^ City News
^ Events
^ Profile
^  Debate
^ Perspective
^ Monthly Calendar
^ Youth
^ Business
^ Immigration
^ Healthwise
^ InVogue
^ Fiction
^ Classifieds
^ Matrimonials
^ What's Cooking?
^ Melting Pot
^ Snapshots
^ A Day In The Life Of...
^ Family Portrait
^ Birthday Greetings
^ Baby Of The Fortnight
^ Model Mania
^ Kids Corner
 <<CityNews Main Send Flowers to India!

 We invite associations, organizations and clubs from cities around the US to send in press releases accompanied with high resolution photos for publication in City News. Contributions may be sent to

Send Gifts to India!

Duluth Diwali Mela Draws Thousands

Atlanta, Georgia: If you were to close your eyes and envision the confluence of 48 community leaders being felicitated in an inclusive celebration of diversity, showcasing Indian culture at its professional best sprinkled with international cuisine, ceremonial procession, traditional floor painting, henna tattoos, kids carnival rides and games, dance and live music, shopping, clothes, jewelry, non profit/service organization booths and exhibition et all… all came alive and was overwhelmingly received at the recently concluded Festival of Lights – Grand Diwali Mela at the Duluth Festival Center in Duluth on Nov 10, 2007.

The color and pageantry was unprecedented and in excess of 8000 visitors regaled in the slightly nippy evening but remained glued to the fast paced events at the captivating fair. It turns out that the dream of the three founders of Cultures Across Borders (a not for profit endeavor for community welfare) namely Apurva Shrivastava, Amitabh Sharma and Sandeep Savla got launched with this maiden event on a phenomenal note thus establishing and imprinting an indelible impression of astute planning and execution. Hopefully Atlanta will have many more of such meticulous shows to set a trend of freshness in the usually mundane cultural landscape.

Conceived, organized and staged in a bare 2 months time frame, a project of this large magnitude was rolled out with such flawless professionalism that it left its satisfying mark on its participants, vendors, providers, visitors and executors alike. Festival of Lights- Grand Diwali Mela was the genesis of meeting of the minds of its three dynamic promoters. Shrivastava introduced the idea of holding the Mela in Duluth downtown and approached Mayor Shirley Lasseter of Duluth. "I was at Jim Samford's house and introduced the idea to Madam Mayor while talking at the swimming pool. She was excited right away and we knew we had her support", said Shrivastava. Impeccable efficiency unfolded thereafter. The three pioneers started work on a war footing. Sharma kicked his marketing machine into top gear while Savla took over the reins for organizing the cultural events. Though they had no prior experience staging a show of this proportion, yet intense planning, thought-work and tough execution over 2 months on a multitude of fronts resulted in a fantastic presentation culminating on Nov 10, 2007. The effort was blessed by Mayor Shirley Lassiter and ably assisted in by Jim Samford, Mani Krishnaswamy, Ranjit Sandhu (Project Manager for the event), Kumud, Meenu, Nita, Kamlesh, Ranjit, Saloni, Gandharv, Sandhya, Rima, Isha, Sarita, Madhu, Sneha etc. as well as scores of other volunteers.

From the wee hours of Saturday Nov 10 morning, like the palpable tension of a producer or director nervously expecting the turnout for first ever movie show, a pregnant anxiety was vivid on the faces of the three promoters while they tirelessly ensured that all I’s were dotted and T’s crossed. The scene was set. The stage was ready. The 48 vendors (food, jewelry, henna, face painting, rides, games, non-profit and community organization stalls) had all settled in a festive atmosphere dotted by multicolored balloons proudly displaying ‘CULTURES ACROSS BORDERS as if ushering and beckoning closer interaction of cultures for cohesive and happy living as a global family.
Soon it was 3 pm and show was ON.

The crowd started trickling in and soon turned into a deluge of people. There were people, people everywhere so much so that parking got onto to become an unforeseen handicap. Every Festival visitor was traditionally greeted by girls from mainstream and ethnic groups dressed in Indian traditional attire Saree and lehengaa by applying sandalwood ‘tika’ on the forehead. A life size lavish and exquisite Rangoli adorned the Westside festival entrance floor. Made with colored rice through a painstakingly 4 hours effort, it soon became focus of attraction. "Rima Switzer and her entire family pitched in for this large rangoli which took days of planning, drawing the architecture on
large papers and them putting them together, like a giant jigsaw puzzle", said Meenu Sharma. While one powerful large multi-media screen display showcased India's heritage, another giant multi-media screen thanked the sponsors and volunteers.

