King Charles III bestowed an honorary MBE on a well-known UK-based Sanskrit scholar for his contributions to Indian classical arts in Britain. This scholar also serves as the Executive Director of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan center in London.
Dr. M.N. Nandakumara, a native of the Karnataka town of Mattur, has been connected to the Bhavan for 46 years and has welcomed Charles, the then Prince of Wales, to the well-known Indian cultural center on several occasions.
The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) revealed the honorary award, granted by the British queen 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 honored and humbled. I am happiest because this award recognizes 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 paid four visits to the Bhavan and has always showed a great deal of interest in the courses we hold. On one occasion, the then-Prince of Wales even sat on the carpet with our tabla player and attempted playing the instrument,” he said.
Charles first went to the Bhavan when Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, had his adored uncle's main auditorium dedicated after him.
The center offers lessons 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 epidemic, it had 900 students registered for its lessons. While that number has subsequently decreased somewhat 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.
Because we operate according to Gandhian ideals, our center is open to everyone, not simply Indians or members of the Indian diaspora. In fact, 95% of the students in our yoga class are European, and all of our other courses draw a similar mix of students, “added Dr. Nandakumara, better known to his students as Nandaji.
He began working at the Bhavan in the 1970s as a Sanskrit instructor 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.