Festival of India in Ottawa
by Shahinur Islam
With impressive music, sights, tastes, and rich traditions of India, the Festival of India, Ottawa celebrated its three day event spanning from August 5 to August 7, 2016 at the premises of Ottawa City Hall.
On the occasion of the festival, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, High commissioner of India to Canada Vishnu Prakash, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynee, and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson gave separate messages wishing and appreciating the event.
The cultural activity kicked off at 6:00 pm on August 5, with ‘Colours of Rajasthan’, and formal opening ceremony took place at 7:00 pm. Afterwards, ‘Ragasphere by Ameya’ that included Indo-Jazz and Soft Rock Ensemble, ‘Akbar’s Court’ that included Gazal, Quawali, Tarana, and ‘Jordan John’ that had vocalist, multi-instrumentalist bass player Prakash John, took place from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm in a row.
On 6 August, apart from two indoor activities— ‘Yoga Art of Living’ and ‘Panel Discussion’— various exhibition tent activities such as henna/face painting, creating own pottery, cooking workshop, art and crafts, how to put on sarees, alpana—divine decorative design with rich flour paste, etc. were held. ‘Cricket Demo’, ‘Folk Dance’, ‘Bollywood for Fun’, ‘Bhangra Dance’, coloured powder painting ‘Holi’, folk dance ‘Dandiya’ also took place amid much fun and joy.
Evening part of the day rocked the main stage, with ‘Ottawa Got Talent’—in which Ottawa’s rising stars performed Indian classical and Bollywood dances, ‘The Colours of India’—in which a medley of music and folk dances from East Bengal (Bangladesh), South Kerala, West Gujarat, and North Punjab was rendered, ‘Sculpturesque and rhythmical Odissi Dance’ from Toronto, ‘Chitrangik Kathak’, which included a portrait of classical dance and storytelling, and last of all, ‘Desi-subculture’, which wound up the day’s program vibrantly.
Though the closing day incorporated or extended some of its previous day activities, it added varieties to the festival. New events in the first part such as ‘Bollyrobic Fitness’, ‘Dhunuci Dance’—a traditional dance with burning clay lamp from Bengal, ‘Jago Dance’ from Punjab, ‘Gharana Arts’—classical kathak dance with tabla, and ‘Puppetry Workshop’ were the main attractions as well.
The most enjoyable part of the day was the evening that vibrated with instrumental music, classical dance recitals, including Aishwarya Vijaykumar’s rendition of ‘Bharatnatyam’ –a kind of storytelling in the ancient temples of Southern India, and a cultural and musical folk band’s performance ‘Raghu Dixit Project’.
The festival retained diversity, tolerance, and inclusiveness to the Canadian values through fun, joy, and enjoyment. Not only Indians but also other people living in Canada, and of course, the Canadians participated in the festival and relished in every activity. This is the power of a festival that it can integrate all the people into a common platform regardless of caste, culture, religion, and colour. The world needs such a common platform, indeed.