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 <<CityNews Main Send Flowers to India!

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Send Gifts to India!

Historic FOI ‘Flame of Independence’ Torch Lit At Gandhi Statue


The Festival of India (FOI)‘Flame of Independence’ torch was ceremonially lighted at the Gandhi Statue, MLK Historic Site on July 4th, followed by a ‘March for Global Peace’ to the King crypts. The torch will pass through various parks across Atlanta and its suburbs until it enters the FOI at Gwinnett Civic Center on August 15th. The event was organized by India American Cultural Association (IACA) with support from National Park Service, King Center, Gandhi Foundation of USA, Vibha and various other community organizations.

“Both communities have so much to share,” said IACA president Dr. Anand Kamath. “We must get together and practice the ideals of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.”

He said the IACA embodies this spirit, and celebrates life, living and the pursuit of happiness.

Padma Rallapalli, Program Director, FOI 2009, who emceed the program, gave a brief history of the torch. She said, the FOI torch march was introduced last year. This year, it has taken on a historic role, linking American independence with Indian independence, and beginning at a historic site that embodies the civil rights movement.

Issac Farris, chair of the King Center, Doug Shipman, executive director, Center for Civil and Human Rights, Dr. Jay Tribby, Chief of Staff representing Kwanza Hall, Atlanta City Council (District 2) and Tony Stennis, Deputy Superitendent of the National Park Service were the key speakers at the event.

“The world’s first democracy and the largest democracy have a shared heritage of non-violence,” Issac Farris said in his keynote address. In the US, democracy was not for people of color, until the civil rights legislation was passed.

“I celebrate July 4th as the beginning of the journey towards independence,” he added. “Gandhi inspired the American civil rights movement through Martin Luther King. May the flame of hope that began then, be a bright beacon of freedom and civil rights all over the world.”

The second speaker, Doug Shipman, pointed out to the fact that all independence movements started at spiritual places. The American freedom movement started in the churches of Boston, while Gandhi’s satyagraha movement started at Dandi. The civil rights movement started in the churches of Montgomery, Alabama. 

“It is appropriate that we celebrate the flame of independence for the next five weeks in a spiritual place,” he said.

Dr. Jay Tribby read out a proclamation from the Atlanta City Council on behalf of councilman Kwanza Hall, recognizing the contributions of IACA and the Gandhi Foundation.

The fourth speaker, Tony Stennis said non-violence is a time-tested way of healing relationships and showing love.

The program began with the garlanding of the Gandhi statue by the dignitaries present. A soulful rendition of Gandhi’s favorite bhajan, “Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram” by Atlanta singer Lakshmi Vedala followed, after which the national anthems of the US and India were played on the violin by talented students.

Earlier, Gandhi Foundation of USA chairman Subash Razdan, in his welcome address exclaimed: “What a great way to celebrate July 4th!” He congratulated the FOI team that had thought up the wonderful idea of linking July 4th with August 15th (Indian independence day).

The torch was symbolically lighted by King Center’s Farris and FOI’s Rallpalli, after which, the procession marched to the King crypts across the street on Auburn Avenue. Wreaths were laid at MLK’s crypt.

In the coming weeks, the torch will pass through the following locations.
July 18th East Cobb Park, Marietta – 3322 Roswell Rd NW. Marietta GA
July 25th Ocee Park, Johns Creek -10900 Buice Road, Johns Creek GA
August 1st Lilburn Park, Lilburn - 76 Main Street, Lilburn, GA
August 8th Lake Spivey Country Club, Clayton County - 8255 Club House Way
Jonesboro GA
August 15th- Gwinnett Civic Center.

The historic event was a great way to connect our adopted land with the land of our origin, and to look forward to the annual Festival of India at the Gwinnett Civic Center on August 15th.


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