Thunder Bay—India is a land of festivals. As an ethnically diverse country with rich history, there was a time when there was a festival every day of the year. Among these festivals, some are religious, some are based on seasons, while some are of national importance—all are celebrated with enthusiasm and colour.
India and its vibrant colours, music and foods may be more than 12,000 kilometers away, but on July 15 you can experience India’s fascinating arts and culture in Thunder Bay.
Now celebrating its eighth year, the Festival of India will be held at Marina Park on Saturday, July 15 from 3-8 p.m. and features a variety of examples of India’s traditional East Indian culture. In keeping with Krishna principles of love and service to the community, the entrance fee is whatever you wish to donate, and the events within the festival, including the delicious vegetarian feast, are free.
The main attraction at Festival of India is the Chariot Parade (4 p.m.), where an 18-foot-high chariot is pulled by ropes, accompanied by live music. The chariot represents universal love and brotherhood, and everyone is encouraged to join in the dancing and lend a hand with pulling the chariot.
As in years past, there will be displays of classical dance such as bhratnatyam (an athletic interpretation of mythological stories, believed to have originated 3,000 years ago) and odissi (a fluid form of dance with intricate movements and footwork, which developed in temples), as well as traditional music showcasing instruments like the sitar, tabalas, kartals and harmonium. These displays feature talented performers from India, Canada and the U.S., clad in colourful traditional costumes and jewelry. As well, you can gain a better understanding of the great ancient histories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata through open-air theatre performances.
More than 100 exhibits on the grounds portray aspects of Indian culture, such artwork and architecture, reincarnation, vegetarianism and the Vedic histories, which promote peace, respect and social harmony. The free vegetarian feast includes naan bread, curries, rice, sweet dishes, fruits and juice. Be sure to pay a visit to the spiritual fashion and gift shop, view the transcendental art exhibit, enter the door prize to win two Bearskin tickets to Winnipeg, and get a temporary henna design on your skin. The interactive children’s area offers a bouncy castle, face painting and friendly clowns.
Growing from about 1,500 people in its first year to more than 8,000 in 2016, the festival attracts visitors from northwestern communities like Dryden, Kenora, Marathon and Terrace Bay, as well as larger centres like Winnipeg and Duluth, says festival organizer Dr. Prashant Jani.
“With the generous help and support of the local community, the Festival of India has become a very successful cultural and educational event here in Thunder Bay.”
The Festival of India is presented by the Vedic Cultural Centre of Thunder Bay. Visit indiafesttbay.com for more information.