LONDON: A well-known UK-based Sanskrit scholar and the Executive Director of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan centre in London has been conferred an honorary MBE by King Charles III for services to Indian classical arts in Britain.
Dr M.N. Nandakumara, who hails from the village of Mattur in Karnataka, has been associated with the Bhavan for 46 years and has welcomed Charles – the then Prince of Wales – to the popular Indian cultural hub on several occasions.
The honorary award, approved by the British monarch for foreign nationals for their contribution to public life, was confirmed by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) earlier this month and will be formally awarded at a ceremony at a later date.
The honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) has been conferred “for services to the teaching, performance and accessibility of Indian classical arts in the UK”.
“I feel truly honoured and humbled; I am happiest because this award is in recognition of the work and service of the Bhavan in the field of Indian arts and culture and it comes as we are celebrating our 50th anniversary this year,” said Dr Nandakumara.
“The King himself has visited the Bhavan four times and has always shown immense interest in the classes we conduct. On one occasion, the then Prince of Wales even sat with our tabla player on the carpet and tried his hand at the tabla,” he shared.
King Charles first visited the Bhavan when its main auditorium was named after his beloved uncle, Lord Mountbatten – the last Viceroy of India.
The centre, registered as the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan with the Charity Commission in England, operates a series of classes including Yoga, Indian languages, dance and music.
Before the COVID pandemic it had 900 students enrolled for its classes and while that number has since dipped somewhat due to a switch to online classes, its chief is confident of a boost in the coming months as he sees a growing interest among the youth in learning about Indian arts and culture.
“Our centre is not just for Indians or the Indian community but anyone and everyone because we operate on Gandhian principles. In fact, our Yoga class has 95 per cent European students and all other classes also have a similarly mixed appeal,” said Dr Nandakumara – known to his pupils as Nandaji.
His association with the Bhavan dates back to the 1970s, when he joined as a Sanskrit teacher while completing his PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, and has been its Executive Director since 1995.