Tens of thousands of Indian-Americans flock to religious festivals in tri-state

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Organizers and participants in the ‘Nache Inferno’ dance competition on stage at the Oct. 6, 2019 South Street Seaport Deepavali festival in Manhattan, N.Y., organized by the community organization Association of Indians in America. (Photo: courtesy AIA)

There was something for everyone of the estimated 50,000 people who came to enjoy this year’s South Street Seaport Deepavali Festival Sunday, Oct. 6, from noon to 8 pm. This was the 32nd  Deepavali festival organized by the Association of Indians in America (AIA), New York chapter, one of the oldest Indian-American organizations in this country.

Classical fusion performances, a fashion show, a vegan expo, and fun-filled children’s activities were only some of the attractions. There were booths with a variety of fine cuisine, sales of handicrafts and gift items, as well as an exhibition of the works of contemporary Indian artists.

The Deepavali festival at South Street is known for attracting elected officials and representatives of various government and non-government agencies. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, as well as New York State Assemblyman David Weprin and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer were among the public officials who came and spoke at the festival. Maloney dwelt on the history of AIA, as well as Diwali celebrations at the White House since 2003, and her involvement in making the Diwali stamp a reality. She also spoke about the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi.

Harish Thakkar, president of AIA, told Desi Talk that Mayor Bill de Blasio, who was slated to attend, cancelled but sent a representative to present his message and a proclamation recognizing the event.

The Association of Indians in America estimates some 50,000 people come for the popular annual South Street Seaport Deepavali festival, held this year Oct. 6, 2019, in Manhattan. (Photo: courtesy AIA)

This flagship event of AIA-NY attracts tens of thousands of New Yorkers every year and according to organizers visitors numbered around 50,000, a press release from AIA indicated. They also say the event is considered by far the largest attraction for Indian Americans from around the tri-state area, there to enjoy the music and dance programs along with the other entertainment. It is a way to showcase Indian ideals and cultural values and traditions.

“We will do our part to educate our children and impress the need to keep our culture and traditions.” Harish  Thakkar, president of AIA is quoted saying in the press release.

Speaking at the event, Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh said he had been coming to AIA’s Deepavali event every year since 1992. “Thank you President (Thakkar) for your hard work, the great work. You can always come to our Parikh Worldwide Media and ITV for any help. This (event) is a great (way) to empower our second and third generation, connect to our culture and our religion.”

One of the highlights of the day was the “Nache Inferno” dance competition where seven teams from colleges around the country, including Boston and Maryland, apart from the tri-state area, participated.

The Vegan Expo hosted by World Vegan Vision saw interested crowds there to sample some of the foods and the cooking demonstration. Two doctors spoke about the benefits of going vegan; a vegan standup comic, and a vegan music band played for those who came. World Vegan Vision president H.K. Shah also gave out three free iPads to lucky winners of the raffle draw.

Urban desi music star from the United Kingdom, Amar Sandhu, performed at the Oct. 6, 2019, South Street Seaport Deepavali festival in Manhattan, organized by AIA. (Photo: courtesy AIA)

Dallas -born Urban Desi star Amar Sandhu came from the United Kingdom to perform to an excited crowd.

Since 1987, when the festive event was started by AIA, the South Street Deepavali event has become a New York tradition, much anticipated every year by not just Indians and Indian-Americans in the tri-state area, but also other ethnicities interested in the color and pageantry of the culture.

The AIA was founded on Aug. 20, 1967. The New York Chapter was established in 1968 and is well known for its social, cultural and educational activities. “AIA represents the hopes and aspirations of those immigrants who are united by their common Indian heritage and American commitment,” organizers say.

The evening celebrations culminated in a 22-minute fireworks display on the water, sponsored by CheapOair and Qatar Airways. Other sponsors included McDonald’s, New York Life, ICICI Bank, Sony Entertainment  Air India, and several media partners including Parikh Worldwide Media.

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