Monica Devaraju performs a Bharathanatyam dance at Ananda Mela on Sunday.

Monica Devaraju performs a Bharathanatyam dance at Ananda Mela on Sunday.

Festival brings Indian music, dancing, martial arts to Redmond

As music blasted from the steps of Redmond City Hall, dancers moved to the beat, martial artists swashed swords through the air, women wrapped each other in sarees and a priest read the palms of hundreds of people, curious about their future. Ananda Mela, the Joyful Festival of India, lived up to its name.

As music blasted from the steps of Redmond City Hall, dancers moved to the beat, martial artists swashed swords through the air, women wrapped each other in sarees and a priest read the palms of hundreds of people, curious about their future.

Ananda Mela, the Joyful Festival of India, lived up to its name.

For the second year in row, Sammamish-based Vedic Cultural Center, an organization dedicated to sharing Indian traditions, hosted the event which attracted around 15,000 people from Friday to Sunday.

“We wanted to draw people with big-name celebrity artists who can provide family entertainment and values, and in turn they can learn a little about life and values,” said Nanda Suta Das, director of Vedic Cultural Center.

Artists such as Delhi 2 Dublin, a Celtic and Punjabi fusion band, as well as folk group Rhythms of Rajasthan performed during the evenings.

On Sunday, Seattle-based Apna Bhangra Crew taught the audience dance moves originating in Punjab, a region in northern India.

“The farmers would celebrate the end of the season,” instructor and team captain Ranvir Sahota said about the origin of bhangra dance. “They would get out and start dancing to the large drums that you see on the stage – the dhol.”

Martial artists from Kalgidhar Gatka Dal, a school in Renton, also brought Punjab culture to the festival. They used swords, shields and sticks to demonstrate gatka, a weapons-based martial art that originated around 1600.

“We don’t want to attack first,” gatka martial artist Rajvir Singh said. “We do defense first, take the attack, then attack after.”

Festival-goers also enjoyed a variety of dances from across India on Saturday and Sunday. About half the dances were performed in the Bharathanatyam style by women and children dressed in bright colors with painted red designs on their hands meant to accentuate symbolic gestures of objects such as flowers and birds.

“There are a lot of hand, feet and body movements, as well as expressions,” Bharathanatyam dancer Raji Krishnan said. “We have to do the entire dance in araimandi, which is a half-sitting position.”

Redmond resident Ravi Mallikarjuniah said he enjoyed the shows and Indian cuisine.

“It’s just like a typical Indian festival, and it’s fantastic that everyone that works here is a volunteer,” he said.

Despite a little rain Sunday afternoon, Suta Das called the event an improvement from last year’s extravaganza and said Vedic plans to make the festival an annual event.

Amy R. Sisk, a sophomore at the University of Montana, is a summer intern for the Redmond Reporter.


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