Central Asian Programme


The IGNCA and other Central Asian countries have assembled to explore a frontier where civilizations have met, conversed and mingles, across the Tienshan and Pamir: where the oasal city met the steppe, the farmer the nomad; where monotheistic and pantheistic religious, desert and riparian civilizations conversed with each other. This is a frontier which was seen by Alexander as the edge of his Oikumene, the inhabited world. Truly it was not the edge but the centre. Subsequent travelogues, diaries, pilgrim accounts need to be reread and retold to understand the tremendous creative energy unleashed in Central Asia. The exhibition shows ambassadors converging to Khotan and scholars engaged in disputation. We have gathered a star studded assemblage of diplomat scholars, who have discoursed not on the cultural fusion and efflorescence along the silk road, but also the problems that have beset the silk road.

The problems discussed are those of a post industrial world in which we need to repaint the word portraits, recreate the arts, recollect the music, recover the knowledge that came out of a dynamic intra-Asiatic dialogue, a dialogue that has to be begun anew in the midst of the engulfing tide of Europeanization, technification and homogenization of the planet.

The seminar, has, therefore, discussed and the exhibition has portrayed the magnificent physical, spiritual, ideological and cultural infrastructure, raised in Central Asia, as a collaborative venture, over thousands of years. The infrastructure, shown in the exhibition, was created in oasis cities like Shahr-i-nau, Shahr I – Sabz, Shahr-i-Zinda, in citadels, covered bazaars, in the architecture of domes, vaults, arches, towers, squinches, in the strap work and kufic script decoration, in the colours of painted palaces, textiles, polychrome glaze of haftrangi, in the archetypal calligraphy of Mani, in the inscriptions of Socratic or wise men’s sayings and foundation texts, in the stone sextant observatories of places like Samarkand, in the archaeological strata of Kara Tepe, Fayaz Tepe, Dalverzin Tepe, in the hospices, Khānāqahs of mystical Sufi orders, in knowledge system manuscripts on medicine and astronomy. The seminar will also initiate a dialogue on the confluence of monuments in constitutionalism, nationalism, political and socio economic emancipation,  that look place along the trunk and tributary routes.

We, at the IGNCA, together with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Culture, and the diplomatic and cultural emissaries of the Central Asian Republics are here to celebrate the shared democratic traditions created around pristine Indian republics, janapadas, and the autonomous, non hierarchical, oasal, micro regional urban civilization of Central Asia.

For us, the discussion on cities, roads and caravans serais is therefore a symbolic opportunity to remember the forgotten cart and camel drivers and guides, the architects and calligraphers, the poets and philosophers, the adventurers soldiers and pilgrims who faced incredible suffering and rish to create the Central Asian civilization. Together we hope to retrace the cultural, commercial and diplomatic itinerary, recover the oral history, ethnography and the evidence of the shared heritage. The seminar and exhibition may therefore be seen as contemplative and action instruments to galvanize the heritage route, to consolidate and enlarge our friendship through joint field surveys and initiatives.

Dr. K.K. Chakravarty
Member Secretary, IGNCA
Know more about: Concept Note on the Seminar on History of Central Asian Collections in Institutions Worldwide in collaboration with International Dunhuang Project (IDP), British Library, London funded by Ford Foundation