Brussels : Even as India prepared to celebrate Durga Puja next week, the monarch in faraway Belgium, King Philippe, invoked the power of Durga to seek help in nations' search for "unity of purpose" and in taking up challenges of the times.
A great lover of India, who has led four economic delegations to the country, Philippe Friday again broke convention to speak at a farewell lunch for visiting Indian Prime Minister Pranab Mukherjee and recalled his visit as a backpacker to Bengal "eager to discover your rich culture.
"Mr President, in your home region West Bengal and in many other parts of India people are now preparing for the Durga Puja, the worship of the power of Good which always wins over bad. May this power of Good help us in our search for unity of purpose and in taking up the many challenges of our times," the king, known as the King of the Belgians, said.
The king also quoted Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore to say that his call to "open your doors" of the mind is still appealing today as "different cultures enter into a respectful dialogue, new ideas arise and new horizons open."
He recalled his visit "to your beautiful country a number of times" and said each visit was an "invigorating experience.
Referring to the Europalia, the four-month Indian cultural gala inaugurated here jointly by Mukherjee and Philippe Friday, the king said the festival "will only showcase a fraction of your vast cultural heritage" and was an invitation to each visitor there to "discover further the treasures of your secular civilisation." Among the exhibits
at the Bonzar, the Center of Art and Culture and the main venue of the festival, is an idol of Durga.
The king also quoted another Nobel Laureate, Amartya Sen, to talk about the "wholeness of India" and praised Mukherjee for being a "consensus builder" in a country that was "as big as a continent, composed of 28 states and 7 union territories, and where 22 languages are recognised by the Constitution.
King Philippe, who ascended the throne only last July after his father, King Albert II abdicated, broke protocol when he and Queen Mathilde drove up to the airport tarmac to receive Mukherjee when he arrived here Wednesday on the first visit by an Indian head of state to Belgium. The president was accompanied by his daughter, Sharmistha Mukherjee.