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The India Association Of Rhode Island To Celebrate India's Independence Day

Press Release

The India Association of Rhode Island (“IARI”) is pleased to extend a warm welcome to all New Englanders to join in the celebration of “India’s Independence Day” this year.  The event will be held on Saturday, July 30, 2005, from 4 pm to 11 pm, at the Water Place Park in Providence and is open to the public, free of charge.

The event will celebrate the 58th year of India’s independence from Great Britain.  The unique non-violent freedom movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi was a watershed event in history - that brought freedom and dignity not only to India, but also dramatically altered the lives of millions of people around the world including the United States. 

The IARI intends to honor those venerable and erstwhile leaders and also to highlight the common destiny of the United States and India, the oldest and the largest democracies in the world.

Dr. Surendra Sharma, a physician at the Women and Infants Hospital in Providence and President of IARI said, “To us, as Indian Americans, India’s Independence Day holds the same significance as the July 4th American Independence Day.  We feel privileged to be able to lay a claim to both the ancient civilization of India and to the United States.

“India’s independence had a significant impact on the civil rights movement launched by Rev. Martin Luther King.  The two nations have rightly been called ‘natural allies,’ as they share so much in common - democracy, economic freedom, and the assimilation of people of all religious beliefs and ethnicities. 

“As the realization has dawned that both nations have so many similarities and as they face similar global challenges, the governments of the two nations have gotten increasingly closer.  The Indian American community, throughout the United States, is gratified by these developments and wishes to accelerate the growing rapport between the two nations.”       

Mrs. Kamini Desai, IARI Treasurer said, “Besides sharing the important historical significance, we want to make this a fun-filled extravaganza for all Rhode Islanders.  We want people to come and experience India’s culture and have a good time.”

Indian foods, arts and crafts, jewelry, travel literature, and apparel will be on display and will be available for purchase.  “Henna” (temporary tattoo) painters will be on site. There will also be information on Yoga and other Indian schools of philosophy.

As a community service, there will also be a health fair, which will provide free screening for diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol. 

Dr. Ravi Chander, a Barrington cardiologist, who has taken the lead in assembling a packed and vibrating cultural program, said, “We have included many special presentations, that will display not only the sights, sounds and colors of traditional India but also the rapidly modernizing face of India.  We expect this to be a rocking event!”

At 4 pm, the cultural program will begin with a live sitar and tabla recital at the Station Park.  The sitar is an ancient Indian stringed musical instrument like the lute, which was popularized in the West by Ravi Shankar and the Beatles. 

The tablas are ancient Indian drums played with one’s hands to complex rhythmic cycles, which require substantial dexterity and skill to master.  Playing the sitar will be Josh Feinberg, from the New England Conservatory in Boston. On tabla will be Chris Pereji, a well-known local artist, who teaches tabla locally and also excels at other instruments like the guitar and keyboard.

Thereafter, there will be a series of dances encompassing India’s classical as well as folk dance forms.  India has a rich tradition of classical dances that date back to 6000 B.C., as evidenced by a statute of a dancing girl found from that era. The earliest treatise on Indian dances is believed to have been penned between second century B.C. and second century A.D. ( Bharata’s Natya Shastra). 

The modern Indian classical dances trace their genesis to 1300 to 1400 A.D.  They combine the rhythmic elements (nritta), coupled with expression through the eyes, hands, and facial movements (bhava) and drama (natya).   Most Indian dances take their themes from India's rich mythology and folk legends. Hindu gods and goddesses like Vishnu and Lakshmi, Rama and Sita, Krishna and Radha are all depicted in classical Indian dances. Each dance form also draws inspiration from stories depicting the life, ethics and beliefs of the Indian people. 

There are seven recognized classical dance forms originating in different parts of India (Bharatanayam – from Tamilnadu; Kathak – from Uttar Pradesh; Kathakali – from Kerala; Kuchipudi – Andhra Pradesh; Manipuri – from Manipur; Mohiniyattam – from Kerala; and Odissi – from Orissa. Additional information on Indian classical dance forms can be found at http://www.indembassyhavana.cu/culture/dance/intro.htm#class    
According to Dr. Chander, “The Indian American community in Rhode Island is very fortunate to have Prafulla Vellury.  She teaches the Kuchipudi form of classical dance.  Over a dozen young girls are learning from Prafulla and keeping this traditional Indian dance form alive in Rhode Island.  Prafulla’s students will perform several Kuchipudi dances on India’s Independence Day.  The audience will be spellbound by the grace and the aesthetic beauty of these dances.”

