It’s India In Indiana month! And, as a first generation Indian, who has grown up in Indianapolis and continues to live here with her own family, I embrace this month and love participating and sharing the uniqueness and beauty of India, as well as our own Indian traditions with family and friends.
August is a very significant month to celebrate the country of India. It was in August of 1947 when India became an independent nation from the United Kingdom. From that moment on, August 15th has been recognized as Independence Day of India and is observed as a national holiday.
We recognize the Fourth of July in the States with elaborate firework displays, summer barbecues and friends mingling around proudly wearing our Red, White and Blue. Indians also celebrate their Independence Day with swirls of beautiful colors in fabrics which kiss your skin with their softness, flavorful food and specialty sweets, and grandiose parties with song and dance.
However, the month of August in India is not just important because of Independence Day. August also happens to be a month filled with many festivities and auspicious days. Most Indians love taking part in these traditions for the entire month.
Because India is such an old country with a beautifully rich history, the older I become, the more I find myself wanting to know as much as I can about my heritage. And so, I’ve started asking more questions like “What does this mean?” And “Why do we celebrate this day in this way?” And so on.
I need to learn so I can teach my children, not only about where their mama is from, but also so they can learn about the history of themselves.
This year, our family started the month of August off by recognizing and celebrating Rakshabandhan. This Hindu festival is observed on a full moon day in the month of Shravana*, which usually goes from the end of July until the third week of August. This festival signifies and celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters and is shown by a sister tying a sacred piece of thread called Rakhi, around their brother’s wrist and feeding him a special sweet. The brother’s, in turn, give their sisters a small token (usually money or gold), with the promise to always love and protect them. Simply put, Rakshabandhan means “Bond of Protection”.
This celebration can be a very simple or extremely elaborate ceremony and can also be done between close friends, or those who may be as close as siblings without the blood relation. As my father puts it “It is great to celebrate this old Indian festival one day in a year where the sisters have to express their love for their brothers. Yet, the remaining 364 days a year, they just love and help one another without all the pomp and show.” Yes, that is very true. To me, it’s a reminder that family sticks together. Since my sister and I do not have any brothers to perform this ceremony with, I tied Rakhi on my brother-in-law’s wrist and my sister tied one on my husband’s wrist, as they both are protectors of ours.
Some other festivals and celebrations recognized in India during this month include, but are definitely not limited to: Krishna Janmashtami, Narali Poornima, Pavitropana and Shravani Mela.
All the festivals mentioned above, as well as many others recognized during this month in India, have significant meanings, which even I am still learning. As a first generation Indian, I grew up participating in these traditions quite often. As I grew older and moved away from home, there were years in which I missed out on these events entirely. Now as a parent of biracial children, passing these traditions down to my children has new meaning for me. That is why I’m so pleased that our state recognizes August as India in Indiana month.
Indianapolis alone has a packed agenda filled with Indian festivities and traditions from August 17th to the 20th. This year’s agenda at the Indiana Historical Society includes the following:
- Thursday, August 17, 10am – Cultural Journey: India – Presented by Lilly
- Thursday, August 17, 6:30pm – Opening Night Extravaganza & “You Are My Sunday” Screening
- Friday, August 18, 1pm – Cultural Journey: “Siddharth” Screening
- Friday, August 18, 6:30pm – Traditional Indian Gala & “Ventilator” Screening
- Saturday, August 19, 10am – Live Adventurously on the Cultural Trail & “Doctor Rakhmabai”
- Saturday, August 19, 6:30pm – Cultural Journey: “A Suitable Girl” Screening with the Directors
- Sunday, August 20, 10am – INDIA DAY by IAI & IHSCC
- Sunday, August 20, 1pm – Cultural Journey: “A Billion Colour Story” Screening
- Sunday, August 20, 4pm – Cultural Journey: “Hotel Salvation” Closing Night Screening
Our family usually wraps up the month of Indian celebrations on India Day, downtown Indianapolis. This year, India Day falls on Sunday, August 20. This day alone is filled with a parade, dancing, singing, great food, conversation and friends from various regions of India. It’s an all-day family event and a wonderful way to wrap up India In Indiana.
It makes me happy to see how each year the crowd at India Day grows and becomes more diverse, as people of all different backgrounds embrace the different cultures which exist in our state.
I hope you choose to learn about India at one of these exciting events! And if you’re curious about something or want to know the significance of an event or tradition, please ask. Never stop asking the questions. Never stop expanding your mind – because all the beauty of the world can be yours, too, if you’re open to all that it has to offer.