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IIT Kharagpur’s Academy of Classical and Folk Arts has roped another key patron with US-based alumnus Mukund Padmanabhan donating ₹52 Lakh to this one of its kind outreach unit in the IIT system. The funding is towards building a music auditorium with a digitally enhanced learning environment, conducting thematic workshops on classical and folk arts and engaging teaching fellows.

Plans have been drawn to set up a digital classroom for music training in proscenium setting as distance mode teaching-learning with aesthetic and acoustically appropriate interiors. Two teaching positions are also being created for providing training on classical music and arts on a regular basis.

The Academy will offer training in music, fine arts and the performing arts, and also introduce credit courses in the forms of electives and micro-specializations. Additionally, it will create national and international outreach programs for dissemination and collaborative research on science and technology interventions in Indian classical music and other classical arts. The Academy will also be a hub to create teaching-learning resources for Indian classical music and other classical arts.

“While the Institute will provide the required space we are thankful to Mukund who has come forward to patronize this initiative. This new pedagogy in teaching and learning these classical and folk art forms will go a long way in preserving the core fundamentals of the traditional art form,’ said Subrata Chattopadhyay, Dean Alumni Affairs and Avinash Gupta Chair Professor.

Students of IIT Kharagpur will get the unique opportunity to explore this transdisciplinary program in classical and folk arts. Prof. Pallab Dasgupta and Prof. Joy Sen who are heading this initiative are enthusiastic about introducing students of engineering and architectural disciplines and encourage them to supplement the highly-competitive technical education through the use of artistic talents.

“Students of IIT Kharagpur constitute a rich talent pool of cultural virtuosity combined with exceptional creative intellect. We believe the Academy will open up new forays for expression of this talent, nurtured through a deeper understanding of our unique cultural heritage, and study through the lens of Science and Technology”, expressed the duo.

An MoU signed recently will also involve Mukund’s non-profit organization Guru Krupa Foundation. Dr. Mukund Padmanabhan is an expert in the domain of finance specializing in statistical financial modeling though he pursued his education in the field of Electronics and Electrical Engineering.  After completing his B.Tech. from IIT Kharagpur in 1987 from the Dept. of Electronics and Electrical Engineering, he did Masters and Doctoral degrees from UCLA in electrical engineering.  Mukund set up Guru Krupa Foundation, a New York-based charitable foundation to support social, educational and cultural initiatives.

Talking about the Academy Mukund said, “IIT is an institution that is known for hosting the best and brightest technical talent in India. Developing and excelling in a modern scientific approach to all things is required to make practical progress and advance our knowledge about the world we live in. However, traditional art and culture are also very important as it defines our history and represents our roots. From my point of view, the newly formed Academy of Classical and Folk Arts at IIT KGP represents a very creative experiment.”

According to him, the Academy serves three purposes – a non-technical creative outlet for the students and staff, enabling traditional forms of creative expression (music and arts) to be examined through the lens of technology and modern science, and introducing future leaders to these traditional art forms, it helps preserve the art forms for posterity.

Mukund’s philanthropic organization Guru Krupa Foundation will be involved in supporting the activities of the Academy. Guru Krupa Foundation has a charter of promoting the acquisition of knowledge, preservation of knowledge that we have already acquired (in the form of our cultural heritage) and also helping the disadvantaged in society.

“Support for the Academy of Classical and Folk Arts aligns well with this charter. In the near term, GKF will provide financial support, for instance, we are already providing support for Academy workshops that are planned for the 2020 year. Besides IIT KGP is my alma mater and it gives me great satisfaction to be able to give something back to the institution that laid the foundation for my professional life. It is my privilege to be able to give back to the institution that laid the foundation for my career,” he said.

The Academy has had additional contributions and support from other alumni, including Arjun Malhotra and Kiran Seth. Arjun and his associates has also been major contributors to the Academy. The IIT Kharagpur Foundation in the US has been actively working towards bringing forward more alumni towards this initiative.

“We are proud to bring alumnus like Mukund Padmanabhan in active engagement with their alma mater,” said alumnus and President of the Foundation, Ron Gupta.

Attempts are being made to collaborate with corporate houses with CSR goals towards preserving the scientific heritage and culture of India in the lines of IIT Kharagpur’s SANDHI programme funded by the Ministry of Human Resources Development, Govt. of India.

Mukund is optimistic about alumni contributions driving areas that break away from the traditional expertise of the IITs.

“Historically, many advances have been made by cross-pollination of ideas. Enabling additional areas in which the traditional expertise of IITians can be applied could lead to great advances in those areas and also develop new applications for traditional expertise. Hence, support for new areas like the Academy of Arts is a good way of paying our dues forward to our alma mater. Who knows where this cross-pollination may lead!” – remarked Mukund.

Photo Credit: University of California, Los Angeles

By Shreyoshi Ghosh

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