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Australia and India: Celebrating shared connections

Participating in the Holi festival
Celebrating Holi in Australia.

Australia and India have ties dating back to the 18th century and continue to share a number of common connections. To celebrate the friendship between the two nations, the Indian government is hosting 'Confluence - Festival of India in Australia', the biggest Indian cultural festival in Australia from August to November 2016. Here are eight things you should know about the Australia-India relationship.

1. January 26 is a day of celebration for both countries

Australia Day and India’s Republic Day are both celebrated on the same day: January 26.

Australia’s national day is a celebration of contemporary Australia while India’s Republic Day is a solemn affair. It is a celebration of when the Constitution of India first came into force in 1950.

Malcolm Fraser with Indira Gandhi
Malcolm Fraser was the guest of honour at India's Republic Day in 1979.

The highlight of India's Republic Day is the ceremonial parade in New Delhi. India also hosts a head of state from another country as its guest every year.

Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was the guest of honour in 1979 when Indira Gandhi was prime minister.

2. Love for cricket

The two countries share their love for cricket with both sides holding regular matches. A number of Australian cricketers have also been taking part in the Indian Premier League (IPL) since it began in 2008. At least 23 Australians played in the League in 2016.

Crowd at the MCG for the Australia-India match
Crowd at the MCG for the Australia-India match.

Australian cricketer Shane Watson made the decision to retire from playing for Australia when he was in the Indian city of Dharamsala.

One morning I woke up in Dharamsala to the beautiful view and I don't know what it was exactly but I knew now was the right time.

-Shane Watson, former Australian cricketer now playing for the Indian Premier League

However, he continues to play for the IPL. Watson was sold for a staggering $2 million to the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the recent IPL auction in 2016.

Shane Watson smashes a six against India
Shane Watson was bought by the Royal Challengers Bangalore for a $2 million.

AAP Image: Paul Miller

3. Aussies in Bollywood

One Australian cricketer has even crossed over to Bollywood. Brett Lee’s debut film “unINDIAN”, filmed in Sydney, has been released in India in 2016, almost a year after it was released in Australia.

Lee was one of the fastest bowlers in the world and then was a cricket commentator and is now an actor.

Brett Lee (extreme R) with his co-star and director
Brett Lee (extreme R) with his co-star Tannishtha Chatterjee (extreme L) and director Anupam Sharma (C).

Twitter: unINDIAN

When the film was released in Australia in 2015, Lee, who knows a little bit of Hindi, told the ABC:

When this opportunity came and was presented to me last year, being an Australian movie with an Indian flavour, I love what it stood for. The message in the movie is that love has no boundaries. It’s about two cultures getting together... going through those boundaries.

-Brett Lee, former Australian cricketer

Other Australians who have made it to Bollywood include Pallavi Sharda and Tania Zaetta. But the first Australian who made it to Indian cinema was Mary Ann Evans. The Perth-born actress was the tough-talking, whip-cracking action heroine of 1930s and 1940s popularly known as ‘Fearless Nadia’.

To date, more than a dozen Bollywood movies have been filmed in Australia with Shadi ke side effects being the most recent blockbuster to be filmed in the Gold Coast in 2014.

Narendra Modia and Malcolm Turnbull
Narendra Modia and Malcolm Turnbull in 2015.

4. Similar political systems

Australia and India follow the Westminster style of parliament and both countries are democracies with voting systems.

As both countries are a part of the Commonwealth, the way local and state governments run are very similar.

Both countries have a free press and independent judicial systems. The English language is also common to both countries.

At this point really, (Australia-India ties) are at their best ever. We have no real issues amongst us, between us and that enables me as high commissioner to build on a positive agenda. I certainly see them on a very strong upward trajectory.

-Navdeep Suri, Indian High Commissioner to Australia

5. Australian locations, Indian origin

The West Australian town of Australind, which was established in 1841, was named after combining the words Australia and India.

There are also 'Delhi', 'Agra' and 'Calcutta' streets in the suburb of Mitcham in Melbourne's east.

A street in Melbourne is named after the Indian city of Mangalore.

6. People-to-people ties

Indian migrants and international students continue to come to Australia for work and study. India has become the largest source of skilled migrants in Australia and Punjabi is the fastest growing language in the country.

"They see Australia as a prosperous and peaceful nation, English speaking and a part of the Commonwealth. Both countries are run in a very similar fashion," says Dr Pradeep Taneja from the University of Melbourne.

According to the 2011 census, the number of Australians born in India more than doubled since 2006.

You can see the impact the Indian community is making in different walks of (Australian) life and what I feel is that this community is going to become the really solid bridge between our countries.

-Navdeep Suri, Indian High Commissioner to Australia

Amitabh Bachchan
Amitabh Bachchan sporting his trendy beard.

Getty Images: Gareth Cattermole, file photo

7. Sporting a beard

Indian and Aussie men are not afraid to sport a stylish beard and go to great lengths to get that perfect look.

No longer just the facial hair choice of bikers and ageing hippies, Aussie men are choosing to opt for a rugged look, similar to their Indian counterparts - young and old.

Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan made his television debut in Kaun Banega Crorepati (Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire) with a perfectly styled beard, creating waves with his look among men of all ages.

Yoga at the Sydney Harbour
Yoga at the Sydney Harbour.

Twitter: India in Sydney

8. Yoga as exercise

Yoga has grown exponentially in recent years and is enjoying unprecedented popularity in the West.

In 2015, the first International Day of Yoga was observed after Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, a yoga practitioner himself, pushed for the annual event to be celebrated worldwide.

Yoga is India's biggest cultural export and in Australia, many people practise different forms of yoga. Many visit India or invite teachers from India to learn more about this ancient practice.

Yoga Australia CEO Shyamala Benakovic says the "continual rise of yoga in Australia and its relevance in all aspects of the Australian way of living brings us closer to yoga’s country of origin - India."

This not only promotes a better relationship between both countries but shows the value of yoga as a universal practice that strengthens the wellbeing of relationships between nations.

-Shyamala Benakovic, CEO, Yoga Australia

'Confluence - Festival of India in Australia' is a cultural festival organised by the Indian government. The festival will run from August to November 2016 and it will be held in seven cities around Australia

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