The children were delighted to see the rides as they entered the Mela grounds. They rushed to the rides throughout the event and late into the night. "It (the rides) was a huge hit with the kids", remarked Sharma. As they got off the rides, a clown greeted them and offered face paintings. "Another activity that was popular with the kids was the
ceramic paintings", observed Sharma. Kids were offered sparklers as the fireworks symbolized the return of Lord Shri Ram to Ayodhya. Cotton Candy and Popcorns satiated the appetites of the little ones.

A series of large white tents, with white flags on top, reminding us of the good old times, lent a very pristine atmosphere for the crowds, as they thronged in. Vendors of all kinds greeted them. Henna tattoos drew large lines right through the duration of event. Pottery, Painting, CD and DVD, Jewelry, Indian clothes amongst others, festooned the evening.

The event featured food from not only various parts of India, but Thai, Mexican and Pizza as well. South Indian dishes like Masala Dosa were accented with North Indian dishes. Patel Brother, of Swad Foods, were the event sponsors and provided free food sampling throughout the event. "Patel Brothers were very excited about the event and promised us support right from the beginning", said Savla.

As the evening progressed, the Shri Ram Darbar came alive on the stage of the grand amphitheater in Duluth Town Green. A Lord Shri Ram Baraat ensued. This ceremonial live procession of Lord Shri Ram (enacted by Gaurav Bakshi), Sita (enacted by Vishakha Sardar) and Laxman (enacted by Rajiv Radia) set the festive mood with the frenzied dancing crowd that preceded and followed the Baraat. Flower petals were showered at the baraat by young girls. The beats of the drums (dhols) and the voice of the singer exalted the crowd as they accompanied the Baraat on its way around the Duluth Festival Arena campus amidst booths, activity centers, rides et al finally converging at the amphitheater.
"I had installed antennas all over so the cordless microphones were extremely effective wherever the Baraat went", said Savla.

The Baraat flowed into a grand ceremonial Aarti on the stage. The Aarti was followed by a felicitation ceremony. "This is the essence of Cultures Across Borders because behind its inception was basically the vision to build cultural bridges through festivity. We want to thank and welcome people from all communities, and what better method than felicitating their leaders", remarked Sharma. Indeed the stage was filled with leaders from various communities ranging from mainstream American, Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, Mexican, Philippines, Indian etc. They were each recognized for their commitment and dedication to the communities they served.

This was followed with stage performance by dancers with an unprecedented live orchestra setting the electrified stage vibrant with commercial level sound magnified in impact by life scale projection on a huge backdrop screen. What set this event apart was the crisp format in which it was executed. Kathak dancers from Nritya Natya Kala Bharati, were rapidly interspersed with South Indian dances and modern dances by Silent Killers. "We wanted the first event to be visual based. So, we invited only dancers
for this event", said Savla. What was indeed a thrill to see that there was perfect sound system that was engineered by Savla. There was not a single technical bottleneck, a familiar part of many similar performances around town,

A final Shri Ram Baraat ensued along with the last Aarti. This was followed by an enthralling open-air dandia event that kept the crowd in, even as it grew cold into the night. The musicians from India entertained the crowd with their entrancing vibrant and foot tapping live rhythmic beats emanating from being on top of their game every night.

By 10.30 pm people were still hungry for more as it grew chillier and by then an estimated crowd of over eight thousand had attended the event. "People were calling in for directions late into the night, far after the event was over", said Shrivastava.

For a change there were no long lectures, no garlanding or outlandish display or tall claim(s) typical of such shows. The energy was visible as if ordained or even blessed by the Gods who for the first time ever in a pubic display were revered like never before.

By the time the show wound up, everyone had a contented smile on their face…on a job extremely well done. The prime sponsors were Merrill Lynch, Kroger, Gwinnett Clinic, Patel Brothers, AJC, Gwinnett Chamber besides Manhar Valand and Chandler Sharma.

Cultures Across Borders is a not for profit organization formed by Apurva Shrivastava, Amitabh Sharma and Sandeep Savla of Atlanta. They are prominent members of the Indian community of Atlanta, who have lived and served the community in various ways over the years. They recognized the need for holding a large Diwali Festival in Atlanta that could represent the growing Indian presence in Atlanta as starters and successively envelop other cultures. The bubbly troika is already planning exciting ventures for 2008 and knowing their track record, one can easily look forward to fascinating times moving forward. Congratulations to the founders of Cultures Across Borders.


Copyright © 2004. All rights reserved.