The 25th Annual Festival of India celebrated Indian culture in central Wisconsin this past weekend at the Stevens Point Area High School.
Anshu Varma, one of the Indian dancers and volunteers, mentioned the festival was to showcase the Indian culture for those who are not aware. Varma has volunteered for the last 13 years and was glad to bring India to central Wisconsin.
The food, merchandise and dancing brought a lot variety to the event.
“We’re trying to show a little bit of India. The singing, the dancing, the clothes, the music. This is what India is all about, the people,” said Swati Biswas, another one of the Indian dancers and volunteers for the festival.
Biswas wanted to show some of the wedding traditions through dance. She could not bring in every element of the tradition, like fire, but she knew she wanted to paint a vivid picture as best as she could.
“To me, it was real exciting to bring that message [through dance] that it is a commitment for a husband and wife for the rest of your life,” Biswas said.
In addition to the food, merchandise and dance, there was also an underlying charitable effort for the Festival of India. The proceeds went back to families in India who are struggling. Even some of the dancers themselves are sponsoring orphan girls back home.
“A lot the proceeds from the sales go directly to SHAMA. We know that there aren’t any middle people, and this makes it special,” said Monica Dvorak, a third dancer and volunteer for the festival.
The Festival of India is sponsored by SHAMA Inc., a non-profit organization that strives to enhance the life of women and children in India. SHAMA supports the Festival of India in the hopes of educating American children about the Indian heritage and educating Indian children about their own heritage.University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point stopped by the festival after hearing about it on campus.
“I heard about it through university announcements, and I’m also in an interior architecture class where we have to do outside-class activities. So this is mine,”
said Chris Paquette, a student at UWSP.
Gretchen Guinn, who attended the festival with Paquette, mentioned that she thinks cultural events are important to the community.
“It also helps break down stereotypes of what we normally think about Indian cultural and shows the actual culture,” Guinn said.
Guinn also mentioned the importance of getting out of your comfort zones to explore and gain knowledge about other cultures. The Festival of India was another opportunity to do so.