As the new chief of the Southern arm of the Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts, Vikram Sampath is both thrilled and nervous.

Vikram Sampath is on a high. Naturally, for the Bangalore-based music and history buff has just taken over as Executive Director of the prestigious Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts, South Zone. “I think I have found my calling,” says the techie-turned-writer and documenter in an informal chat even as he divulges future plans for a centre that houses one of the finest collections of India’s art and culture histories.

“The IGNCA is a nodal agency for research, documentation and dissemination in the larger spectrum of the arts (music, dance, folk arts, rituals, festivals and fairs, theatre, sculpture, painting, photography, etc). Through exhibitions, concerts, workshops, seminars and conferences, the centre stresses on the interdisciplinary and integrated features of all our art forms,” says Vikram, by way of introduction. The 34-year-old quit a lucrative IT job to take up this post, and has to his credit, three written works including a biography of India’s first recorded voice, Gauhar Jaan, and a tome on the Mysore State. He is also one of the movers of the Bangalore Literature Festival.

The Bangalore arm of the IGNCA, head-quartered at New Delhi, has been functioning for the past 12 years, quietly acquiring ancient manuscripts, out-of-print tomes, rare recordings and film clipping from various sources across the globe, most of them from the pre-Independence era. Its located on a lush ten-acre property provided by the Bangalore University.

An advocate of all things vintage and heritage, Vikram says, “The centre has its jurisdiction across all of South India. The rich repository of research material -- documentation of several festivals and rituals that date back to Vedic times, 11,500 books just on art and culture and about 13,000 microfilms of manuscripts from all over India… there’s enough material to write a 1000 Ph.Ds!” The centre also boasts several personal collections (books, recordings, photographs and even hand written notes) such as those of the writer, music scholar and AIR Director General (1965), V. K. Narayana Menon. His collection includes rare tomes such as ‘The Arts of Mridangam by T.R. Harihara Sharma,’ and valuable reports on All India Music seminars and other areas of culture - an enviable collection of 1,850 volumes!

“The challenges IGNCA South faces today to gain a more prominent public spot are humongous”, says the 34-year-old. “The centre fills a huge gap in research on the arts. It has something for practitioners of every art form. My dream is to get people to learn about, understand and use the wealth of information the centre has to offer, especially for students and research scholars. While the centre may have been inert so far, we are now getting more kinetic…” What Vikram is looking for is collaborations with local academic and art bodies in smaller cities of the Southern States such as Madurai, Trissur and Vizag. He has already put a comprehensive revival plan in place. “With strong and enthusiastic support from the parent body, the South Zone’s future looks bright.”

Among the first shows planned is a travelling exhibition of Vintage Photographs by Raja Deendayal (often hailed the Prince of Photographers), which captures India 150 years ago. Besides, the centre has tied up with SPIC MACAY for a series of performances. Also, on the anvil are Heritage lectures, exhibitions and workshops.

The IGNCA and Vikram welcome valuable inputs, donations, collaborative ideas and contributions. Those interested may contact him at or For more information, log on to

The centre’s roots…

The brainchild of the scholar, historian and ethnographer Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi, was a tribute of sorts to her dear friend and former Prime Minister. As the official website puts it, “This view of the arts, integrated with, and essential to the larger matrix of human culture, is predicated upon Mrs. Gandhi's recognition of the role of the arts as essential to the integral quality of person.” The centre came into existence in 1987, under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture, with Dr. Vatsyayan as a founder trustee and member secretary, and the driving force behind the centre.

The organisation is a storehouse of the entire gamut of the arts – visual, written, oral, performing, architecture, lifestyle, literature, fairs and festivals… anything that reflects man’s creative abilities. As the centre grew, the need to expand out of Delhi was felt. Soon, it spread its wing to Guwahati and Varanasi in the East, and Bangalore in the South. At the national level, Chinmaya Gharekhan is the current president, Board of Trustees, while Dipali Khanna is Member Secretary. The only South representative on the current Board is classical dancer-scholar Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam.


Some interesting documentaries produced by IGNCA:

* Lai Haraoba- Annual ritual festival of Manipur

* Sacred World of the Todas- the tribes of the Nilgiris

* The Talking Rocks of Badami---rock cut sculptures of Badami caves

* Murals of Kerala- 30 mins

* Mirasans of Punjab---women singers

* Great Master Series---interviews with and features on Shivaram Karanath, Ustad Fahimuddin Dagar, B C Sanyal, Zohra Sehgal, Sitara Devi, Asgari Begum, MT Vasudevan Nair,

* Devadasi Murai- Remembering the devadasis

* Rock Art--the oldest legacy of Mankind

* Brihadeeshwara Temple of Thanjavur