Hoosiers young and old, tourists, politicians and their staffers, residents of the South Asian community in Indianapolis, and many more were treated to a colorful and vibrant celebration of Indian culture and heritage during India Day festivities at Monument Circle on Sunday, August 16th, 2015. The 6th annual India Day gathering brought attention to the culture and heritage of India, just one day after India’s Independence Day (Saturday, August 15, 2015) and featured a parade, singing and dancing, traditional cuisine, and local merchants.
“We have a very strong Indian community and to be able to come to the premier place in the city, the Circle, to celebrate India Day and their independence is very meaningful to us.” stated Mayor Gregory A. Ballard, City of Indianapolis. “We really do embrace our Indian communities.”
With an overabundance of sights and sounds; the bright colors of traditional attire, the varying genres of music played from the stage, even the aroma of Indian cuisine wafting through the air provided a bit of India that everyone could enjoy. And the brief but heavy downpour of rain at the outset of the event could not dampen the mood that remained positive throughout the day.
The India Day Program Guide was filled with music, dance, and community greetings. Highlights included the singing of the Indian and American National Anthems by Ananya Tadikonda, Hima Nattam, and Pooja Jeykumar; the Nagada Dhol Baaje Bollywood Dance by Roopali Sanka, Roohi Sanka, Ritika Jaragala, Nitya Sandadi, and Sreenija Paruchuri of Arya Dance Academy with choreography by Madhuri Meda; Jenny Bhupatkar’s Bollywood Beats Group which performed several times throughout the day – a Kids Medley Bollywood Beats by Aikya Mallapragada, Saavi Mohan, Shreyas Josyula, Kavya Garg, and Aarav Shah; – Bollywood Medley Bollywood Beats by Rayla Prakash, Shriya Jain, Nimisha Mathur, and Isha Tandon; and, – Festivals of India Bollywood Beats by Anushree Krishnamurthy, Aoorva Bharthur, Arathi Krishnan, Bindiya Kiran, Ketki Tamhankar, Minu Nair, Nitika Jain, Poorval Ghate, Shirali Patel, Vinny Bhupatkar and Jenny Bhupatkar.
“We are so happy and excited.” exclaimed Jenny Bhupatkar founder and lead choreographer of Bollywood Beats Dance Group. “The whole Bollywood Beats Group members are so excited to be here. In fact, this morning we were at Fox 59 studio performing. It’s just a pleasure to always join together with the Indian Association. We’re just happy to be here.”
The biggest highlight of the day, however, was a special musical performance by Anita Lerche, an award-winning singer, songwriter, composer and actress from Denmark who has enjoyed great success as a top Bollywood musical artist. She is the first non-Asian woman from the West to sing and release a successful solo album in Punjabi. She has also been very successful as a voiceover artist in her native Denmark, having worked on the Disney Pixar Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3 and Planes animated feature films. She performed a musical piece entitled, “Jugni” off of her latest CD release “Sadke Punjab Ton” which also featured Shivanand Bangar on Dohl from Chicago, Illinois. Lerche received overwhelming audience response. Lerche also mentioned she will be performing at Indy Festival of Faiths on August 30th and Christel House Concert on October 16th.
“I experienced a great and positive response from the audience and loved being a part of India Day.” said Anita Lerche. “The Indian community in Indianapolis is so open and welcoming and I feel so honored to be part of it. India is like my second home and it is important for me to spread love and happiness through the rich culture and music – both to the local community, but also to the non-Indians that still don’t know about the colorful heritage of India. Being part of the event allowed me to spread awareness about my two upcoming concerts; Indy Festival of Faiths on August 30th and Christel House Concert on October 16th, where I’ll be performing some new songs, as well as the lively Bhangra songs I’m internationally known for.”
“I am so honored to have been invited to attend India Day in Indianapolis.” said Raoul Juneja, Canada’s preeminent media expert for India and South Asia, with his award-winning works for OMNI Television and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “It is my first time in the City and the State and thought it was a tremendous event to see the whole community come together despite the rain. It’s interesting to see the Indian National Anthem followed by the American National Anthem as well bringing all the communities together and celebrating the South Asian community in America. I’m just very proud to see the community continue to be included in the mainstream society as well as we see in Canada. I was so honored to be marching in the parade alongside a good friend of mine Anita Lerche and to see the reaction to Anita Lerche; the collective gasp that came from the audience when they saw her onstage and seeing a traditional Punjabi song. I was very impressed to see the community come together celebrating all types of music. I could not be more impressed for my first time here.”
India Day was hosted by the International & Cultural Affairs Office of Mayor Greg Ballard, India Association of Indianapolis, and Indianapolis Hyderabad Sister City Committee. Food Vendors included Delhi Palace, India Palace, India Sizzling II. Merchant Vendors included Selinas, Riddhi Siddhi Collections, Century 21 Scheetz, Art Simply, Kuman of South Port, Patel Brothers, Athiva. Exhibitors included Signs By Tomorrow, International Patient Services IU Health, Christel House, Hindu Swayam Sevak Sangh, Sahaja Meditation, Art of Living, Brahma Kumaris.
“It’s been really amazing. Mayor Ballard took over in 2008 and that was one of the things we said from the very beginning was that he wanted to make Indianapolis an international city.” explained Jane Gehlhausen, Director of International & Cultural Affairs Office with a tear in her eyes [this would be Mayor Ballard’s last India Day as Mayor]. That’s my passion as well. So it has really been wonderful to be in this position to work with him because I can count on him for total support. And anytime there was an event he would be there. It’s sad because he is finishing his term but he has definitely left a legacy in our city. I wanted to say Anita Lerche (singer) and Soren Hjorth (Lerche’s Manager) are a wonderful addition to our city. You could tell just how people reacted to her when she was singing and she is performing at a couple of other upcoming events [Indy Festival of Faiths on August 30th and Christel House Concert on October 16th]. They are truly global citizens…they come from one country, live in this country, but embrace another country and that is how the world is evolving. More and more people you can see are that way. Just like Raoul Juneja from Toronto, he’s now thinking of coming to Indianapolis. So all of that is just terrific. That is what we want for our city.”
Gehlhausen also mentioned Indianapolis has 10,000 to 15,000 Indians that live in the community. Many turned out to participate in India Day at Monument Circle. Attendees and participants alike enjoyed a wonderful event filled with much excitement and much fun.
“Awesome…it was wonderful!” stated Raju Chinthala, President of the Indianapolis Hyderabad Sister City Committee and India Day organizer most vociferously. “It’s not just feelings, but it’s important that we celebrate our culture, our heritage, our diversity with our city here. They encourage us and we are a part of Indianapolis. We are not just from India, but we are from Indianapolis. We love Indianapolis. We love Indiana.”