India Fest: A colourful journey through a decade of diversity

By Nick Attam
Pic supplied

In the heart of the tropical city of Townsville, Australia, an explosion of colour, rhythm, and culinary delight comes to life each year. The Australia sun, already a vibrant star, shines a little more brightly as the vibrant hues of India Fest Townsville burst into bloom. Now approaching its 10th anniversary, this annual celebration of Indian culture has become an anticipated fixture on the local calendar. The festival is a potpourri of immersive experiences, ranging from traditional dance and melodious music to delectable Indian food and artistry.

The festival’s milestone is not only a testament to its success but also a reflection of the tireless dedication, passion, and commitment of its team members. These pillars of India Fest have helped cultivate and nurture this unique cultural experience, enriching the Townsville community.

A Home Away From Home

Leading the pack is Ms. Dipika Chaudhary, the first lady president of India Fest Townsville 2023. A pillar of the festival since its inception, Dipika views the event as an extension of her cultural heritage. “India Fest feels like my own,” she shares, reminiscing about the festival’s debut in 2014, which saw a turnout of over 15,000 attendees. The roots of her connection to the festival run deep, from designing its website to choreographing traditional dance performances. Today, she steers the ship, reflecting her unwavering dedication and love for the festival.

Ms Dipika Chaudhary, President, India Fest Townsville Inc 2023 // Pic supplied

Her leadership is characterised by a commitment to unity and cultural representation, which she believes are the driving forces behind the festival’s success. “Every year, we strive to create an outstanding event that surprises and delights our audiences,” Dipika notes. She is quick to credit the entire team, from volunteers to sponsors, for their tireless effort and support, referring to them as the “backbone of India Fest.”

Dipika’s anticipation for the festival’s 10th anniversary is infectious as she promises a “spectacular celebration.” The festival’s patrons can look forward to an array of performances, workshops, stalls, rides, and cultural interactions.

A Catalyst for Cultural Exchange

At the heart of the festival’s magic is the sense of community it cultivates, a sentiment shared by Prof. Mohan Jacob, a steadfast volunteer since the festival’s inception. His interaction with the festival attendees and the local community has enriched his understanding of Indian culture and its diverse nuances. “One of the remarkable aspects of the festival is the palpable sense of community and warmth that permeates the atmosphere,” he shares.

Prof. Mohan credits the festival as being a catalyst for fostering understanding and appreciation among people from different backgrounds. The festival, in his words, has not just been a showcase of Indian culture but a gateway to cultural integration and unity.

Pic supplied
Passing the Baton of Culture

For A/Prof. Shashidhar Venkatesh Murthy, the festival serves as a vibrant platform to “celebrate and showcase our colourful, bright, and great culture to the wider regional community.” He underlines the festival’s role in imparting knowledge of India’s rich cultural heritage to the younger generation, making it a beacon of cultural education.

The India Fest journey over the past decade has been an amalgamation of culture, community, and celebration. The sheer passion and dedication of individuals like Dipika, Prof. Mohan, and A/Prof. Shashidhar have laid the foundation of the festival’s success. As the festival gears up for its 10th anniversary, there is a palpable anticipation in the air. It’s not just a celebration of India’s cultural richness but also an affirmation of unity in diversity.

The festival serves asa potent reminder of the enduring connection to one’s roots, no matter the geographical distance. It demonstrates the power of culture and traditions in shaping our identities, reflecting in how we celebrate life and its many occasions. India Fest Townsville is, indeed, a little piece of India nestled in the heart of Townsville, an emblem of Indian culture thriving in a foreign land.

Emceeing the Ensemble

Pria D’Souza, the festival’s effervescent emcee, has been an integral part of India Fest since its inception. Her vibrant personality and fervour are infectious, pulling in attendees and participants alike. “India Fest is a perfect example of unity in diversity,” she echoes, highlighting the festival’s core value.

