Community Service 

IndiaFest 2005 celebrates with food, fashion, music, and dance.

Got a craving for curry? Or a passion for paneer?

Get your fill at the third annual India-Fest, a showcase of all things Indian, from cuisine to dance. The two-day event begins on Saturday, August 20th, with a bazaar and concludes the following evening with a performance by an accomplished Indian ballet troupe.

Hosted by the India Association of Memphis (IAM), the festival is one of the largest cultural events of the year for the local Indian community.

"The U.S. and India have shared democratic ideals, and August 15th is India's independence day. That's why we do India-Fest this time of year," explains IAM president Tracy Haldar.

According to Haldar, there are IAM members from at least 12 of India's 28 states. Haldar also says the cuisine varies widely from state to state, and the bazaar, which will be held in the University of Memphis' University Center Ballroom, will give participants a chance to experience a number of tastes from around the country.

"They'll be selling things like aloo bonda, which is like a potato fritter, and main courses like biryani, a rice pilaf cooked with meat and spices," says Haldar. "For dessert, expect to see things like rasgolla. That's a homemade cheese ball dipped in sugar syrup."

Besides food, the vendors will sell fashions from India, such as the wraparound sarees and two-piece blouse and scarf sets called ghagras. Arts, crafts, jewelry, and Indian classical music will also be available.

There will also be an "IndiaFest Idol," a talent showcase featuring local residents performing Indian dance and music. Parents can also send their children to the Kid's Corner to take part in a raksha bandhan ceremony.

"It's a festival commemorating binding ties between siblings of the opposite sex," says Haldar. "A girl ties a rakhi or decorative string, like a friendship band, around the arm of her brother to signify her loving attachment to him."

Kids will learn about Indian culture through the IndiaFest trivia competition, and they can use mehndi markers to create temporary tattoo art on their hands and arms. A dance workshop will teach the kids dandiya, a group dance involving decorative sticks.

Later in the evening on Saturday in the University of Memphis' Rose Theatre, there will be a demonstration of the kathak, a classical storytelling-style dance.

Sunday's events, also at the Rose Theatre, start with a fashion show followed by the highlight of the weekend's events, the Mamata Shankar Ballet Troupe.

Uday Shankar, Mamata Shankar's father, has been credited with bringing international attention to Indian dance. After studying dance at the Royal College of Art in London in the early 1920s, he created two ballets based on Hindu themes for Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. Then in 1929, he formed his own dance company and began touring in the West. He returned to India in 1938 to organize a ballet school.

Mamata has followed in her father's footsteps, becoming an accomplished dancer, choreographer, and actress. Her ballet troupe has been around since the 1970s, and they perform in the style of Uday Shankar, which is described as energetic folk movements blended with the graceful style of classical ballet.

Haldar says the dance performances and the bazaar will provide Memphians with a closer look at her native country's culture:

"IndiaFest will give people an opportunity to experience India's diverse culinary, linguistic, musical, and dance traditions all under one roof."

The IndiaFest 2005 bazaar will be at the University of Memphis' University Center Ballroom on Saturday, August 20th, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free. Saturday and Sunday performances begin at the U of M's Rose Theatre at 6 p.m.

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