The troubles currently gripping India felt far away Saturday, as the 45th annual IndiaFest made for a supremely joyful celebration of all things India in St. Paul. With the sound of drums and songs sung in Hindi, and the smell of curry, henna ink and fried samosas filling the state Capitol grounds, MinnPost took in IndiaFest in words and photos:
Members of the Bengali Association of Minnesota, whose mission is to “preserve and cherish the heritage, philosophy, culture and traditions of Bengal,” marched in the IndiaFest 2019 parade Saturday in St. Paul.
Kiran Bandi, general secretary of India Association of Minnesota, and Nash Shaikh, president of India Association of Minnesota. “We started in 1973, so we have been around for 46-plus years, and we’ve been doing IndiaFest for 45 years. This is our 11th year at the state Capitol,” said Shaikh. “This is a great platform to bring all Indians in Minnesota together,” said Bandi, “so we see ourselves as Minnesotans first, and Indians. It’s not just Indians here, it’s Indians and Minnesotans together.”
Akheel Mohammed. “I’m with Building Blocks of Islam, a Minnesota nonprofit. People can ask me questions about Islam and Muslims, because there are obviously a lot of misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. That’s why I would like to be here, to answer any questions Minnesotans might have. The simple message is that we are all children of Adam and Eve. Our parents are [the] same. We should not worry about differences; we should focus on commonalities, the things that unite us. We all believe in god, some creator; we are all human beings; we all have the same concerns like jobs; children going to school, and then when we die we are all buried in the same graveyard. So these are all the commonalities we have. We should suppress the hate that is growing and we should be finding the commonalities and nurturing the relationships that we have.”
Rep. Dean Phillips addressed the crowd: “Namaste, everybody! Happy Independence Day, everybody. I want to say Namaste, I want to say I love you all. This is one of my favorite days of the year, and not just because of the samosas — although that’s a big part of it. It’s because what we’re doing today is exactly what this entire nation has to start doing more of: Coming out together as a community with friends and family and neighbors, people that you already know, most importantly meeting people that you don’t know, and spending time with people who might look differently than you, pray differently than you, eat differently than you, and most importantly, think differently than you. So I am so honored to be here, so honored to represent our great state in the third district and so many of you here. I love you all. Keep the faith and remember that optimism is just as contagious as fear. So let’s break bread together and celebrate and I’m so honored to be here. I love you all.”
Rishitha Deekollu handed out cards with the English lyrics to “The Star Spangled Banner” on one side and the Hindi lyrics to “Jana Gana Mana” on the other. Both the American and Indian national anthems were sung as part of IndiaFest 2019. “I’m with the Telugu Association of Minnesota,” said Deekollu. “They asked me to hand these out. People have been saying ‘Thank you’ and, ‘It’s nice of you to help out the association with the anthem.’”
Hardev Singh tied a turban for Rahul Gupta. “We’re with the Sikh Society of Minnesota, and wearing a turban is a tradition. Anyone is invited to try on the turban. The turban is because the Sikhs have long hair, so keeping the hairs clean and in check, the turban is a good idea.”
Russell Lane and Ashish Biswas. “We’re with the Krishna Sankirtan Society, and we’re connected with the International Society For Krishna Consciousness, which was brought to the West in 1965. We’re making a permanent home with a new center in Plymouth, where we’ll talk about god consciousness and how can we bring peace to our hearts and our minds and all the other people in the world,” said Lane. “Automatically, once we have control over our desire, that leads to more positivity and peace and calm,” said Biswas.
Arvand Naik and Jayesh Sadhyamoorthi, Science of Spirituality Minnesota Meditation Center. “Our membership is growing, people are interested in mediation,” said Naik; “they want to learn peace, they want to know about themselves, they want to connect to other people across the aisle. It’s a beautiful community that spans all faiths, all religions, all nationalities, all mankind, because we learn to go within and learn about our soul, and we learn that once we connect with our own soul, we connect with every human being, as well. It’s a way to bring peace in the world. Peace begins with me, and meditation is a way to bring peace in our own life.”
“Meditation has been in India forever,” said Sadhyamoorthi. “It’s been forgotten by people, but it’s getting revived now throughout the world. Meditation has four benefits — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Emotionally you will become stronger, to be able to control all your emotions and be more positive, and that’s how people can get out of diseases like depression and anxiety. Meditation helps you to calm your mind and to calm yourself in difficult situations.”
“From the Land of Enlightenment to the Land of 10,000 Lakes”: The Bihar & Jharkhand Association of Minnesota marched in the Indiafest 2019 parade Saturday at the state Capitol.
Ginny Klevorn, Plymouth. “I represent central and northwestern Plymouth (District 44A in the Minnesota House of Representatives). The Indian-American community that I represent is a peaceful, loving community. When you study their religions or understand the background that has brought them to the United States, you understand that peace is very important to them. The Plymouth Indian-Americans are a rich, diverse tapestry of individuals. We have a large Hindu population, we have a large Christian population, and we have a large Muslim population. So it’s very important not to lump everybody as the same thoughts and the same everything.”
Nirav Vora, School of India for Languages and Culture. “Our aim is to teach the traditions and cultures of India. We have Saturday school, two and a half hours September through May; there are three periods: languages, social studies, and electives. We have six to eight languages that we teach; we have six to eight electives we teach, [including] cricket, yoga, dance, arts, and crafts. My kids go there. SILC is more like a family, and you can’t get that in a textbook. That’s why we do it.”
Traditional dancers celebrated all things India as part of IndiaFest 2019 Saturday at the state Capitol.