On Sunday, 20th December, 2015, Pracheen Kala Kendra, Chandigarh held its 43rd Annual Convocation for the Eastern Region at Mahanayak Uttam Mancha, Kolkata. Although it was a cold winter’s day, the hall was packed to capacity - proof enough of the Kendra’s popularity in this part of the country.

This is the 59th year of the Kendra, which is the largest organisation of its kind in the world. The Kendra has spent almost six decades, since its inception in 1956, in the service of art and culture.
The Convocation began with a welcome address in which the organizers thanked the audience including the dignitaries present for gracing the occasion. This was followed by the inauguration of the Convocation by table maestro, Pt. Swapan Chowdhury, who was the Chief Guest and noted Odishi exponent, Guru Sutapa Talukdar, who was the Guest of Honour.

This was followed by a brief introduction of the Kendra. The audience was informed of the Kendra’s over 3,500 affiliated centres in India & abroad and the three lakh nineteen thousand students who appeared for various examinations in 2014-15. Such is the expansion of the Kendra’s operations that the Kendra’s Administrative and Examination wing has been shifted to the Kendra’s Mohali Complex at Sector 71, built on a spacious half acre plot. Since the Kendra is working towards being a Deemed Private University of Distance Education in Music and Dance as well as an Institution of National Importance, the Sector 35 complex - the Head office of the Kendra - is being renovated and shall be utilized for performing & visual arts. It will include a new art gallery, a library, modified audio video archive, conference hall and class rooms. The Kendra is in the process of opening offices in Patna & Ranchi to cater to the demand in Bihar & Jharkhand. The 8th Convocation of Odisha is scheduled to be held on 3rd January, 2016 at Bhuvaneshwar.

The Kendra is an approved centre for kathak training to foreign students. The Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India, has been regularly sanctioning salary grants for the Kendra. The Kendra’s certificates and diplomas are treated at par with degrees by various state governments, education boards & universities. Another feather in the Kendra’s cap this year is the recognition of its examinations by Dept. of Education, Bihar.
The audience was also informed of the highlight of 2015 - the eleventh Guru Madan Lal Koser-Guru Shobha Koser Award. The Award worth Rs. 1 lakh has been instituted to celebrate the creativity and dynamism of the couple after whom it’s named. The Kosers have contributed immensely to the promotion, preservation and enrichment of India’s classical arts and artistes and the Award is the Kendra’s way of recognising this contribution. The award was conferred upon santoor maestro Padmashri Pt. Satish Vyas at a glittering ceremony in February, 2015 at Tagore Theatre, Chandigarh.

In accordance with its tradition, the Kendra hosted the 45th session of the Pracheen Kala Kendra Nritya & Sangeet Sammelan in March, 2015. It featured performances by internationally renowned exponents like Anuradha Pal - tabla concert (Istri shakti), Sarojya Baidynathan & troupe (Bharatnatyam Dance), Ravinder Singh (Flute Recital), Geetanjali Lal & Vidha Lal with troupe (Kathak Dance), Rahimat Ali Khan & brothers (Sitar Recital), Ashish Das & troupe (Odissi Dance), Prabhakar Kashyap & Diwakar Kashyap (Vocal Recital) and Nilmana Sisters (Kuchipudi & Bharatnatyam Jugalbandi). The Kendra also organized Baithak & special programmes as also a theatre workshop, while continuing with its public welfare initiatives for the underprivileged. It awards special scholarships to disabled children and nurtures their talents, helping them make a mark in society. This year, gifted painter Anu Jain, a child prodigy of the Kendra, was honoured for her artistic skills.

The Kendra began its first quarterly baithak in New Delhi as part of the series ‘Legends of Tomorrow’ at Amaltas Auditorium in collaboration with India Habitat Centre. The Kendra also organized the 3rd M. L. Koser Music & Dance Festival over 2 days at Stein Auditorium, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, featuring eminent artistes from across India. The programme was the Kendra’s tribute to its illustrious founder - Late Shri M.L. Koser.
In an effort to provide its students with a platform to showcase their talent, the Kendra started a monthly series called ‘Parampara’. This initiative will go a long way in imparting confidence to the students, aiding them in their holistic development. The Kendra also organized a two-day cultural extravaganza in September at Birendra Mancha, Kolkata, featuring the centre-superintendents and students of the Kendra. The highlights of the programme were guitar & sitar recitals, tabla solo, Rabindrasangeet & Nazrulgeeti recitals, recitation, bharat natyam and kathak group dance.

