During her six years on the Redmond Arts Commission, Latha Sambamurti cast wistful eyes on Seattle’s many ethnic and cultural festivals and thought it would be great to bring “a flavor of India to the mainstream audience,” right here in Redmond.
Her wish will come true this summer, thanks to support from the City of Redmond’s arts administrator Mary Yelanjian and a non-profit organization with the expertise and willingness to produce the event, namely the Vedic Cultural Center (VCC) in Sammamish.
The VCC will present Ananda Mela, A Joyful Festival of India from noon-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 26-27 on the campus of Redmond City Hall, 15670 NE 85th St.
Community members of all ages are welcome to enjoy the free entertainment by local and world-famous performers of Indian music and dance. Headlining artists will be Delhi2Dublin, a high-energy, contemporary act which mixes rhythms of both India and Ireland and both traditional and electronic instruments.
Sambamurti, who just retired from chairing the Redmond Arts Commission and has served on the arts advisory committee for King County’s 4Culture, is the Main Stage coordinator for Ananda Mela. She first saw Delhi2Dublin at the Kirkland Performance Center and said the audience was up on its feet, dancing and clapping from the start of their show to the big finish. Delhi2Dublin will wow the crowds at Ananda Mela for more than two hours each night of the festival, “absolutely free of charge,” Sambamurti reiterated.
But there will be much, much more for festival goers to see and do at Ananda Mela, she promised.
“India is home to a wide variety of customs and languages and this variety will be reflected at Ananda Mela, which means ‘joyful festival,'” said Sambamurti.
Classical dance forms such as Kathak, Bharatnatym and Odissi will be showcased, as will lively folk and popular dance forms such as Bhangra and Bollywood. Percussion ensembles, instrumental ensembles and a major flute concert by Deepak Ram will also be included.
Magician Professor Bamboozle, balloon artists and a juggler will perform on a children’s stage. There will be rides for kids, henna booths, demonstrations of how to wear a sari, astrology booths and rangoli — making art designs with colored powder, said Sambamurti.
Yoga, meditation and educational displays will also be featured at Ananda Mela, such as exhibits about India’s history, architecture and tourist destinations.
And count on tasting lots and lots of authentic Indian food, said Sambamurti.
The VCC has hundreds of volunteers working on Ananda Mela and anticipates drawing as many as 15,000 to 20,000 guests to the festival. The center is dedicated to preserving and promoting Vedic values, especially among children and families.
“Vedic refers to a code of conduct, customs and traditions derived from ancient texts of India, known as Vedas,” Sambamurti explained.
While there are many people from India now living and working in Redmond and surrounding cities, Sambamurti emphasized that anyone and everyone, of any nationality, is invited to Ananda Mela. “We are building bridges, reaching out in friendship,” she noted, “and bringing revenue to Redmond. “Delhi2Dublin and other international performers will be staying in Redmond hotels. … What is best of all is that this is free and here in Redmond. You don’t have to go into Seattle. Parking is free in the city’s municipal garage. Bring the kids, bring all your friends,” Sambamurti coaxed.
Business sponsors are also invited to participate.
To learn more about Ananda Mela, A Joyful Festival of India, visit www.anandamela.org.
For information about the Vedic Cultural Center, 1420 228th Ave. SE in Sammamish, visit www.vedicculturalcenter.org.