Symbols at G20 summit in Indonesia and what they signify

Earlier this month, an unwarranted controversy broke out when Congress launched a scathing attack against the Modi government over the inclusion of the symbol of a lotus in the newly unveiled logo of the next G20 summit in India in 2023.

While there was little rationality in Congress’ criticism of choosing the lotus as the symbol for the next G20 summit, which was promptly pointed out by PM Modi, who explained the significance of the lotus flower and its attachment to Indian culture. “The lotus flower symbolises our Puranic heritage, our Aastha (belief) and Boddhikta (intellectualism),” PM Modi said.

Garuda, Vishnu, and Lotus: Hindu symbols at the G20 Summit venue in Indonesia

However, do you know there is a lotus connection with the ongoing G20 Summit in Indonesia? Yes, there is. The venue where the summit is taking place has a Lotus Pond. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo chose the Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK) park as a venue for this year’s G20 summit. Garuda stands for a Hindu demigod and divine creature mentioned in the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain faiths, Wisnu (Vishnu) is a Hindu God while Kencana (Kanchana) is a Sanskrit word for Gold. 

On Tuesday, i.e November 15, the Lotus Pond hosted a welcoming dinner for G20 leaders, providing an opportunity to promote the park’s cultural heritage and exquisite beauty to international delegates. 

The Lotus Pond is the biggest outdoor landmark in Garuda Wisnu Kencana (GWK), having a capacity of over 7,500 people. GWK Operation Director, Stefanus Yonathan Astayasa, said he expected 300-400 guests to attend the banquet, while the remaining delegates would enjoy their dinner at the Jendela Bali restaurant. 

“It is planned that around 300-400 people will attend the dinner at Lotus Pond. The other, specifically the G20 participant who did not take part in the event, can have dinner at the Jendela Bali Restaurant,” said Stefanus.

G20 summit venue: Lotus Pond with depictions of Hindu God Vishnu on his mount Garuda

The Lotus Pond area houses a splendid mural on a wall of limestone cliffs lining the right and left sides. At the end of the rows stand an imposing Garuda statue carrying the Hindu god Vishnu on its back.

The Tirta Agung sacred watering grounds line the entrance to the Lotus Pond. The carved relief slabs greet visitors with the story of the bird Garuda Wisnu Kencana that became the Protector God’s loyal steed.

Vishnu, who is considered by Hindus the guardian deity of the universe, sits on his mount Garuda, carrying a lotus in his hand, a symbol of beauty, prosperity and fertility. The roots may be embedded deep inside the mud, but the flower sprouts out from the murky depths and blossoms unaffected, symbolising hope and tenacity in the face of adversity and an unwavering resolve to overcome difficulties.

“We’re planning to indulge visitors with a whole new experience, from the statue’s ground floor to the 23rd floor. Our goal is to make a memorable impression for tourists and delegates alike,” Stefanus added. He also added that G20 Summit has a positive impact on the park and stirred the management to gentrify more facilities and institute new upgrades within it. 

The shared cultural and religious heritage between India and Indonesia

India and Indonesia are not just linked by decades-old international trade or bilateral relations but by a shared religious and cultural heritage that dates back millennia. Followers of Hinduism, Buddhism and later Islam travelled to Indonesia from the shores of India, and in the process, acquainting the indigenous people in Indonesia with local cultural practices.

Indonesian folk art and dramas draw inspiration from the Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, underscoring the rich cultural harmony between the two countries.

The sculptures in Indonesia are inspired by Hindu art, including gates (gapura), statues (arca) and temples (candi), with temples dedicated to Hindu Gods and Goddesses. There are temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Goddess Lakshmi, and Goddess Saraswati in the Indonesian archipelago, besides temples of other Hindu Gods.

Even customs and traditions practised in India find great resonance with local Indonesian customs, highlighting the dominance of Indian culture in the everyday life in Indonesia.

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