IndiaFest returns to St. Paul this weekend, packing the rich tapestry of India into a one-day extravaganza. The event will feature cultural exhibits, a fusion of traditional and contemporary dance performances, and an array of Indian cuisine.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the India Association of Minnesota, the annual festival, formerly known as India Day, will take place at the Minnesota State Capitol.
Beyond celebrating India’s rich heritage, IndiaFest serves as a platform for the fusion of American culture within Minnesota’s Indian community, the second-largest Asian group in the state, exceeding over 50,000 Indian American residents.
Here’s your guide to making the most of the experience:
March in the parade
Festivities kick off at 11 a.m. with Minnesota community performances, a flag hoisting ceremony showcasing both American and Indian flags, and a grand parade at 1:30 p.m.
“We walk up with hundreds of people behind us with signs and posters, and beautiful costumes,” said Tanwi Prigge, the president of India Association of Minnesota (IAM), “It always gives me goosebumps. As immigrants, we walk up this Capitol and that’s just beautiful, you know? We’re very thankful for the people of Minnesota to welcome us the way they have been.”
Explore Indian Culture
Thirty-six diverse exhibit booths will showcase Indian traditions and history through art and cultural artifacts. Twenty-five bazaar stalls will offer jewelry and clothing. Among 106 booths at the festival, one will demonstrate the draping of sarees, a traditional Indian garment. Family-friendly activities like face painting, board games, and henna art will also be available.
Savor the flavors
Eleven food and drink vendors will offer Indian beverages and sweets including mango lassi, faluda, paan shot, masala soda, and sweet paan.
Enjoy live entertainment
From 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., various dance groups will perform a blend of popular Bollywood and traditional Indian dance, including North Indian Kathak and South Indian Bharatantyam dance styles.
For over seven years, Nritya Kalakshetra Academy of Performing Arts has graced IndiaFest stages with Bharatanatyam and Mohiniyattam dance performances.
“It becomes part of our ritual every year,” said Sivanuja Balaji, the artistic director and founder of the academy. “August is IndiaFest and that’s the biggest thing for all of us. The whole day is really fun, you know. You can just get out there, shop, eat, watch lots of entertainment, dance, and spend your day.”
The academy’s theatrical performances at IndiaFest have shed light on pressing issues, including the challenges faced by farmers and the prevalence of sexual violence against women in India, and the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020.
This year, the academy’s dance production will portray the essence of life’s five elements, referred to as “pancha bhootas” in Indian philosophy: agni (fire), vayu (wind), dharti (earth), jal (water), and aakash (space), all expressed through the art of Bharatanatyam.
The festival will also feature soulful, classical, and Bollywood music by Nazia Sayeed, as well as stand-up comedy acts John DeBoer and Senthil Rajasekharan.
Prigge emphasized the need to preserve Indian heritage amid the widespread popularity of Bollywood.
“I think Indian American culture now has become Bollywood,” she said, likening it to mainstream entertainment like Hollywood. “The only way to sustain this kind of culture and these old traditions is really through events like IndiaFest.”
Plan your visit
For more information, visit the event website here: https://www.iamn.org/. Metro Transit is offering free rides to IndiaFest. Fill out this survey to obtain a free ride pass. For those driving, parking information can be found here.