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Kanwal Prakash "KP" Singh

Who could have imagined four decades ago that the Hoosier Heartland would be witnessing a tremendous growth of ethnic, cultural, and faith communities or that the recent immigrant pioneers would embellishing the festival scene with unimagined colors and fashions, unfamiliar traditions and festive sounds, music and songs, folklore and dances, new cultural textures and raw contagious energy? Who could have forecast that this convergence of people and transcendences of unusual and unique cultural textures and intriguing new rhythms into our festive landscape and societal mainstream will be a welcome possibility? That the new pioneers, as they strive to belong to their new environment and communities, will make a place for their spirit and innermost stirrings and transplant their cultural roots in the new land and make a home which offers them an echo and identity with their native culture?

That is what we are witnessing with unbounded joy. The cultural tapestry of United States of America is transforming into a rich, strong, and promising festival of spirit and federation of peoples who have been gathering here for the last five hundred years. This is a great cause for celebration. We see in U.S. the world in microcosm and sharing its collective cultural and spiritual heritage and intellectual wealth and talents to make a more hopeful Union. We see this "providential" convergence as offering and affirming an unmistakable testimony that this rich diversity has brought in its wake the innovative energy, creative power, and trail-blazing spirit from the distant and remote corners of the human habitat and placed them here and all around us to write another chapter in the journey of human civilization.

Festivals are great places to connect; to introduce, explore, and experience; educate and learn; dispel ignorance and unfounded stereotyping; and to discover and witness the common threads that link human experience and heritage across diverse cultural and temporal landscapes. Most festivals showcase human emotions, cultural insights, and life rhythms that offer reflections of our shared humanity; provide opportunities for fun, friendships, and for working in solidarity to make a difference to life and community.


One such festival took place in Indianapolis and throughout the Punjabi world last Saturday. The Sikh Educational & Cultural Society of Indianapolis celebrated the North Indian Winter Festival of LOHRI at the India Community Center on January 14, 2006.

The celebration presented colorful folk dances: young ladies' Giddah and young men's Bhangra (choreographed by Sonya Gill and Malika Chaudhary). In addition, there were Punjabi Dhol interludes and a number of solo and group performances of songs and dances by community artistes and the new Punjabi talents who have moved to Indianapolis in recent months. The festival attracted the largest attendance (nearly 500) for this festival to date. One could witness with pride the tremendous energy and innovations coming directly from the soil and culture of the Punjab. Untamed joy and merriment with an abandon filled the multi-generational, family-friendly, and festival space that was packed to capacity.

The highlight, as usual, of the evening was the audience participation and demonstration of their dancing skills. The Masti Sound and DJ Manjit Trehan provided an exciting selection of popular Punjabi folk and disco music. Hundreds of young and old, men and women in their colorful best rocked the place for nearly two hours after the formal program and North Indian buffet dinner prepared by India Garden Restaurant for the occasion.

There are several legends that surround the North Indian winter festival of Lohri. It has elements that offer similarities to the American Holloween. The most popular legend suggests that Lohri is named after two sisters Holika and Lohri, one of whom, Holika, perished in Holy fire. Unlike Holloween, children and young adults in Punjab go only to designated houses that have traditional leaf decorations strung across the doorframes indicating that the family is celebrating a special event. Much like Holloween, the children sing folk songs outside the door that speak of the various legends connected with the Lohri festival, and ask for generous reward, 'lohri," which is often roasted peanuts in shells, sesame-covered molasses-candy known as "riori" or other special gift that family may choose to share with the revelers. There are bonfires and community and family gatherings and dancing in villages.

The eight sponsors of the 2006 Lohri in Indianapolis were families that had special events and milestones that highlighted their last year: the birth of a child, marriage in the family, job promotion or major success in business, moving to new home, or some other major landmark event or blessing in their families. Lohri celebration is a proud community recognition, congratulation, and thanksgiving for these blessings.

The Celebration Committee had attended to all details connected with the Lohri tradition including serving of roasted peanuts in shells (mungphulee), sesame-covered molasses candy (riori), vegetable pakoras, chicken strips, and other delicious items. Maninder Walia and Ravinder Chaudhary served as Masters of Ceremony and were assisted by Jaswinder Gill, Sonya Gill, Sukhdeep Singh, Bina Ahluwalia, Narvinder Bhola (Past President of The Sikh Satsang), and others. Harpreet Sandhu, President of The Sikh Satsang and Sikh Educational & Cultural Society of Indianapolis, provided the overall leadership and guiding hand to a highly successful event.

Kanwal Prakash "KP" Singh
Indianapolis, Indiana USA



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Lohri Celebration

Sponsors of the 2006 Lohri Celebration at the India Community Center.
Presented by The Sikh Educational & Cultural Society of Indianapolis.

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