Mission Statement

As the largest centre for Indian arts and culture outside India, The Bhavan is committed to ensuring the rich artistic and cultural heritage of India is alive and available to all.

The Bhavan’s expert teachers and visiting performing artists in dance, music, languages, yoga, art, and art history are dedicated to sharing their knowledge and artistry in an authentic way. This is both by inspiring students to value community and commit to their own development be it personal, artistic or spiritual and delighting audiences through performances at our centre in West Kensington.

Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan - The Movement

The Bhavan story starts a long time ago in 1887 in a town called Bharuch tucked away in rural Gujarat. It was there that K.M. Munshi was born, the man who would go on to start the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan movement that has now metamorphosed into more than 100 hubs in India and around the world which celebrate and teach the pure Indian classical arts - centres where art, music, drama, yoga and languages all live and breathe for everyone to learn and enjoy. 

In 1972 the Bhavan was established in London, this time by another pioneering visionary affectionately known as Mathoorji who hired a two-room building in Soho to teach classes - and here we are, 46 years and thousands of students later, in the heart of West Kensington with 15 classrooms, 23 courses, 15 teachers and a revolving door of visiting artists. It has been quite a journey, and we are happy to still be on it, with students ranging from 7 to 90 years old, from Indian ex pats to Latvian doctors. Whoever you are, wherever you are from, we are happy to say that you will find something to love here at The Bhavan.

History

The Bhavan is one of 110 Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan centres, 105 of which are in India. The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan is a comprehensive art, cultural and educational movement which believes that that there are elements in all cultures which transcend barriers and knit people together. It is apolitical and follows the teaching and principles of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Bhavan was established in London in 1972. Our premises in West Kensington were bought in 1978 and consisted of a de-commissioned church, a vicarage and vicar’s house. We began holding concerts in the old church building and classes throughout the premises. Using Lottery funding we built a new extension with extra classrooms and an art gallery and renovated the auditorium. A recent Arts Council England capital grant has allowed us to install solar panels, CCTV and other improvements, the most recent being the addition of beautiful murals on the stairs and in the canteen painted by Neil Wilkinson-Cave of Sacredart Murals.

The Bhavan’s core activities are teaching and promoting classical Indian arts and culture. We are unique in teaching 23 different classes under one roof; parents have commented that even in India they would not be able to access such a range in one centre and would have to make several journeys there to access equivalent teaching for their children. Every week around 450 students walk through The Bhavan’s doors, many of whom attend classes in more than one artform.

Students benefit from watching performances by major artists, often with the opportunity to participate in workshops led by them. Pandit Ravi Shankar was one of the many world-famous artists who have performed at the Bhavan. Others include Ustad Alla Rakha, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Smt Lata Mangeshkar, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Ram Gopal OBE, Dr Balamurali Krishna, Dr Padma Subrahmanyam, Birju Maharaj, Sonal Mansingh, Sanjukta Panigrahi, Smt M.S. Subbulakshmi, Mandolin Srinivas, Alarmel Valli, Pt Bhimsen Joshi, Lalgudi Jayaraman, T V Gopalakrishnan, Anoushka Shankar and Zakir Hussain.

The Bhavan is the only place in the United Kingdom – and one of few places outside India – that teaches and nurtures the understanding of the whole spectrum of Indian classical arts in the age-old tradition. As you enter a music classroom, you might feel transported back to a gurukul in India. You will see racks of tabla, mridangam, rows of sitars or vinas. Music students sit on the floor at the feet of their teacher, and on a table next to the teacher is a picture of their own teacher as a mark of respect. Walking down a corridor you might hear the rhythmic percussion of classical dancers’ feet. In the guru-shishya tradition, the teacher imparts oral knowledge to the student, who reciprocates with dedication, respect and commitment and eventually masters the knowledge that the teacher embodies. Dancers perform as solo artists only after their Arangetram (a graduation performance when a teacher presents their pupils to the public).

Master sitar player Ravi Shankar was a friend and supporter of The Bhavan and said “If there is one place in the UK where Indian art and culture is taught and practised in the true traditional sense, it is without doubt the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan”.