King Charles III bestowed an honorary MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) on a well-known UK-based Sanskrit scholar for his contributions to Indian classical arts in Britain. He also serves as the Executive Director of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan institute in London.
Dr MN Nandakumara, a native of the village of Mattur, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka has been connected to the Bhavan for 46 years and has welcomed Charles, the then Prince of Wales, to the well-known Indian cultural centre on numerous occasions.
The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) confirmed the honorary award, granted by the British monarch for foreign people for their contribution to public life, earlier this month. It will be publicly presented at a ceremony at a later time. For “services to the teaching, performance, and accessibility of Indian classical arts in the UK,” the honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) has been bestowed.
Dr. Nandakumara expressed his gratitude for the prize, saying, “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.”
“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 added.
Charles first went to the Bhavan when his adored uncle, Lord Mountbatten, the final Viceroy of India, had his name as the name of the main auditorium.
The centre offers classes in yoga, Indian languages, dance, and music. It is registered with the Charity Commission in England under the name Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. Prior to the COVID pandemic, it had 900 students registered for its lessons. While that number has subsequently decreased slightly as a result of a move to online courses, the school’s director is optimistic that enrollment will increase in the following months as more young people express an interest in learning about Indian arts and culture.
“Our centre is not just for Indians or the Indian diaspora 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,” added Dr Nandakumara, better known to his students as Nandaji.
He began working at the Bhavan in the 1970s as a Sanskrit teacher while pursuing his PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since 1995, he has served as the organization’s executive director.