In Delhi, an encounter with Korean traditional Buddhist culture

The exhibition highlights the Buddhist connection between India and Korea

Korea buddhist culture

In Korea, ‘Yeondeunghoe’ is a lantern-lighting festival that marks Buddha’s birthday. The basic spirit of the Yeondeunghoe is to light up the mind and the world as bright as a lantern and hope that wisdom and mercy will be realised. When this tradition of Korea travelled to India, it lit up the eyes of the beholder. 

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Korea-India diplomatic ties, a unique cultural exchange exhibition came to life recently at Delhi’s National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA). The cultural exchange event that is being organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea and Korean Cultural Centre India, displays a special exhibition titled ‘An Encounter with Korea, Traditional Buddhist Culture in India, the Land of Buddha.’ 

The lanterns on display symbolise different holy structures like the lantern in the shape of a Stone Pagoda of Baekjangam Hermitage of Silsang-sa Temple, lotus flower lantern, lantern in the shape of the five-storey Stone Pagoda of Geumsan-sa Temple and so on. A collection of mulberry paper dolls with miniature lanterns in hands too adorn the exhibition. 

Korean Ambassador to India Chang Jae Bok says, “In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Korea and India, the Buddhism and Buddhist cultural exchange programme, which can be the foundation of the special strategic partnership between Korea and India, has a special meaning. Since Buddhism and Buddhist culture were introduced to Korea in the 4th century, they have been an indispensable core part when talking about the Korean way of life, way of thinking, and traditional Korean culture. Korea and India, the origins of Buddhism, are also closely connected through Buddhism.” 

The participating artists from Korea include Korean traditional paper lantern artists Jeon Young Ill, Yin Song Ja, Hyun Jae Youl, and Yang Mi Young. Some of the art forms at the exhibition include a photo exhibition of Korean Buddhism Walks in India, woodblock printing on Korean paper, colouring fans in dancheong designs (decorative art of cosmic designs), making lotus flower lanterns and stringing 108 prayer beads. 

At the exhibition, one can see the media art of Buddhist painting scrolls called ‘Gwae Bul’, a symbol of traditional Korean Buddhist rituals, Korean traditional lanterns of 'Yeondeunghoe', a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and various photo works with the theme of temple stay. The exhibition introduces Korea's traditional Buddhist culture to India. 

Ven. Jinwoo, president of Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism says that the content has been prepared “so viewers can more vividly sense Korean Buddhism’s 1,700-year history, steeped in compassion and peace, based on the Buddha’s teachings that were introduced from India.” 

Kumar Tuhin, director general, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) adds, “The exhibition highlights the Buddhist connection between India and Korea and its importance and significance to people-to-people contact between the two nations.” 

The exhibition is being held at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in New Delhi and it is hosted by NGMA, Embassy of the Republic of Korea and Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. It is organised by the Ministry of Culture (India), Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The exhibition will continue till April 30, 2023.

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