A celebration of Indian culture on Town Hall Green
With the aroma of curry and spices hanging in the air, colorful cotton tops displayed everywhere, Bollywood tunes jangling from a speaker and stifling humidity, it was almost as though the Old Post Road had been transported to India -- at least for Sunday afternoon.
The Hindu Cultural Center of Connecticut, which has found a new home in Stratford, hosted its 5th annual Heritage India Festival on Town Hall Green. Hundreds of visitors browsed clothing and jewelry, sampled food from four Indian restaurants and watched traditional music and dance performances. Among attendees were interim First Selectman Michael Tetreau and his predecessor, Kenneth Flatto.
Renu Vij, a member of the group that planned the event, said the festival is the Hindu center's major fundraiser and "a way to showcase India." At the same time, it was a celebration of the non-profit establishing its base the Unitarian Church in Stratford. The center is the first with a Hindu temple for the Indian population throughout Connecticut, according to the committee's management team. The new home is the fulfillment of a dream, added Vij, and its establishment will be further marked with three days of opening ceremonies in the form of traditional, religious prayer.
The Hindu Cultural Center was founded in January 2003 with a mission to meet the cultural and religious needs of Indians living in southern Connecticut, regardless of their beliefs. The group also works to bring together Hindus settled in the state with origins from a diverse array of world nations.
Sunday's festival attracted a wide range of Indian peoples, but also many non-Indians who were fans of the food, performances and traditions.
Zanah Kagan, for example, came to buy a new top, and was intrigued at the vendor's booth of Parmita Kurada, offering a range of tops, wool and silk scarves, and energized healing beads. Rajeeta Krishnan, from Trumbull, was also in the market for a top, as her children, Sparsh, 6, and Rhea, 9, tugged at her to go see dancing.
Nearby, Pushpa Esarla, from Stamford, looked at earrings. Esarla's daughter scurried over to Dharmi Patel, who was expertly applying elaborate henna tattoos to the backs of hands.
Vishaka Ravichandran, 11, and her sister Deepika, 13, teamed up for an impromptu dance around baby Krishna. Seven-year-old Meghai Chaudhary was expressive in her performance of a classical "bharatnatyam" number. Five-year-old Shreya Guptal also danced, Bollywood style. Teenager Chitra Nidadavolu, from Trumbull, in Bollywood style, swirled and pranced in front of Town Hall, her long black hair flying in all directions.
Other young people, like Aneesh Roy, 6, and his sister Ayesha, 3, were just content climbing trees.
Food outlets serving Indian cuisine at the festival included Bangalore and Methi of Fairfield, Thali of Westport and Paradise Biryani of Norwalk. Arranged in a long row of booths and tables, vendors offered treats like crispy samosas, flaky kachori chaat pastries and marinated chicken tikka. For attendees with a sweet tooth, kulfi frozen treats in mango and malai flavors were served.
Sisters Neha and Anish Uppal didn't need to wait for an invitation, as they stepped up to Methi's table. Foizia Shakh, 16, wearing a rich red cotton top handmade in Bangladesh, also enjoyed the ethnic specialties.