In his address, Pt. Swapan Chowdhury spoke about how he had also been a student once like the candidates at the Convocation. He requested the Kendra to pay close attention to the standard of teaching across its centres in India and abroad in order to ensure that all its students are of a consistent quality.
In her keynote address, Guru Sutapa Talukdar suggested using locations around the city - like parks - for informal concerts of classical music. She felt that this would be an innovative avenue to popularize Hindustani classical music among the new generation.
As in previous years, the Kendra lived up to its tradition of honouring prominent personalities. Renowned vocalist, Smt. Nirmala Misra, was felicitated with a Lifetime Achievement Award comprising a cash award of Rs 25,001, a shawl, a memento and a citation. Renowned thespian, Shri Rudraprasad Sengupta, eminent painter, Shri Wasim Kapoor and noted journalist, Shri Biswajit Matilal were felicitated with a cash award of Rs 11,001, a shawl, a memento and a citation. Smt. Reena Sopam was presented with the Prodyot Bhadra Young Journalist Award, comprising a cash award of Rs 11,001, a shawl, a memento and a citation. Prior to presenting these tokens of appreciation, a citation, covering their achievements in a nutshell, was read.

Addressing the Convocation, Smt. Nirmala Misra expressed her gratitude to the Kendra for the honour. She blessed the students, hoping that everyone is happy with a smile on their faces in the coming year. Although she had given up singing for quite some time, she regaled the audience with a few lines of her most famous song ‘Emon Ekti Jhinuk Khunje Pelam Na’.
Shri Wasim Kapoor and Smt. Reena Sopam expressed their gratitude for the felicitation. They had words of encouragement for the Kendra, urging it to continue to uphold the flag of Indian classical music, dance, drama and the fine arts. They congratulated the Kendra on its achievements and wished it well.
Shri Rudraprasad Sengupta spoke about how creative people keep redefining the limits of our imagination, how they make life worth living. He expected the Kendra’s students to push boundaries and expose the world to new horizons of creativity.
Shri Biswajit Matilal dedicated the honour bestowed by the Kendra to his recently deceased wife and urged the audience to read newspapers more, thereby ensuring the longevity of print media.

Felicitations over, superintendants of centres which sponsor the highest number of candidates to the various examinations of Pracheen Kala Kendra through main centre and main & sub-centres were honoured. The winners were Balurghat Artists Forum, Dakshin Dinajpur and Preyankan, Hooghly.
Certificates & medals were handed over to the meritorious students of the Kendra in the Eastern region. The Guru M.L. Koser Award for Excellence, instituted by the Kendra in recognition of unparallelled services of its founder Guru M.L. Koser was also given as well as the Shri Sunil Koser Award for Excellence to the top students in Bhaskar and Visharad final examinations respectively. The Guru M. L. Koser Award went to Bipasha Roy (Rabindra Sangeet), Payel Sekh (Kathak Dance), Suchismita Shee (Fine Arts - Painting), Monika Chakraborty (Recitation). The Sunil Koser Award went to Nabanita Paul Saha (Rabindra Sangeet). The medals and certificates were presented to students by the dignitaries present, along with Ms Shobha Koser and Mr Sajal Koser.

The Convocation concluded with medals & diplomas of Sangeet Bhaskar & Visharad Final being presented to students by the dignitaries present, along with Smt. Shobha Koser, Registrar-cum-Treasurer of the Kendra and Shri Sajal Koser, Secretary of the Kendra.

The Convocation was preceded by a cultural programme the previous evening at the same venue. The audience was treated to a scintillating dance performance by the Mamata Shankar Ballet Troupe. The ballet was a grand curtain raiser to Pracheen Kala Kendra’s 43rd Annual Convocation for the Eastern Region. The music lovers of Kolkata are already looking forward to the next one.