The folk dances of India, on the other hand, are as diverse as the regions and ethnicities of India.  Although some have a spiritual component, for the most part folk dances are performed simply to express joy.  They are performed on any occasion worthy of celebration:  the arrival of the seasons, the birth of a child, a wedding, and any of India’s innumerable festivals. 

The folk dances originate in rural India, but some like the Bhangra (from the Punjab region, in northwest India) and the Garba and Dandiya Raas (from the western region of India) are now popular throughout India and globally. 

The folk dances, full of exuberance and spontaneity, sway to the beats of Indian drums which occupy a preeminent place in folk dance and music.  They are the dance and music of the common man, the peasant, the shepherd, and the fisherman, all men and women who are the salt of the earth. 

In their simple melodies and energetic rhythms, they give us a glimpse into the ethos of rural India. Additional information about Indian folk dances is available at http://www.ghungroodance.com/folk_dances.htm.

Dr. Chander adds:  “The audience is in for a real treat with the folk dances we have lined up.  There will be Bhangra and Garba dances along with a couple of folk dances adapted from recent Bollywood blockbuster movies (India’s answer to Hollywood!): the Oscar nominated ‘Lagaan’ and ‘Hum Dil Chuke Sanam.’  They have been choreographed by Prafulla Vellury and Sheetal Patel. 

“Sheetal grew up in Pawtucket but now teaches Indian folk dances to a number of young girls in the area, which is a great service to the community.  The best part is that along with Indian American girls, several native Rhode Island girls will also be performing.  They have been captivated by these Indian folk dances and now perform them with as much verve as their Indian American friends.  

“To me, that’s what these cultural events are all about: sharing India’s rich culture with all Rhode Islanders.  The flamboyant costumes, the ornate jewelry, the pulsating beats, the sweet melodies, the camaraderie of the performers, and, above all, the swift and robust dance movements will mesmerize the audience.”  

At 6 pm, a flag hoisting ceremony will be conducted to mark the occasion of India’s 58th year of independence, followed by the singing of the Indian and the American national anthems.  Dr. Sharma adds, “We have invited and are expecting several civic and political leaders, including Senators Reed and Chafee, Congressmen Kennedy and Langevin, Governor Carcieri, Attorney General Patrick Lynch, and Mayor David Cicillini and others.”  

Following these events will be a special performance called the Festivals of India, which will highlight 12 major festivals representing the religious diversity of India (Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Sikhism) and also some of the distinct regional festivals of India.

Adds Dr. Chander, “My wife Dr. Parul Shah, an internist at the Roger Williams Hospital, and I have choreographed this performance.  Over 20 young boys and girls will enact these festivals live, accompanied by an audio-visual performance. The audience will experience the vibrancy, the color and the joie de vivre of Indian festivals.”

At around 8:30 pm, arriving on the stage will be the Boston-based band called Karyshma. This band is rapidly acquiring a name for itself and developing quite a following in the North-east, with its unique and innovative blend of rock, jazz, and traditional Indian music. 

Mrs. Desai intones:  “We are really looking forward to this performance.  Several of the performers are Harvard and MIT educated, and they represent the best synthesis of Indian and American cultures.”  More information about Karyshma, including their sample music, can be obtained at www.karyshma.com.

Adds Dr. Sharma: “The event will close at 11 pm.  We hope all Rhode Islanders will find this an unforgettable experience, a unique opportunity to take a cultural and musical journey of India without setting a foot on an airplane!  And we hope that it will lead to a greater appreciation of Indian culture and to greater felicity and kinship between the peoples of the two nations.”

For further information, call:    
Mr. Sharad Bhatia (401) 486-9016
Dr. Ravi Chander (401) 245- 7173          
Mrs. Kamini Desai (401)334-0869     
Dr. Surendra Sharma (401) 277-3618

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