About Us Indo Italian Cultural Relations

India and Italy, both ancient civilizations having rich cultural heritages, have known, interacted and traded with each other for over 2000 years. Italian port cities were important trading posts on the spice route. These exchanges also offered opportunities for interactions in the fields of art, culture, philosophy, etc.

Piazza Navona, built by Emperor Domitian in 85 AD and restored in the third century has four fountains built in the center of the square during 18th century which refer four rivers which represents the Ganga also in addition to Danube, Nile and Rio della Plata. There is street named after Maharshi Valmiki (in Rome). Many streets, squares and schools are named after Mahatma Gandhi and other Indian leaders. References of Indus River and Ganga are available in the poem ‘The Divine Comedy’, written by Dante Alighieri.  Former Prime Minister of Italy Mr. Giuseppe Conte told the Prime Minister of India during virtual India-Italy summit in November 2020, that Dante had referred to India, particularly the river Ganges, in his epic poem “Divine Comedy”.

Significance of bilateral ties could be seen also from the travel of the Venetian merchant, Marco Polo to India in the 13th century and travelogue about his experiences; Mahatma Gandhi's visit to Rome in December 1931 on his way back to India after attending the Round Table conference in London; presence of Indian troops belonging to Rajputana and Gurkha Rifles, serving with the British Indian Army, in Italy during the World War II, etc. At present, Italy has second largest Indian diaspora in Europe after the UK.

To cement and further deepen bilateral relations, various agreements, have been signed and are operational. A bilateral agreement for cultural cooperation between India and Italy had been in existence since 1976. The agreement, which was renewed in 2004, offers a general framework for facilitating the exchanges under a Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP). Recently during the visit of Italian Prime Minister to India, MoU has been signed by renowned Yoga Association named ‘Sarva Yoga International’ with Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga of Ministry of AYUSH.

Italian Parliament ratified the agreement between the State and Italian Hindu Union (IHU) in Dec 2012. It recognized Sanatan Dharma’ and provided to promote the study and research of the ancient philosophical and religious traditions of Hinduism. It also recognized ‘Deepawali’ as the official festival in Italy and since 2015, Deepawali celebrations are held annually at the Senate premises.

An Agreement for Audio-Visual Co-production, signed in May 2005, came into force w.e.f. June 12, 2008. In November 2020, during the Virtual Summit between PM Modi and PM Conte, they exchanged Notes on the Rules of Procedure for approval of co-production status under Art. 15 of the Audio-Visual co-production agreement between India and Italy. A Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation for conservation of paintings of the Ajanta and Ellora caves, signed in 2006 between the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities of the Government of Italy and the Ministry of Culture of the Government of India. Several MoUs/Agreements between Indian and Italian universities/institutions are also operational.

Several Universities in Italy have departments of Indian Studies, where Indian languages, including Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Sanskrit and other subjects such as history of modern India, Indian culture, art, religion and philosophy, and also Indian performing arts are taught. Italian students willing to study in India are actively supported through grants of scholarships under the Cultural Exchange Programme. A wide array of Indian cultural activities in the field of audio-visual performing arts, fine arts, handicrafts, films etc. are organized in Italy to further promote bilateral cultural relations. MoU was signed between the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the University of Naples L’Orientale on April 22, 2021 to renew the cooperation and decided to finalize the agreement for the establishment of a short-term ICCR Chair in the University from 2021-2026. Approximate 4920 Indian students were studying in various universities in Italy during 2020-2021, mostly in Rome, Milan, Turin, Pisa, etc. in Italian Universities (plus almost 200 enrolled Art, music or fashion colleges) as many universities offer courses in English.

Many Italians are known for their Indian dances, languages and promoting Indian culture. Ileana Citaristi, an Italian-born Indian Odissi and Chhau dancer, is the foremost and the first dancer of foreign origin to be conferred the Padma Shri’ for her contributions to the Odissi. Francesca Cassio, Professor of Music  was awarded with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) Distinguished Alumni Award in recognition of the significant achievements in the field of Indian music and outstanding contribution to the promotion of understanding, goodwill and friendship between Italy and India. Antonietta Rozzi received the Indian Prime Minister’s Award 2019 for outstanding contribution for promotion and development of Yoga.

During the recent years, periodical and stand-alone events were organized to popularize Indian Culture under the framework of the 150th anniversary of Gandhiji, AKAM, Yoga, Veer Bal Diwas etc. by the Embassy of India, Rome in collaboration with various local cultural, spiritual associations and academic institutions including universities. Some of them are - AIT: Asia Institute Turin, Italian Hindu Union, CELSO Institute of Oriental Studies, ISMEO: Italian Institute for the Mediterranean and Oriental Studies, Istituto Gandhi (School), International Institute of South Asian Studies ISAS, Italian Association of Sanskrit Studies, Sakshi Association, ISCKON- Villa Vrindavan, ASD BOLLYWOOD, ANANDA Ashram, Centro Studi Bhaktivedanta, Brahma Kumaris, Centro Yoga Swami Vinshnu - Rome, Italian Yoga Federation, Sarva Yoga International, Sanatana Dharma Samgha (Gitananda Yoga), IYENGAR Yoga , Sri Sri School of Yoga, Self-Realization Fellowship - Rome, 3HO Healthy Happy & Holy Organization, Sahaja Yoga, Isha Foundation, Heartfulness etc.