Editor’s note: this event has been postponed until June 6th due to public health concerns. Please check back for updates.
Explore the unique and colorful customs of India right in New Orleans at this year’s India Fest.
Taking place at the New Orleans Museum of Art on 1 Collins Diboll Cir., India Fest 2020 will be the fourth installment of the biennial celebration put on by the Indian Arts Circle of New Orleans. The festival, originally scheduled for Saturday, March 14 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. but now taking place on Saturday, June 6, will present many aspects of Indian culture through lectures, food, and traditional practices.
Urmila Kamath, committee member of the Indian Arts Circle of New Orleans, said the festival started in 2013 and has been occurring every other year since, with the exception of 2019. According to Kamath, the fourth India Fest was pushed to this year to coincide with NOMA’s newest temporary exhibit “Buddha and Shiva, Lotus and Dragon,” which is a collection of Asian artworks from Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller. Not only will there be guided tours of said collection during India Fest, the festival itself will reflect on Shiva and Buddha through its events.
“This time, we’re sticking to the Shiva and Buddha theme,” Kamath said. “Our talks are on Shiva and Buddha. We have lectures on different facets of Shiva and Buddhism and practical applications to daily life. Two or three or four dances are going to be based on Lord Shiva.”
Kamath said the idea for the first India Fest came about after the Indian Arts Circle of New Orleans, which was started in 1994, gave a two to three-hour lecture to coincide with a jade collection exhibit at NOMA. She said everyone in the group liked the idea and, since then, the festival has been able to attract a good number of people each time.
“The first year, although it had rained, we had almost 2,000 people,” Kamath said. “If the weather is good, I think we’re going to have maybe 4,000 or 5,000 people this time, which is great, really.”
Kamath explained that the festival will open with a traditional lamp lighting ceremony and that traditional music will be played throughout the entire day. Some of the events and activities that will be held at India Fest include learning how to make rangoli art, children making bookmarks with their names in different languages, and a traditional mehndi henna tattoo vendor, which is a temporary tattoo that women typically get on their hands.
“We’ll have three classical dances,” Kamath said. “We have a slide presentation on temple architecture and Kumbha Mela, which is the biggest pilgrimage anywhere over the world. We will have yoga and meditation sessions and also a bunch of kids’ activities.”
On the grounds of NOMA’s Besthoff Sculpture Garden, there will be three food booths from local restaurants Taj Mahal, Silk Road, and Saffron, as well as a bazaar selling Indian art and jewelry. Kamath said that the festival will end with a big, celebratory bang.
“We have a grand finale dance that’s been very popular and it’s participatory,” Kamath said. “After they finish a few minutes of dancing, we have everybody gather to come in and participate. That’s been a big hit.”
Kamath said she believes the festival is important because there is a real interest among local New Orleanians to learn about India and all of the fascinating cultures and traditions that were birthed from it.
“There’s such an interest in Indian culture and mehndi and yoga and meditation,” Kamath said. “We are showcasing all of those good aspects of Indian culture and trying to make it become mainstream. I think that’s really important. There’s such an interest now, so we’re just kind of exposing New Orleans to the diversity also in our country and all the good things that happen there.”
General admission to India Fest 2020 is $10, $5 for NOMA members, and free for anyone 19 and under. Visit https://www.indianartscirclenola.org/activities/ for the festival’s full schedule of events.