BEAVERCREEK — All are invited to Grand Mela: A Festival of India 12-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18 at Om Shanti Cultural Center, Hindu Temple of Dayton, 2615 Temple Lane for food, music, dancing and more.
“The Indian community came to Dayton in the 1960s, starting with 100 families,” Gaurang Desai, Mela volunteer, said. “It’s time we raise more awareness about the culture we have here.”
The Hindu Temple, located in Beavercreek, was built in 1985 — the first Hindu temple in Ohio and the only one within a 350 mile radius at the time. Today, the community in the greater Dayton area includes more than 3,000 families.
Hosted by Hindu Community Organization (HCO) and Umang Gujarati Association (UGA), the festival began five years ago, inviting all community members to experience Indian culture. It always falls around the same time as India’s Independence Day, Aug. 15.
Admission is free.
The event boasts perhaps its largest attraction — authentic Indian food.
Local families will cook food — found in 18 booths outside on the temple’s grounds — to represent India’s diverse nature.
“There is so much diversity in India … Food in the North is different from food in the South, East, West,” Kalpesh Patel, Vice President of UGA said.
Visitors might see samosas, rice pancakes, pani poore and more. Tradition will be upheld, with only vegetarian items and no alcohol.
Beyond food, festival-goers can also enjoy Bollywood music, local singers, group dances like Garba and Bhangra, Henna tattoos, facepainting and a bouncy house for kids.
“The word ‘mela’ basically means connecting with people, bringing people together,” said Pratibha Phadke, Mela volunteer.
Along with Phadke, event organizers agreed that the festival represents a blending of cultures and communities.
The temple will also be open for festival-goers. It is also open to visitors during its normal hours, 9 a.m. to noon and 5-8 p.m. every day (5-9 p.m. during summer). A service is held at 11 a.m. every Sunday.
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498 or follow @annadbolton on Facebook.