Sunday, September 21, 2014 - Loading…

Published: Sunday, 8/10/2014 - Updated: 1 month ago

Big Fat Fun: Festival of India marks 25 years with dance, food, and a ‘wedding’

BY KATHLEEN ASHCRAFT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Sneha Shah, center, and other cast members from a dance number rehearse for "The Big Fat Indian Wedding" held at the Hindu Temple and Heritage Hall in Sylvania. Sneha Shah, center, and other cast members from a dance number rehearse for "The Big Fat Indian Wedding" held at the Hindu Temple and Heritage Hall in Sylvania.
THE BLADE/ISAAC HALE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

What is perhaps Toledo’s biggest wedding of the year is scheduled to take place today, but it’s far from a typical ceremony. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the annual Festival of India, the Hindu Temple of Toledo has chosen the theme “My Big Fat Indian Wedding.”

Atul Agnihotri, president of the Hindu Temple of Toledo and the Festival of India, said that crowds at last year’s event reached between 2,000 and 3,000 people. He is expecting the same size crowd this year, if not bigger, and as a result, has moved the festival from the Heritage Hall, where it normally is held, to the Centennial Terrace at 5773 Centennial Rd,, Sylvania.

Agnihotri said that all of Centennial Terrace will be decorated as if for a traditional Indian wedding, with explosions of bright colors all around. He said it will be set up similar to celebrations one is likely to see in a Bollywood film.

PHOTO GALLERY: My Big Fat Indian Wedding

The festival, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., begins with an opening ceremony. Arun Agarwal, one of the organizers of the festival, said that both the U.S. and Indian national anthems will be played before things kick off with a traditional Indian dance.

After the opening, there is a seemingly endless list of activities and performances for attendees.

And food. Lots of food.

A “wedding” festival would be nothing without the opportunity to feast. The Festival of India will serve a wide variety of Indian street foods. “It is the most popular food in India and it’s not typically served in restaurants,” Agnihotri said.

The festival is bringing in special chefs just for the occasion. One chef is coming from Taste of India Suvai in Ann Arbor, another from Krishna Catering in Garden City, Mich., and a third is an independent chef from Washington.

If you go:
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. today
Location: Centennial Terrace, 5773 Centennial Rd, Sylvania
Information: Atul Agnihotri at 419-450-9280 or atul.agnihotri2012@gmail.com. Also: http://festivalindia25yrs.webs.com

These chefs will serve exotic, tasty dishes such as samosas (a triangular deep-fried turnover filled with potatoes and other vegetables), pani puri (a puffed, hollow, fried crisp called a “puri” can be filled with chutney, mashed potato, and chickpeas and dipped in a masala-flavored water), bhel puri (a mixture of puffed rice, lentils, onions, and coriander topped with yogurt and chutneys), and other savory dishes.

To satisfy the sweet tooth, the chefs will serve gulab jamun (deep-fried milk and cake balls served with sweet syrups) and jalebi (crisp round whirls, similar to a funnel cake, that are deep fried, then dipped in sugary syrup).

Dance is a major component of the festival, as it has been nearly every year. Agarwal said, “We have a total of 110 volunteers who will be dancing.” There will be classical and traditional dances, folk dances that are specific to certain states throughout India, and the major dance production titled “My Big Fat Indian Wedding.”

The dance program will tell a story. Agarwal said. “The performance lasts an hour and a half. There will be 25 to 30 minutes to depict each aspect of the wedding.”

Anupama Mohanty, left, practices a dance number during a rehearsal for "The Big Fat Indian Wedding." Anupama Mohanty, left, practices a dance number during a rehearsal for "The Big Fat Indian Wedding."
THE BLADE/ISAAC HALE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Sangeeta Mehta, the main choreographer for the festival, created the story line for the performance with the help of about eight other choreographers. “It follows a couple growing up together starting from when they’re 5,” she said. “Then they decide to marry.” It will portray all of the major ceremonies involved in an Indian wedding, which typically lasts at least three to four days, she said.

Agarwal said he has even booked a horse so that the dancers can perform the traditional wedding procession in which the groom rides in on a horse.

Although admission and parking for the festival will be free, there will be plenty of things for people to purchase.

“People can buy Indian music, movies, clothes, books,” and much more, Agnihotri said. “Scarves, too, the scarves are very popular.”

There will be a booth at which people can get henna tattoos, which are temporary tattoos that are common in many Indian celebrations, especially weddings.

“We’re trying to get booths so that people can try on Indian clothes and take pictures,” Agnihotri said. “Also, a bride and groom that people can take pictures with.”

Most of the proceeds from the event go toward covering its costs, such as paying for the venue, food, and performances. Any leftover money will go toward scholarships for the top students in the Sylvania School District. Agarwal said the temple normally gives out two scholarships each year.

Contact Kathleen Ashcraft at: kashcraft@theblade.com or 419-724-6050.



Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. If a comment violates these standards or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report abuse. To post comments, you must be a Facebook member. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.

Related stories