The traditional spring festival mela will be held on 5 April
Nearly 13 years ago, seven Rajasthani families decided it was high time Victoria got a taste of the festivals that make life in India’s desert state so colourful.
And so, the families formed the Rajasthani Kutumb of Victoria, an incorporated group that organises annual celebrations for Gangaur and other festivals.
In the thick of preparations for April’s Gangaur Mela event, Kutumb president Sandeep Agrawal says that while the Kutumb has swollen to 110 member families today, the impetus remains the same.
“Rajkov aims to share the rich Rajasthani culture and heritage in Victoria,” says Agrawal, a chartered accountant with Deloitte, who lives in Glen Iris.
“This is done by celebrating various Rajasthani festivals, conducting art and craft workshops, cultural performances, discussions at relevant forums etc. All of this gives the people of Victoria a chance to experience the Rajasthani culture,” he adds.
Rajkov, says Agrawal, has celebrated several festivals since its incorporation. Gangaur, a Rajasthan specific festival, is its annual flagship event.
Gangaur honours the goddess Parvati in Hindu culture and marks the end of the winter season and beginning of spring in Rajasthan. The festival is celebrated for 18 days, during which women and girls will fast during the day, dress up and apply henna and various rituals are performed.
Victoria’s own Gangaur Mela in North Balwyn will see traditional Rajasthani cuisine, like spicy chaats, folk music, art and craft workshops, henna painting, mela games and camel rides.
Agrawal migrated to Australia with his wife Sonal and daughter Mahi in 2005.
Not wanting to part entirely with the rich culture of his home state, he soon joined the Rajasthani Kutumb.
“Many aspects of Rajasthani culture attract me — Rajasthani food, which includes daal, baati and kurma; Rajasthani dressing — men wear a colourful turbans and women wear amazing colourful dresses and jewellery,” he says.
Agrawal adds that the group gives those who may never have been to India a taste of Rajasthani culture.
“Rajkov brings an amazing vibrancy in the diverse community of Victoria. Apart from holding our own events, where people could come and experience various aspects of Rajasthani culture, we also participate in other events and add value,” he says, and adds that the group recently conducted Rangoli making workshops during a street festival in North Balwyn in Melbourne.
While festivals may be mostly fun and games, Agrawal says continuing to celebrate them in Australia has a greater significance for the country.
“Australia is very much a multicultural society and groups like Rajkov help to maintain this multiculturalism. They help to maintain the unique aspects of different cultures for future generations to enjoy,” he says.
The Gangaur Mela will be held on 5 April at Balwyn Leisure Centre in North Balwyn, from 3pm to 7pm.
Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Newspaper in Melbourne)