Color: Vibrant. Food: Delicious. Music: Loud. These are just a few of the many positive adjectives that could be employed to describe this year's Ananda Mela festival.
For those new to, or unfamiliar with the eastside, Ananda Mela is a joyful festival of India, held outdoors in the City Hall campus. It promotes the rich culture and traditions that Indians uphold. It is also the largest celebration of the India's diversity in the Northwest, attracting around 20,000 attendees. The festival is comprised of live entertainment, shopping, food, and booths, which are sponsored by local and community organizations. Combined, all these attractions offer visitors a large, satisfying taste of Indian culture.
Permeating through the festival grounds are booths demonstrating interesting aspects of Indian culture. Visitors were able to receive Henna tattoos, as there was a Henna booth. There were also booths showcasing traditional jewelry and Indian wear for visitors to admire and buy. Children were kept busy with live entertainment, inflatable play structures, horse rides, and the visual arts display.
One of the best features of Ananda Mela is its diverse variety of Indian foods. No matter your tastes, sweet or salty, it is guaranteed that you will find a suitable snack. Food vendors were operating from within booths, lined up in front of City Hall's side entrance. Popular choices ranged from spicy Bombay Chaat and crispy Vegetable Manchurian to sweet Gulab Jamun and Jalebi. When visitors were not walking through the cultural booths, or watching the live entertainment, they were flocked around the food vendors. This made the seating and walking areas slightly crowded, but as the day progressed, the level of crowd varied.
The live entertainment is another exciting aspect of Ananda Mela. All throughout Saturday and Sunday there were a variety of stage performances showcasing a blend of traditional and modern Indian dance and music.
Participants, both young and old, demonstrated some of the Indian classical dance styles, such as Bharatanatyam, Odissi, and Kathak. There were also other exciting performances, such as the Nada Metha-Garba workshop, and the dance competition, in which winners won tickets to Hawaii.
Viewers were truly engaged, and were almost as enthusiastic as the performers, especially when some of the musicians and bands made their appearances on stage.
The sound speakers were endlessly banging as audiences were jumping up and down and throwing their fists in the air while they grooved to the booming music. Indanation, a band combining traditional Bhangra with modern rock beats, was a sensation. On Sunday, Delhi 2 Dublin, a fusion of Celtic and Punjabi music reached out to the music lover in all of the viewers, as they employed their mastery of instruments to create and produce a great performance.
From the perspective of a visitor who has attended Ananda Mela in the past, it was exciting to see a greater diversity in the population of attendees. People of different backgrounds visited, and some even participated on stage during the live dances, joining other returning participants. While Ananda Mela aims to spread awareness of the Indian culture, it meanwhile fosters a growing sense of community. It demonstrated that there is more acceptance and open-mindedness amongst individuals in the greater Seattle area, and that it has been growing over past few years.
That being said, this year's Ananda Mela was a truly wonderful event. Its combination of live entertainment, food, and attraction contributed to the overall fun and enjoyment. Whether Indian or not, it does not matter - Ananda Mela is a community event inviting all to join in on the festivities, and celebrate India's diversity and culture.
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