Cultural confluence: Indian-American festival in Lititz Springs Park

By on August 24, 2016
Several area restaurants served traditional India cuisine, including curries and samosas.

Several area restaurants served traditional India cuisine, including curries and samosas.

 

By Laura Knowles

If you happened to be strolling through Lititz Springs Park Saturday evening and thought you were in a bustling Mumbai marketplace, you weren’t mistaken.

The Mela Indian-American Fusion Community Festival — a celebration of flavors, colors, music and dance — returned to the park for its third summer.

Founder and organizer Satish Dwivedi of Lititz was there, dressed in traditional white pants and flowing kurta, welcoming visitors who came to immerse themselves in Indian culture.

“Many people do not realize how many families there are here in Lancaster,” said Dwivedi, who estimated the number at Indian families around 500.

He was joined by his wife Sandhya, who wore a richly embroidered dress in deep hunter green with ruby red pants, scarf, golden necklaces and a vermillion bindi mark on her forehead. The red mark is typically worn by married women in the Hindu culture.

“We wanted to share our culture with Lititz, and the park is a beautiful place for that,” Dwivedi said.

(Left to right) Sandhya and Satish Dwivedi with Shaneta and Raman Kalyan. Satish is the event founder and organizer.

(Left to right) Sandhya and Satish Dwivedi with Shaneta and Raman Kalyan. Satish is the event founder and organizer.

Indeed, Lititz Springs Park was looking as colorful as the Fourth of July with its fireworks, or the Lititz Outdoor Art Show with its watercolors and oil paintings. There were Indian markets with exquisite clothing in jewel colors like sapphire, emerald, topaz and pink tourmaline. Many were adorned with strands of shimmering gold embroidery.

Women like Kelly Harris of Mount Joy sifted through the dresses, gathering armfuls of the exotic clothing to slip on over her jeans and tank top. She selected three dresses to purchase, one in deep magenta, another in peridot green, and the third in cobalt blue. As she quickly noted, at $15 each or $40 for three, they were marketplace bargains.

“I love them all, and the price is amazing,” she said. “They are beautiful.”

The stand operated by Arpita Patel offered an array of clothing as well as colorful scarves, embellished bracelets, dangling earrings and sparkling necklaces. There were also clothing and jewelry stands set up by Sherry Persad, Ravjot Chana and Rajeswari Avvari.

Ria and Misha Solanki were part of the India fashion show in Lititz Springs Park.

Ria and Misha Solanki were part of the India fashion show in Lititz Springs Park.

Marie Cleaves of Lititz was enchanted with the jewelry being sold at one Indian market stand. She purchased a necklace with turquoise and garnet red stones that she decided to wear while she and husband, Andrew Rothacker, ate supper with their baby daughter Paloma.

Marie Cleaves with husband Andrew Rothacker and baby Paloma. "This is a wonderful cultural experience for my family," said Marie.

Marie Cleaves with husband Andrew Rothacker and baby Paloma. “This is a wonderful cultural experience for my family,” said Marie.

“I love the necklace, and this is a wonderful cultural experience for my family,” she said. “And the food is delicious.”

It turned out that little Paloma enjoyed the chicken curry, butter chicken, jasmine rice, samosas and naan bread that her family ordered from the Taj Palace Indian Cuisine stand. Nearby, the Lata Cuisine stand served rice dishes, curries and vegetables. Purnima Mishra had juice drinks and chocolate bars for dessert.

The butter chicken was moist and tender. The jasmine rice had a perfumed scent. The curried chicken was fragrant with cardamon and other Indian spices. The flavorful samosas were stuffed with seasoned potatoes and vegetables.

There were stands for henna tattoos, made with deep red henna dye for designs that would last a few weeks. They were applied to hands, arms and ankles. There was also face painting, artistically done in an array of colorful flowers, animals and whimsical swirls.

There was entertainment too. Isha Shah sang the Indian and American national anthems as a tribute to her multicultural heritage. John Protopapas played the sitar, the stringed instrument made famous internationally by Ravi Shankar and George Harrison of the Beatles. There was music by the Implication Band and Ralph Lean Miller, as well as chant-along singing by the Hare Krishna Group.

Jasmina Nicholson gets a henna tattoo.

Jasmina Nicholson gets a henna tattoo.

The Hindi language film industry was represented by Taarang with Mita Das, Nechle with Neha Sharma, and Bharatanatyam with Anita Sharma, all dressed in colorful costumes with lively dance moves inspired by the flashy Indian movies known as Bollywood productions. There was also belly dancing by Queen Minaya and the Alis Habibi dance group.

A fashion show by Rudra of Downingtown provided a glamorous vision of Indian couture. As shop owner and designer Seema Sharma explained, the embroidered saris and beautifully embellished clothing represent the height of formal affairs.

 

“Many of these are clothing that would be worn at a wedding or other special occasion,” she said. “And of

Dimple and Kouti Patel display some of the colorful dresses available at Mela.

Dimple and Kouti Patel display some of the colorful dresses available at Mela.

course, in India, the bride traditionally wears red and gold. Red is the color of love and passion.”

 

Dwivedi said he was pleased with Saturday’s turnout, adding “I want to thank all of our sponsors and thank everyone who came to share the experience of Mela. In Sanskrit it means ‘a gathering.’ This is a very special gathering for everyone here tonight.”

 

 

Laura Knowles is a local freelance feature writer. She welcomes comments and story ideas at lknowles21@gmail.com.

 

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