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“Arts in the Heart of Augusta” Cultural Event Focuses on India

October 2006
“Arts in the Heart of Augusta” Cultural Event Focuses on India

"Arts in the Heart of Augusta", the premier cultural event of east Georgia, was held on September 15th through 17th. India was its "focus country" this year. Featured events had an underlying Indian theme – music, art, dance and of course the cuisine. The India Pavilion was organized by the Hindu Temple of Augusta.

Local publications such as ‘The Applause', carried a picture of the Taj Mahal with the caption "Art goes Indian". The ‘Metro Spirit' proclaimed the symbol of the festival, the dancing Nataraja. The Augusta Chronicle led its metro section with a full page picture of various Indian spices and cuisine. "It was not the gold or silver that compelled the voyages of Marco Polo ? and Christopher Columbus (but) it was the call of the spices," gushed Chronicle staff writer, Kamille Bostick.

The "Arts" festival was inaugurated by Deke Copenhauer, Mayor of Augusta. It enticed over 40,000 visitors over the weekend. Major events included both folk such as Garba, Bhangra and Ghoomer as well as traditional Bharatnatyam. There was a Rangoli demonstration by the famed artist from Pune, Mrs. Myna Rao. The Mehndi art attracted serpentine lines around the block. The picture studio, where one could dress up as "Maharajas and Maharanis" in a traditional wedding mandap for photos, was popular with most. And then there was the food, of course. "I never thought vegetarian food could taste this good", said Matt Hallman from Aiken, South Carolina. Sarah, his wife, promised him she would look for an Indian cook book soon as they returned home!

"To many in this part of the country, the Arts Festival is the only exposure to foreign cultures and this event gives us a great opportunity to explain our roots to them", said Karthik Subramanian, President of the Hindu temple.

Crowds broke out into cheers as the Indian youth, from school level to physician residents from the Medical College of Georgia, danced impromptu Bhangra and displayed a variety of traditional costumes from many states. Many observers joined in during the interactive raas garbha. "This year was a milestone for us. It is the first time the second generation has so proudly and so prominently participated in presenting their heritage in Augusta", said Mrs. Surekha Prasad.

The Indian Pavilion and the Hindu temple of Augusta have won awards and acclaims for the Best Booth, Best Entr�e, and Best Costume etc every year since their participation in the Festival. This year was no exception. The coveted prizes for Best Food Presentation and Best Dessert were bagged by India.

Every year, The Hindu temple donates a major part of the proceeds to charities such as the 9/11 fund, the tsunami relief and to hurricane victims. "It is our way of giving back to this community we now call home", said Rao Pasala, Chairman Board of Trustees of the Hindu Temple.

~ Sheila Kamath

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