IACA organizes Festival of India 2023
Reflecting patriotic fervor, culture, and couture, Atlanta’s Indian community spiritedly converged at the Festival of India (FOI), the resplendent celebration of Indian independence, hosted by India American Cultural Association (IACA) at the Gas South Center on August 13, 2023. With close to 6000 attendees, over 50 cultural performances including two fashion shows, a motley of 100 vendors, and a vivacious flag march, FOI 2023 was a spectacular success showcasing and honoring India beyond seven seas.
[Left] Bollywood actor Neha Dhupia and IACA team led the 300-foot-long Flag Walk at the 27th Festival of India.
“FOI 2023 brought a wave of excitement and happiness to hundreds of participants and thousands of visitors speckled with an ample dose of colors, music, dance, folk songs, food, and friends, all rolled into a wholesome package. An experienced IACA team worked very hard to bring a curated list of the most popular, vibrant, and widely-liked programs,” Ani Agnihotri, Chairman, IACA said.
“I’m honored to extend my warmest regards to you at the annual Festival of India. This exciting celebration marks an important milestone for freedom and democracy while honoring the significance of your cultural heritage,” Governor Brian Kemp said in his message.
Dignitaries and VIP addresses at the event included messages from Honorable Congresswoman Lucy McBath, Representative - Georgia’s 7th Congressional District. A message from Honorable Reverend Dr. Raphael Warnock, the United States Senator, was delivered by Katrina Cochran. A proclamation for FOI 2023 by Honorable Nicole Love Hendrickson, Chairwoman, Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, was presented by Shaunieka Taste, Director, Public Relations, Gwinnett County Government. There were also addresses by Rahul Samant, CIO, Delta Airlines; Honorable Lisa Cupid, Chairwoman, Cobb County Board of Commissioners; Kandhaswamy Raju, Consul (Head of Chancery) & First Appellate Authority; and Kirkland Carden, Gwinnett Commissioner. Dignitaries echoed similar sentiments as they commended the contributions of the Indian community to Atlanta and the world in their congratulatory wishes for Indian independence.
Actor and anchor Neha Dhupia and celebrity designer Rohit Verma added glamor and glitz, enhancing the festival with Bollywood flavor.
“One of the big missions we all serve as part of being the diaspora in the U.S. is that we are great connectors, and we build bridges between these two—the world’s oldest democracy (U.S.A.) and the world’s most populous democracy (India)…this is such a high energy and joyful celebration and I want to thank IACA and I want to thank my friend Kaushal Tripathi and his team. This is a true labor of love,” Rahul Samant, CIO, Delta Airlines, said.
Many cultural activities were held at the FOI event.
At fifty-three, the oldest Indian American organization in Atlanta, the India American Cultural Association (IACA) has stood the test of time. “Since its inception over 50 years ago, IACA has strived to give our Indian American community a platform to celebrate their heritage. The annual Festival of India is an attempt to connect one of the pivotal moments in a nation’s history to our home away from home,” Rina Gupta, BOD, IACA, noted.
Dhupia, accompanied by the IACA team, led the 300-foot Flag Walk marshaling a large group of representatives from diverse community organizations across Atlanta. “It is a matter of great pride to lead the IACA flag march. The flag was carried by more than 300 volunteers including seniors and kids. The environment was full of energy not only with drumbeats but also the patriotic feeling of people carrying the flag,” Sudhir Aggarwal, president of the APAC, who was among those who led the flag march, noted.
“Yahaan jis tarike se hum apne culture to honor karte hain (The way we celebrate our culture here), I genuinely felt that I was somewhere in India. It’s so great to travel across seven seas to come to a place to feel so humbled, so honored, and so patriotic. Thank you so much for doing that,” Dhupia said. Dhupia also engaged the audience in tête-à-tête.
