The Hungarian Information and Cultural Centre in cooperation with the India International Centre is organizing a lecture and photo documentary exhibition on noted Hungarian Indologist and Art Historian, Ervin Baktay titled “ENCHANTED BY INDIA”. The programme is commemorating the 50th death anniversary of Ervin Baktay. He was a Hungarian author noted for popularizing Indian culture in Hungary. He had started his career as a painter and he encouraged his niece Amrita Sher-Gil to pursue art.
The India International Centre will be hosting lectures by Prof. Geza Bethlenfalvy, an Indologist from Hungary and Dr. Margit Koves, a lecturer in Delhi University on Tuesday, 7th May from 4:00 – 6:00 pm. This will be followed by an exhibition opening and a film screening on the life of Ervin Baktay which will take place at the Hungarian Information and Cultural Centre from 6:30 – 7:30pm.
BIOGRAPHY OF ERVIN BAKTAY
Ervin Baktay (Dunaharaszti, June 24, 1890 – Budapest, May 7, 1963)
The family of Ervin Baktay originates from Erdőbakta (whence the shorter name of Baktay later came), now a part of Ukraine.
The India-oriented activities of Ervin Baktay started with translations of the pseudo-Sanskrit sentimental stories of F.W. Bain, which were given to him by his brother-in-law. The success of these stories was based on the trend of mysticism. The greatness of Baktay was his ability to recognise real values. He soon discovered Tagore and popularised his writings in Hungary. Later on he wrote many valuable books popularising every aspect of Indian life from literature to geography, from astrology to religion and philosophy. In the last phase, his works on Indian art represented the highest level of contemporary scholarship and at the same time, through the clarity of his style and thoughts, they were accessible to a wide circle of readership.
He began life as a painter, studied art in the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts with Károly Ferenczy and then under the guidance of Simon Hollósy in Munich, where his interest in Oriental culture was first kindled. His studies were interrupted by the First World-War, he was enlisted between 1915 and 1918. After the success of the Bain - stories, in 1921 he published his book on Rabindranath Tagore and soon after that a separate volume of short stories of Indian writers. In 1923, he first published his adaptation of the "Mahabharata" which was received with great interest, and which was later extended to include an adaptation of the Ramayaņa and published several times.
In 1926, a collection of speaches by Gandhiji was published by Baktay. In the same year he had the opportunity to go to India, and remained there until 1929. He spent much time in Simla with his sister, who was married to Umrao Singh Sher-Gil. He guided their doughter Amrita Sher-Gil by encouraging her to paint and gave her an academic foundation to grow on. He also instructed her to use servants of the house as models and paint landacapes in the „plein air” style.
He travelled extensively in the country meeting the leaders, the rich people and the common people of India, studying the monuments of art and every aspect of the rich cultural heritage of the sub-continent. He visited all the places connected with the activities of Csoma de Kőrös.
After his return to Hungary, almost every year he brought out a new book dealing with various aspects of Indian life, art and religion and these books brought many people close to the understanding of India, and they still retain their popularity. Baktay's books show the wide knowledge of the author, his deep insight into the various aspects of Indian life and culture and also his ability to put forward his ideas in a way such as to arouse the interest of a wide circle of Hungarian readers. His books usually reached many editions.
His most comprehensive book was entitled "India" (1931) and it gave a general picture of the India of the twenties and thirties with special emphasis on the cultural heritage and on the freedom struggle. His travel-books include "The Land of the Happy Valley, Wanderings in Kashmir" 1934, - Punjab "The Land of Five Rivers" 1937, Rajasthan and Gujarat "In the Land of Princes: Rajputana and Gujarat" 1939, and the Himalayan region "On the top of the World, in the footsteps of Alexander Csoma de Kőrös in Western Tibet" 1930, which was later rewritten as a biography of the great Hungarian scholar. This book came out in two different versions, and the extended version, first published in 1962, is the most extensive work on the life of this great savant.
Baktay also published two versions of his diary: the first was entitled: "A Hungarian Traveller in India" (1933), the second version "My Years In India" came out in 1938.
He also published a book explaining the Hindu conception of life (1936), which was enlarged and re-edited in 1942. In these years he prepared a translation of the "Kamasutra" which was published only later. His books on Indian philosophy and astronomy are important as well.
His book "India wants Freedom," published in 1942, is also remarkable. In the same year two editions of his book on Yoga were published. Yoga was very popular in Hungary in those years.
After the second world war Baktay returned to his first love, Indian art, started to work at the Ferenc Hopp Museum of Eastern Asiatic Art, and also gave lectures on Indian art at the University ELTE, and in 1958 published the most important, excellent book „The Art of India” which came out in more editions, one in German language as well.