balkh and reached Marghiana through Zariasp and Antioch. Here, the two branches merged again. From this the point of convergence, Silk Route again ran upto the Mediterranean. 

The extreme and intermediary points and the different parts of the silk route were either named after prominent commodities carried through it, by the name of people who assisted in the delivery, or after the region. Hence, the variety of names “Emerald route, Golden route, Jade route, Sable or Fur route, Amber route, etc. Included in the series was one Silk Road also called as Jadai Abresham or Rahi Abresham. There were Uighuriyan and Kirghizistan routes and also Meridional routes. Various regions had their own nomenclatures. The exchanges of ideas, commodities and men along these routes, the subsequent cultural diplomacy, and international relations was a common and important feature of the Silk Road. Numerous historical and cultural facts,buried on the Silk Road,are yet to be unearthed and studied. 

Forty two foreign participants from countries like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kirghizia, Turkey, Bulgaria, China, France, Amsterdam and other places took part in the Seminar. Sixty five papers were prepared and presented by the foreign and Indian scholars during twelve academic sessions.These discussed different themes ranging from archaeology, history, fine arts, traditions and customs to economy, trade and commerce, science, technology, medicine, spiritual exchanges, Buddhism and Sufism and so on. The proceedings of the Seminar are under the process of publication. 

To fulfil the varied objectives of the Seminar, a few decisions were taken. 




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