“One thing I love about Indians over here is that they have not lost their originality when they migrated over here. I see so much of traditional values, culture… festivals like these provide a platform for different cultures to be showcased and I am’, overwhelmed to see the various cultures represented here,” said designer Verma. He walked the ramp with several local models and his Trunk Show at the event garnered plenty of interest.
IACA team came together to put up a successful show.
Priyal Doshi Couture, organized by Rina Gupta, and presented, choreographed, directed by Priyal Doshi with coordinated music and video for the background by Dr. Raktim Sen, showcased her collection, Threads of India. Women clad in a myriad of designs including suits, bridal wear, and lehengas, highlighted India at its vibrant best.
Another piece, highlighting women achievers of Indian-origin in their fields, stole the heart of the crowd, garnering resounding applause.
Activities kicked off early on with a dance competition. Judges Chandrika Chandran, Neelima Gaddamanugu, and Siddarth Kelam picked Bharatha Darshana Performing Ensemble as first place winner and Abhinaya Dance Academy as second place winner in the Classical category; Team Deewani as first place winner and Garima Dance Academy as second place winner in the Non-Classical category; and Honorable Mention was awarded to Team Laasya.
The daylong event was anchored by Shaveta Jain, Nidhi Kharbanda, and Vidya Warrier. “The cultural program featured over 50 performances from regional organizations, prominent dance academies, Atlanta Indian Idols, teenagers, seniors, and even a dance presented by the Vietnamese Women of Georgia! It was an extravaganza of dance, music, skits, and fashion shows before a cheering audience. Thanks to Jogy K. Jose of Divinity AV for the flawless execution of the 10-hour-long program! This was a very gratifying experience,” Dr. Raktim Sen, Cultural Director, FOI, said. Dr. Sen, Anamika Pol, and Jyothsna Hegde were recognized by Kaushal Tripathi, President, IACA for their continued contributions to IACA.
The Health Fair featuring physicians of several specialties drew close to 200 people who availed their services. “Absolutely tremendous turnout for blood tests, EKGs, screening tests, and consultations with various specialists,” Dr. Inderpaul Singh, Health Fair organizer, noted.
Dr. Ashok Desai presented a detailed display of heart-related issues and healthy choices at the venue. A yoga session was presented by Dr. Trushna Rao Nadig. The blood donation drive in collaboration with Red Cross was facilitated by Ranjithaveena Pol.
Dr. Paddy Sharma and Kris Gadde led the efforts to recognize 15 deserving students who were awarded IACA merit and need-based scholarships.
Prominent educators and counselors shed light on the evolving landscape of higher education and its impact on the students’ future prospects. The panel discussion on entrepreneurship counseling highlighted the crucial role of mentorship and guidance in fostering a new generation of innovative entrepreneurs ready to navigate the complexities of the business world. Dr. Paddy Sharma, Synthia Padala, and Vaisheshi Jalajam coordinated the panel discussions.
A drawing competition hosted by the Shashikala Foundation, a public speaking session by Toastmasters, and a chess competition by Mahua Maity attracted kids and young adults alike drawing large participants in each of the activities.
The much-awaited winners of Tasveer, a photo contest organized by IACA in collaboration with Khabar magazine, were also announced at the event. The winners in first, second, and third place included Abha Soni, Sooryakumar Thoppan, and Sanjay Ahuja.
“We had Rohit Verma’s famous costumes for sale, Chikankari merchandise from the famous Indira Bishen designer from Lucknow, and quality shoes from Naz fashions along with a multitude of dress and jewelry vendors from Atlanta and neighboring cities. The roaring success of the 27th FOI is a new shot in the arm for the IACA executive and board and we will be working even harder to make sure this festival remains an Atlanta icon,” Kaushal Tripathi, President, IACA, said.
Akkineni, who conceptualized the idea of FOI 27 years ago, noted, “The Festival of India is not just an event; it is a celebration of spirit, happiness, and harmony. IACA takes this opportunity to build the community to help our youth succeed in their careers and life.”
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