It is an extraordinary year for the Festival of India as it celebrates several milestone anniversaries. This year, the Federation of Indian Associations of Northern California (FIA) will host the 21st Annual Festival of India. According to Rajesh Verma, FIA President and Festival Event Coordinator, “This year is special and [the] festival will be bigger and better as we celebrate Vivekanand’s 150th birth anniversary, 100 years of Gadarite movement and 100 years of Bollywood.” Festival organizers are expecting over 400 children, who will be participating in cultural programs, during the event.

Once again, the three-day event will kick off with a flag-hoisting ceremony on Thursday, August 15th at San Jose’s City Hall. Presiding over the event will be San Jose Council Member, Ash Kalra. The festivities will subsequently continue through the weekend of August 17 and August 18 in Fremont with a fair, dance competitions, cultural programs, Bollywood musical extravaganzas, a comprehensive Health Fair, and a parade.

Romesh Japra (Convener and Chairman) stated, “[The] Festival of India represents our Indian heritage. Being held for past 21 years, it brings out the best of Indian culture, art and values. It has become a tradition that will continue for decades to come. This year, in addition to our traditional star segments, [the] Festival is celebrating [the] Centenary of Gadar movement, [the] 150th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda and [the] 100th anniversary of Bollywood Cinema. [The] Gadar movement was started by a few young individuals in California [in 1913] brimming with passion for Indian freedom. It soon caught on and resulted in revolutionary efforts. Some well-known revolutionaries such as Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh worked closely with the movement. [The] celebration will be marked by many activities and events around Gadar. Some of activities planned are kids’ contests, exhibitions and [a] showcase for [the] Gadar movement.” The Gadar Party was a founded in 1913 by Punjabi Indians (in the United States and Canada) who wanted to liberate India from British rule.

Bollywood is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary. The history of Bollywood began in 1913 when the first silent feature film was released in India, Raja Harishchandra by Dadasaheb Phalke. It marked the beginning of the Indian film industry and was so successful that Phalke made more prints to show in the rural areas. It was a pivotal moment in history that paved the way for the Indian film industry. “[And the] 100 years of Bollywood are being showcased this year in Festival of India by a huge exhibition, [with] Bollywood contests and special programs.”

Swami Vivekananda became a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the western world. He is credited with raising interfaith awareness and bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion in the late 19th century. He is perhaps best known for his inspiring speech beginning with “Sisters and Brothers of America,” through which he introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.

Japra added, “Swami Vivekananda’s 150th anniversary celebrations [in the Bay Area] started at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland, where Swamiji gave his famous Vedanta lecture. There are many activities planned around his life and teachings.” Deepak Chhabra is once again chairing this year’s parade. He stated, “[The] parade continues to be the main attraction every year. This year we have many new additions to our Parade. The main themes of Gadar, Vivekananda and Bollywood will feature prominently, with multiple floats and contingents depicting the themes. There is renewed interest, enthusiasm and participation from various parts of community in making the parade [a] grand success. We are planning to increase number of floats significantly and leave an indelible impression of [the richness of] Indian culture.”

“There will also be a kid’s corner with rides and games for children,” Verma added. “There will be over 100 booths including booths of arts and craft, boutique shops and food stalls. As [at] all previous festivals there will be free health fare with over 100 physicians attending [and] the parade.”

“With many new segments being added to Festival of India this year, special attention is also being given to encourage media participation in this largest celebration of India this year,” stated Ritu Maheshwari, Chair of Media Relations. She added, “A special media lounge is being created, where representatives from different news outlets can comfortably participate, watch and cover the Festival. Free media passes and access will be provided to Festival as well as key segments of the events.”

For over 20 years, the FIA has hosted the festival. The Fremont-based non-profit group is dedicated to the undertaking of various community-based initiatives and encourages its members to engage in every aspect of the community. It is an umbrella organization of over 50 Bay Area organizations representing over 100,000 Indians in America. The annual festival is one of the many events that FIA sponsors to showcase and share the richness of Indian culture and heritage. For more information and to learn more about the Festival’s schedule of events, visit www.fiaonline.org.

Thursday, August 15, 6:30 p.m. Kick-Off Event at San Jose City Hall.
Saturday, August 17 and Sunday, August 18. 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Mela, Health Fair, Cultural Programs, Singing and Dance Competition Sunday, August 18, Noon-2 p.m. Parade. 39439 Paseo Padre Parkway (corner of Paseo Padre and Walnut Ave.,) Fremont.

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