Festival celebrates faiths, cultures that enrich Central Indiana
A Prayerful Reflection: Kanwal Prakash Singh
The Third Annual Indy Festival of Faiths, organized by the Center for Interfaith Cooperation and sponsored by many friends and benefactors, was a colorful and spirited celebration of faiths, cultures, and communities that enrich the spirit of central Indiana today. The Veterans Memorial Plaza was the scene of over 100 exhibits of faith, cultural groups, interesting faith-culture-related commerce (Punjabi dresses, Hijabs, Buddhist prayer beads, and other items). Beautiful sacred arts performances and enactments of Pagan, Jewish, and Sikh wedding traditions took place during the afternoon. There were magnificent national and festive costumes everywhere. Indianapolis seemed like a City with a big heart and a bigger spirit. Representatives of the Mayor, Jane Gehlhausen, who also served as the Chair of Indy Festival of Faiths; Diego Morales, Special Advisor to Indiana Governor Mike Pence; U.S. Congressman Andre Carson, faith leaders, other dignitaries; and thousands of citizens attended the festivities and the youth dialogues.
A PILGRIMAGE OF LEARNING AT CULTURAL CROSSROADS
Indy Festival of Faiths was a wonderful opportunity to learn about faiths, cultures, and communities that make up the spiritual and cultural tapestry of Indiana. People enjoyed the colorful displays, participated in spirited youth discussions with distinguished moderators or quiet meditation, saw special sacred arts performances and ceremonies that offered distinct and shared precepts and colorful rituals that define diverse faiths.
The 2015 Festival theme of “Weddings in Faith Traditions” was a colorful pageantry of fun, festivity, special experiences, and a major attraction. It was an amazing opportunity for class projects, social media postings, hands-on experiences to share one’s spirit and to learn about faiths different from one’s own; meet people from other lands and make new friends; and celebrate the culturally-rich place and destination that is central Indiana today.
SIKH PARTICIPATION AND PAGEANTRY AT FESTIVAL OF FAITHS
Sikh community members participated in the Faith Processional; Maninder Walia offered a prayer at the Opening Ceremonies; Danish-Punjabi singer-songwriter Anita Lerche offered an amazing rendition of “Amazing Grace” with the Gospel Choir and gave a robust performance of Punjabi songs and Bhangra dancing. The Sikh booth and ceremonies were organized by Maninder Walia, Baljit and Chirjeev Oberoi, Kulbir and Pinka Singh, Sukhwinder and Navjot Mehta, Amandeep Sidhu, Giani Pritam Singh, Raagi Joginder Singh Jatha, and KP Singh with generous support from the Sikh community in central Indiana.
SIKH WEDDING CEREMONY
The meeting and greeting (Milni) of wedding parties at the Sikh wedding presentation was a joyful, multi-faith, and multicultural affair. A colorful Baraat (wedding procession) with the Groom, Sukhwinder Mehta, on a beautifully decorated horse led by drums and Bhangra dancers, friends and members of the Sikh community, and resounding Jakaras (Sikh joyful traditional proclamations of “Bolay So Nihaal, Sut Siri Akal” to meet his bride, Navjot Kaur. At the designated gathering place in the Veterans Memorial Plaza, Raagi Joginder Singh offered the welcome Hymn: “Hum Ghar Sajan Aayae: Good friends have come to our home …” followed by Ardaas (Prayerful Petition) for the success of the endeavor by Giani Pritam Singh, the spiritual leader of the Sikh Satsang; Milni with friends from the family of faith to symbolize unity and oneness of humanity and to give meaning to the spirit of the Festival and mission of Center for Interfaith Cooperation.
VISION AND SPIRIT OF INTERFAITH AND MULTICULTURAL MILNI
The focus of the Milni was to break barriers, build bridges of friendship, create a sense of community, and foster unifying humanitarian spirit. It was also a recognition that so many marriages in the West are taking place across traditional faith thresholds. The festive enactment was an introduction to the “Welcome ceremony” of the Sikh wedding tradition. Beautifully prepared flyers provided the details of the full ceremony inside the Gurdwara Sanctuary and basic tenets and highlights of the Sikh faith. As a part of the Milni, garlands and gifts were exchanged. A spirit of joy, friendship, and spiritual excitement about the enactment and was part of the experience.
Indy Festival of Faiths is an attempt to introduce and reaffirm everyone’s sacred rights to practice their faith with dignity, dispel unfounded stereotyping, and create bridges as the community moves toward more friendly crossroads; develop an appreciative attitude toward one another and respect for traditions and faith values that anchor and govern the lives of people. All the while, making sure that this remains a peaceful exercise, a civic responsibility and assurance, and does not infringe on one’s sacred and inalienable rights to “Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness.”
HUMANITARIAN SPIRIT THROUGH INTERFAITH
The word about the Indy Festival of Faiths as a positive faith-based initiative, colorful and family-friendly celebration is traveling from the crossroads of America and rippling across the Heartland of America to places and cultures continents away. In time, we can imagine people coming to Indiana to attend and participate in culturally-creative and promising happenings that celebrate another facets of Indiana life and spirit: faiths, cultures, and rich heritage.
Faiths are another dimension of our diversity; Faiths have immeasurably served humanity since the beginning of time and life. Interfaith is an emerging frontier that represents our collective much untapped potential, our shared strengths to serve and uplift others as we celebrate our cherished commandments in faith and acknowledge our shared humanity and divinely-mandate right individual and collective dignity.
FAITH EVENTS ENLARGE UNDERSTANDING
There is so much to explore right here in Indiana: at the National Geographic Sacred Journeys Exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis that opened on August 29th; Indy’s Festival of Faiths at Veterans Memorial Plaza, Downtown, Indianapolis on August 30th; on WFYI Channel 20 “Sacred Journeys” series; at interfaith events and places of worship of faith traditions that enrich the spiritual and cultural landscape of our state and nation. The colorful and exciting opening of the beautiful and enlightening National Geographic Sacred Journeys Exhibit at the Children’s Museum (https://www.childrensmuseum.org/sacred-journeys) provides an opportunity for Hoosiers and visitors to learn about cherished pilgrimages of spirit. These family-friendly celebrations, and thousands of other events and initiatives symbolize another dimension of the growing spiritual and cultural landscape in Indiana and across the nation.
Learning about our many faiths and cultures can lead to understanding, and understanding can lead to our connecting in various ways and at multiple levels. When we interface in faith, with respect and trust, and a shared humanitarian spirit, then our perceptions of being strangers are diminished, if not completely shattered. Together, we see and can create greater goodwill for causes that need our collective gifts and common prayers.
Faiths are an important dimension of our diversity; Faiths have immeasurably served humanity since the beginning of time and life. Interfaith is an emerging frontier that represents our collective much untapped potential, our shared strengths to serve and uplift others as we celebrate our cherished commandments in faith and acknowledge our shared humanity and divinely-mandate right individual and collective dignity.
FAITHS AND CULTURES AT NEW CROSSROADS
These celebrations offer a glimpse into humanity’s amazing and sacred spiritual heritage and many diverse and fascinating traditions. Surprisingly, when we study, we discover they reveal many shared values and common spiritual threads that seem to converge at the One Source of all spiritual knowledge and wisdom. Learning about other faiths is enriching our understanding of our own spirituality, our common humanity, and creating new crossroads to peace and harmony, goodwill and friendship, cultural bridges and common causes across new frontiers of possibilities and blessings.
Indianapolis, Indiana USA <> www.KPSinghDesigns.com <> September 8, 2015