Mela offers glimpse of Indian culture

Two-day festival begins Friday at Centennial Square

You are invited to a mela.

The third annual Indian Mela returns to Victoria’s Centennial Square this weekend where organizer Sabba Sall believes new experiences await Victorians at the two-day festival.

“Mela, in our language, is a celebration,” Sall said. “It is very common in India, going back 4,000 to 5,000 years. It is the sharing of food, dance and song – an opportunity to get together.”

Food booths decorated in Indian decor sell traditional fare alongside entertainment and fashion shows, each celebrating the sights and sounds of the Indian culture.

“It is a step into a whole other way of life,” Sall said. “We want to share our culture. It is an opportunity for the Indian community to show a part of themselves. Who they are and where they come from.”

“(We) are proud of two things, of being Canadian and being Indian. This is an opportunity to display (our) pride,” Sall said.

The talents of established performers from the Lower Mainland, including Grammy-nominated musicians Aslam and Bombay-trained Kathak dancer Prajakta Trepan, join dozens of local musicians and dancers.

“It is not every day I can dress up in an Indian Bhangra,” said Saanich resident Casmine Pandher. “It feels amazing to be recognized by the community. It makes me proud.”

The 18-year-old Claremont graduate performs at the mela with dance troupe Apana Virsa for the third time. Having seen the audience grow every year, she is excited to perform in front of another large crowd

“Our everyday life isn’t super traditional,” she said. “When these opportunities come up, it is important to remind yourself of your heritage and the richness of the art we have.”

The 2012 Indian Mela at Centennial Square is held today (Aug. 17), 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday (Aug. 18), 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. All events are free.


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