Hindu Temple Fest
This past Saturday I was able to attend Temple Fest, at the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana. I did not realize that the Hindu community in Indianapolis was so large; there are almost 10,000 Hindus around here! It was an exciting experience, and the closest to another culture I have been able to get without traveling. It also included lots of Hindu dancing, which was a wonderful thing to experience.
The atmosphere of Temple Fest was somewhat like walking into India for a brief bit; there were multitudes of people gathered in a tent, milling around different attractions, and I was definitely in the minority as a non-Indian person. This was a very interesting experience, since it happens so rarely in this country as a Caucasian person. The environment of the festival was wonderful; the energy was high and the feel was festive. Everybody was gathering around food tables, the stage where the dancing was, or chatting in smaller groups. There were people of all ages enjoying the festivities, from tiny babies in colorful, elaborate Indian costumes to older people. It was a lovely event to be a part of.
The food and culture was amazing. I partook in eating some Indian food; although the food was unfamiliar and quite spicy, it was delicious, and very eye opening to experience cuisine that was different even from the more American versions of Indian food we usually get in this country. I was also able to experience walking around inside the actual temple, which is still a work in progress but already very large and beautiful. It was amazing to be integrated so fully into another culture and religion for the day.
The highlight for me, of course, was the dancing I was able to watch. There were several different groups of classical Hindu dancers, of all ages. Each group had intricate, colorful, and sparkling costumes, which really complimented the dances they performed. Most of the groups performed classical Hindu dance, which was completely different from other kinds of dance I have seen. It was intricate and involved several symbolic movements that showed the religious influence. There was also a bit of Bollywood dancing, which is a sort of popular dance in India. It combines classical Hindu dance forms, belly dancing, Indian folk dancing, and even Western styles of dance; it is very popular in movies from India. It is important to understand the distinction between the religiously influenced classical Hindu dance and the more secular form of Bollywood. It was nice to see examples of both within the same festival to illustrate this difference.
It was also great to see how friendly the Hindu people were. While I was eating, a nice gentleman started up a conversation. After explaining who I was and describing my project, he ended up introducing me to the Hindu dance teacher at the temple. This was exciting, and gaining such a wonderful contact was an unexpected bonus. It felt so personal, and it was wonderful to meet new and interesting people. I talked to the dance teacher, and she was extremely friendly and immediately enthusiastic about my project. I really hope she can be involved in one of my events!
Overall, attending Hindu Temple Fest was a wonderful experience that I would definitely recommend to others. Even if you are not Indian or Hindu, the community as a whole is so accepting, friendly, and excited to share their culture with others. It is amazing what wonderful events I discover when I look for them! Indianapolis has many vibrant cultures to explore, and Temple Fest was a way to experience the Hindu culture.
Below, I have included pictures of one of the groups of dancers I saw perform. Also, there is a link to the Hindu Temple of Central Indiana. Stay tuned for more information about my first dance and religion event!