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Rama and Sita marry, and Ravan burns!

December 2010
Rama and Sita marry, and Ravan burns! The organization called Cultures across Borders was founded to propagate amity and cohesion amongst communities. This year’s Diwali mela on October 30, 2010 brought over 12,000 people to the North Atlanta Trade Center for a program lasting from 11 am until 11 pm .

Admission was free. A ceremonial traditional Indian welcome with tilak was given by young girls and boys dressed in Indian attire. Visitors could watch Rima Switzer and her family making large rangoli decorations for the floor, and a priest, Pandit Joshi, performed puja, Ganesh Vandana, and aarti every 30 minutes. The mela featured booths for products such as Indian clothing, semiprecious jewelry, and paintings, and services like insurance, travel, and nonprofit institutions. Indo-Chinese cuisine attracted visitors, and DJ Amin’s music kept the atmosphere vibrant. An exhibition on the Hindu holocaust with a depiction of Shivaji’s liberation story was the educational focus.

At 4pm the cultural program organized by Kumud Savla began on stage, where a Mexican troupe danced and numerous groups from various regions of India gave classical and Bollywood-style dances, the program ending with a fusion piece on “Jai Ho.”

Unique elements of this Atlanta mela were two Ram Baraats presented with Rama, Sita, and Lakshman on a rath (chariot). The Ram Baraat is one of the biggest annual events in North India, representing the marriage procession of Lord Rama. The second procession culminated in Ram aiming his dhanush-baan (bow and arrow) at demon Ravan, with the 32-foot tall Ravan blazing to dust amidst an ovation from the viewers. Mayor Bucky Johnson of Norcross was present for this event. In the background carnival rides, inflatables, and a toy train engaged the kids, and free face painting, balloon sculptures, games and henna booths were kept busy for hours.

A felicitation ceremony honored eight outstanding community members. Anil Bhagat, Vamshi Krishna, Ramesh Nallapu, Appaji, and friends and family of CAB were recognized for building the huge effigy of Ravan. Thanks were given to CAB founders Apurva Shrivastava, Amitabh Sharma, and Sandeep Savla and to Mani Krishnaswamy, VHP volunteers, major sponsors UPS, Kroger, Cisco, and others.

And finally, the floor filled with Garba dancers enjoying the rhythm of a live band and singers until midnight.

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