Indian festival to fuse cultures, camaraderie

“We’re trying to involve people from different cultures, different backgrounds and different countries to come join in this celebration so we can be all-inclusive,” says Sandeep Savla, the entertainment organizer.

What it’s all about

The festival, called Grand Diwali Mela 2009, is a collaborative representation of Indian, American, Latin, Mexican, Irish, Chinese and other cultures set to a festive pace of music, dances, storytelling and acting. In addition, there’s a bevy of multiethnic food, shopping, rides and games, and arts and crafts.

Why a cultural mix?

Amitabh Sharma — a director of Cultures Across Borders, a nonprofit group sponsoring the event — said cultures must be presented under one umbrella to bring about understanding and break down cultural barriers. “In a larger perspective, it goes to avert hatred or war,” he said.

What’s the goal?

Cultures Across Borders hopes that when other cultures conduct events, they will have the same spirit of inclusiveness, Sharma said. “See, when somebody extends a handshake, then the other person responds,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to have all these cultures start mingling with each other.”

What’s new this year

The festival will feature the burning in effigy of the 20-foot Ravana, a figure in the Hindu epic Ramayana. The burning signifies a victory of good over evil and leads into a ceremonial procession anointing the god Rama, Sharma said. Also, five people in science and technology, medicine, arts, media and social work will serve as ambassadors.

If you go

What: Indian Festival of Lights

When: Noon Saturday to 2 a.m.

Where: North Atlanta Trade Center, 1700 Jeurgens Court, in Norcross

Cost: Free

Expected attendance: 10,000

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