To continue reading this article and others for free, please sign up for our newsletter.
Sahan Journal publishes deep, reported news for and with immigrants and communities of color—the kind of stories you won’t find anywhere else.
Unlock our in-depth reporting by signing up for our free newsletter.
Support local nonprofit journalism that works for you.
Our community-based reporting is made possible by readers just like you. Become a supporter of your local nonprofit news organization today with a tax-deductible donation so we can continue doing the reporting that matters to you.
ST. PAUL — St. Paul resident Mary Jo Berkhoel was passing by the Capitol Saturday when she saw a row of white tents in the grounds. She became curious. The next thing she knew, she was at IndiaFest, the annual one-day festival celebrating the rich heritage, traditions, diversity, and culture of India.
“This is a great community of people. They are very supportive of each other,” said Berkhoel, who was certain about getting a henna tattoo at her hand.
It was the 45th edition of India Fest which is organized by the Indian Association of Minnesota around Aug. 15, Indian Independence Day. There were long lines at food stalls, particularly for Biryani and sugarcane juice, popular in India.
Women dressed in colorful sarees thronged the booths selling Indian artifacts, clothing and accessories. For the first time, there was a special exhibit honoring Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birthday.
India Fest started from humble beginnings. “What you see right now started as a gathering of Indians in a basement,” said Nash Sheikh, president of Indian Association of Minnesota. “Gradually it took the form of the festival and was shifted to community centers, parks, and the Landmark Center. Eleven years ago, it shifted base to the State Capitol Grounds.”
Originally, the Indian community used to have a big picnic in summer and an event in fall, around Oct. 2, the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Sometime in the 1990s, the two got combined into India Fest.
“Many Minnesotans do not recognize how large the Indian community is,” said Shanti Shah, former president of the association. “This is an occasion where our political leaders can see us.”