Pria’s contributions extend beyond the microphone. Her initiative of decorating the festival grounds with vividly coloured fabrics to replicate the atmosphere of Indian festivals has become a characteristic feature of India Fest. She views it as a symbolic celebration, a “fantastic symbol of joy.”

Dancing to the Rhythm of Culture

New to the festival but no stranger to Indian culture is Dr. Geetha Sadagopan, a professional dancer and principal of Geetha’s Natyalaya, an Indian dance school. Her contribution to the festival lies in her dedication to promoting Indian classical dance. Geetha is mesmerised by the excitement and enthusiasm that the festival stirs in the community, marking it as the “prime Indian cultural event of this regional city.”

The dance school’s performances at India Fest have been met with awe and applause, creating a vibrant display of Indian dance forms and costume, further enriching the cultural tapestry of the festival.

A Pillar of Persistence

For Kuriakose Thoppil, India Fest is a significant platform for showcasing the rich heritage and culture of India. His memories of the overwhelming turnout at the first India Fest still warm his heart, “making us all feel fulfilled.” His experiences with the festival imbue him with a festive spirit reminiscent of the celebratory atmosphere in India.

Cultural Beacon for the Younger Generation

Smitha Swamy sees India Fest as a critical platform for cultural representation and community participation. She stresses the festival’s importance in connecting the younger generation with their cultural roots and fostering a sense of pride and identity. “India Fest has provided a great opportunity for our kids to connect to our roots, learn about our culture, and develop a sense of pride and identity,” she notes.

The Living Mosaic

As India Fest Townsville gears up to celebrate its 10th anniversary, the festival grounds will once again reverberate with the rhythmic footwork of classical dancers, the resonating beats of traditional instruments, and the heady scent of authentic Indian cuisine. The festival remains more than a celebration; it is a testament to unity, cultural exchange, and a living testament of Indian traditions.

Pria, Geetha, Kuriakose, and Smitha, amongst many others, will gather to weave another chapter of this cultural extravaganza. As the vibrant colours of India bloom in Townsville on August 26th, the magic of India Fest will unfold, bringing people together, fostering a sense of belonging, and encapsulating the vibrant and enchanting world of India right here in Townsville.

An Intimate Perspective from an Odissi Artist

Odissi artist, Suchismita Mishra, hails ‘India Fest’ in Townsville as a vibrant platform for expressing Indian culture and heritage in Australia. Having moved to Townsville in 2018, Mishra was heartened by the warm reception she received from the local Indian community.

“India Fest serves as a symbol of our dynamic culture. It has been my ultimate platform to convey the richness of our traditions, culture, and art,” Mishra shares. The Odissi performer annually showcases the elegant dance forms of Odissi and Sambalpuri at India Fest.

In addition to providing a stage for her own performances, the event has proven a valuable medium for connecting the younger generations to their cultural roots. “This festive initiative brings our children closer to understanding and participating in our rich Indian traditions,” adds Mishra.

In the face of adversity, including the devastating floods of the past decade and the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mishra commends the resilience of the India Fest team. “The India Fest team worked diligently to keep our vibrant community connected,” she recounts.

With last year’s event marking a resounding success, Mishra eagerly anticipates the upcoming cultural extravaganza. “As we gear up for the next edition, I am confident it will surpass all previous ones, creating cherished memories that will endure forever.”

For Suchismita Mishra, and many others within the Indian community, India Fest is more than just an event; it is a testament to the vibrancy and diversity of Indian culture, celebrated with grace and unity in the heart of Townsville.

India Fest Townsville is a unique cultural journey that offers a kaleidoscope view into the diversity of Indian traditions. As it steps into its 10th year, it promises to continue its tradition of uniting the community, celebrating diversity, and promoting cultural understanding. Here’s to a decade of cultural celebration, and many more to come.

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Nick Attam
Nick Attam is not only a prominent figure in Queensland's media landscape but also an active and influential member of the Indian community in the region. With a passion for community engagement and a deep commitment to fostering cultural exchange and collaboration, Nick plays a multifaceted role in enhancing the vibrancy and cohesion of the Indian community in Queensland.