This weekend's Festival of India should prove enlightening to South Floridians. "We want to showcase the Indian culture and traditions to Americans," explains Lakshmi Subrahmanian, president of the South Florida chapter of the Association of Indians in America, producer of the biennial festival. "While we have maintained our traditions, we have also assimilated." Most of the performances feature classical culture, but they also throw in a hip-hop remix for the younger generation.
The festival was moved this year from Delray Beach's Morikami Gardens to the Coral Springs Sportsplex. Local charities to benefit from this festival include organizations to help children and families in Broward County and India.
Subrahmanian insists the event is "a family day for a very inexpensive price," and she's right -- as long as you don't share too much of your money with the vendors, who include an astrologer and a hospitality person sent by the Indian government to discuss tourism, plus five henna painting booths, a spirituality booth, gold and costume jewelry, artifacts, clothing boutiques, videos, and CDs.
And of course, there will be food. Those whose knowledge of subcontinental cuisine begins and ends with curry will be in for a host of tasty treats. Festival-goers can expect the traditional North Indian favorites -- tandoori chicken, lamb curry, vegetable kofta, a wonderful stuffed bread called aloo paratha, a vegetable pastry appetizer named samosa, and anything preceded by the word vindaloo, which, loosely translated, means "so spicy your tongue will steam." Also at the festival will be the lesser-known cuisine of South India, heavier on grains and lighter on sauces but with just as many chili peppers in the pot. A crepe called dosa may not be as innocent as it looks, so be careful.
The festival is a deal at $5 per person, $3 for kids. Food provided by area restaurants costs extra, of course, but the admission fee includes a day of entertainment options, featuring yoga demonstrations, dance performances, and Indian musical shows. The event also offers a fashion show based on the festivals of India's more than two dozen states and a bridal pageant where bright colors dominate as the color for bridal outfits. Christian brides wear white saris, but women of other faiths are draped in saris of red or green because these colors are considered auspicious. The actress brides will perform vignettes of North and South Indian weddings with music and dance.
The children's tent should be energetic, staffed mostly by teenage volunteers who host dozens of activities, including traditional Indian craft-making and puppet shows performed by an Indian-trained puppeteer. The puppet shows tell long-treasured Indian stories to the children, who also have the opportunity to make their own puppets.