Celebration of independence showcases Indian culture in Philly

Happy, nervous energy filled the backstage area as dancers from more than 35 organizations readied themselves to perform at the Festival of India at Penn’s Landing.

The festival celebrates India’s independence from the British Empire 70 years ago, when on Aug. 15, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, the newly elected prime minister, raised the nation’s flag above the Lahori Gate of the Red Fort in Delhi.

The Council of Indian Organizations in Greater Philadelphia has been holding the annual festival at Penn’s Landing since the early 1990s, but “this is one of the best programs we’ve ever created in many years,” said Sri Sagaram, the elected Council of India president. “All of the volunteers around help make this [event] successful. We are very happy.”

The festival is part of PECO’s multicultural summer series, which includes nine celebrations of different cultures represented in the Philadelphia area. Dancers of all ages took the stage, performing to everything from classic Bollywood music to more modern Bollywood pop, even blending in some remixes from English pop star Ed Sheeran.

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Throughout the day, hundreds of patrons filed through the festival grounds as they took in the dancing and singing. They sampled a variety of traditional Indian cuisine and colorful fashion, as well as the work of henna and face-paint artists. The vendors represented more than 25 local Indian organizations eager to share their culture with fellow Philadelphians.

Council of India President Sri Sagaram thanked the gathered crowd by quoting Mahatma Gandhi. “’A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people,'” he said, adding, “It is true and warms my heart to see you all here honoring his and our culture.”

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