Over 10,000 people attended the Indian Festival of Lights- Grand Diwali Mela 2009 at the North Atlanta Trade Center on Oct 3.
The free admission mega event was organized by Cultures Across Borders (CAB), an Atlanta based non-profit. CAB founders Apurva Shrivastava, Amitabh Sharma and Sandeep Savla were very ably assisted by prime promoter Mani Krishnaswamy in putting together a stellar event.
The reception area had young smiling volunteers greeting visitors with traditional Tilak (Chandan) and fascinating tricolored “Celebrate India” lapel pins (made by youth volunteers) . Everyone was endearingly filled with pride and joy right at the beginning. This truly set the stage for a phenomenal event. The entrance to the event made a bold statement with exhibition on Holocaust museum followed by a Ram Mandir.
A very vibrant and colorful floral painting “rangoli” with diyas and flowers prompted cameras to click instantly and almost everyone shot pictures. As one moved along, kids were overjoyed with clowns doing face painting, balloon figures. Clay art was next fun activity for kids where kids made diyas for Diwali . A few steps forward opened up a big shopping lane with bazaar full of goodies. There were clothes, jewelry, henna, massage, a whole slew of tantalizing items to fall for. The pathway then led to the food court serving sumptuous mouth-watering food of international flavor. The multi-ethnic crowd kept coming incessantly and relishing even the information booths that displayed and shared vital financial, real estate, educational, healthcare, internet, mobile and other information. The non-profit organizations presented themselves articulately with visitors bedazzled in amazement how all of this presented itself in intriguing union. An unprecedented record number of 78 booths featured their products and services at this hugely successful fair with a confluence of something for “everyone”.
The event kicked off at 12 noon with Hare Krishna Dhun echoing in the beautifully anointed hall. The huge stage with state of the art music system was filled with color and pageantry when one after the other it spontaneously displayed artists and participants from Chinese community presented by Eve Hao , Korean community presented by Kinna Sayanam, Latin community presented by Lupita Sosa, Irish and mainstream American group led by David Richardson (GSMST) and Indian community presented by Kumud Savla, Sunny Molu, Prem & Aadithya of Nritya Natya Kala Bharati. These colorful dances brought glamour and true fusion to life over a 4 hour ensemble of multicultural extravaganza. Heart rendering performances prompted spectators to give the artists well deserved ovation and thundering applause. It all culminated in a never-before witnessed grand finale medley of Vande-mataram and Jai-Ho reverberating the hall while each participant waved India’s flag proudly. This brought tears to some eyes, elicited palpating emotions in others while few simply felt goose bumps in sheer exhilaration.
Towards evening people danced to the Ram-Dhun when a tastefully decorated open cart carried real life Ram-Sita and Laxman in a ceremonial procession right through the event. The second one even carted outside the hall where in a symbolic gesture real life Ram aimed a bow and arrow at a 25 ft tall Ravana effigy making it go up in flames and thousands of spectators clapped and rejoiced. The backdrop looked stunning with 9 full size amusement park rides including euro-bungy, ferris wheel, merry-go-round etc. Children also had a ton of fun all day long with real pony and camel rides besides the park rides and games.
The felicitation ceremony between 6.30 and 7 pm took time to commend and honor four outstanding community champions in fields of Health care - A.B. Short , Education- J Alvin Wilbanks, Science & Technology- Dr. Ajeet Rohtagi and Media - Sachi Koto.
Finally, the floor got filled up with Dandia and Garba dancers enjoying the rhythm of a live band “Rangat” (the icing on the cake) especially flown from India. This band also regaled everyone playing to their mighty best and singing all along the Ram-Barat ceremonial procession route.
The curtains were not drawn until 1.00 am while dancers kept insisting for more and commenting "they have always missed this sort of open, free mela in past years and would love to have it every year…..it surpasses the best of the best anywhere in the world….it was packed with excitement right from the word go and we could not leave yearning for it to simply continue."
“If people endorse this so eloquently, it makes sense to organize each year and take it to yet another height year after year,” said CAB founders.
Sheet anchor support by Meenu Sharma, Nita Shrivastava, Sewa International led by Rakesh Pathak, Gaurav Verma, others and Ravan making team led by Anil and Sandhya Bhagat accompanied by Vamshi Krishna, Ramesh Nallapu and Bhargav Gundabolu besides, Rajan Sharma, Ashok Goyal, Anurag Gaur, Akanksha, Rima, Madhu Kumar, Gary, Premchand, High school children (youth involvement is a major focus area for Cultures Across Borders), and several other young, old devoted volunteers played a key role in event’s success because they all put in their utmost dedicated endeavor to ensure everyone’s happiness, fun and joy. Surely it was an event to go deep down memory lane by leaving an indelible imprint.