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India is the flavour of the ongoing Tashkent International Tourism Fair where Uzbeks of all ages are flocking to the Indian pavilion, thanks to fast-increasing popularity of Bollywood music and yoga in central Asia’s most populous country.

Indian movies have traditionally been popular in Uzbekistan, and Bollywood numbers from the time of Raj Kapur to Amitabh Bachchan to Shahrukh Khan are a craze among Uzbeks. To cash in on this popularity, the tourism ministry is running an Incredible India campaign at the three-day 2017 Tashkent International Tourism Fair (TITF) that started on Tuesday.

“India is now a favoured destination for medical tourism from Uzbekistan,” a senior Indian official said. “The Indian pavilion at TITF will showcase cultural aspects through dance and yoga.”

Vinod Kumar, Indian Ambassador to Uzbekistan, said the idea was to popularise and promote India. “Our historical connections and cultural interactions over thousands of years provide us a sound base for further developing partnership,” he told ET.

TITF is Uzbekistan’s main tourism event, held annually since 1994. It features a festival of national dishes of participating countries. This time, Tastes of the Silk Road — a gastronomic journey along the ancient caravan routes connecting India and China with Europe —as its main theme.

TITF 2017 will culminate with an International conference on ‘Silk Road in the Historical Projection of the Development of International Tourism’, to be held in the historic city of Khiva on October 6.

Besides Bollywood, India is also working on increasing popularity of yoga in Uzbekistan. The Indian Cultural Centre in Tashkent, established in 1995 and renamed as Lal Bahadur Shastri Centre for Indian Culture, organises yoga classes.

“Considering the number of people practicing yoga at our centre regularly and those queuing to be enrolled for the classes, one can easily see how popular yoga is,” said a person working at the cultural centre.

An Uzbek official said, “People see yoga not merely as a physical exercise but have accepted it as way of life.”

The Uzbek official further said the goodwill that India is providing through free classes on yoga, Kathak, Hindi and tabla is highly appreciated by the local government and the people.

Relations between Uzbekistan and India have their roots deep in history. Sanskrit and Pali literature have a lot of references to Kamboja, which is believed have included parts of present-day Uzbekistan. Sakas, a large group of Eurasian nomads who are supposed to have participated in Mahabharata on the side of Kauravas, came from regions including parts of Uzbekistan.

In later years, Fergana, Samarkand, Bukhara in Uzbekistan emerged as major towns on the trade routes linking India with Europe and China. At various times, Saka/Scythian, Macedonian, Greco-Bactrian, Kushan Kingdoms included parts of both India and present day Uzbekistan, and at other times they were part of neighbouring empires.

Also, Buddhism travelled to China through Uzbekistan and Central Asia.

Amir Timur was born near Shahrisabz and Babur came from Fergana in Uzbekistan. Indian merchants based in Samarkand and Bukhara were an integral part of local economy. Interactions over thousands of years contributed to close cultural linkages in architecture, dance, music and cuisine. Mirza Ghalib and Amir Khusro are notable Indians of Uzbek parentage.


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