Sounds of “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”, “Vandemataram” and “Jai Ho,” reverberated through midtown Manhattan as tens of thousands lined up to attend the 35th annual India Day Parade on Sunday, August 16th as the colors of the Indian flag washed over Madison Avenue to mark India’s 69th Independence Day. Organized annually by the FIA-tristate, the parade aims to highlight the progress, contributions and achievements of India and the Indian-American community here. The parade was broadcast in over 40 countries and reached over three million Asian-Indians in America.
Billed as the biggest Indian parade outside India to celebrate India’s Freedom, the event kicked off with a Scottish-style bagpipe band in kilts, flying an Indian flag. The India Day Parade took place along a 13-block stretch of Madison Avenue in the heart of Manhattan. Thousands of Indian Americans, Bollywood celebrities, Cricket stars, and Indian politicians participated in the spectacular 35th annual India Day Parade in New York, in addition to celebrations around the country.
Bollywood star Arjun Rampal was the Grand Marshal at the parade while Parineeti Chopra was the guest of honor at the event attended by Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, India’s Consul General Dnyaneshwar Mulay and former union minister Shashi Tharoor, among others. Indian cricketer Virender Sehwag was the guest star cricketer in the parade. Music composer Shankar Mahadevan, TV actors Aamir Ali and Sanjeeda Sheikh and Indian-origin American singer Jeffrey Iqbal were also seen in the parade.
The parade ran through 20 streets in Madison Avenue and featured tableaux by various Indian-American organisations, marching bands, police contingents and cultural performances by young children. The New York Police Department (NYPD) Band and the India Temple organisation’s band played the national anthems of India and the US. The kilted band goes back to an Indian spiritual leader who visited London in 1970 and admired the Scottish tradition. He formed the first such group with Indian businessmen in Kenya. The band Sunday was from Secaucus, New Jersey.
In his brief remarks, Khattar, accompanied by consul general Mulay, congratulated the huge gathering of Indians and lauded the achievements of the diaspora. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar became the first Chief Minister from any Indian state to participate in the annual India Independence Day parade in New York ever since its inception.
“Indians have the perfect balance between modern and traditional and have great cultural values,” said Parineeti. Chopra, 26, also rang the opening Bell at Nasdaq apart from other key event appearances. “I believe India’s story should be celebrated everywhere, and the journey of NRI citizenry is nothing short of incredible. The most successful community of expatriates anywhere, I treasure this opportunity to celebrate our independence in such a festive manner in New York,” she said in a statement.
Sehwag expressed his elation and honor by saying that it was a “great privilege and honor” for him to celebrate the Independence Day with companions form his country in a foreign land. As many people from countries of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are well settled in United States, Sehwag hopes that people will come across and form a US cricket team. “I hope in the coming years there will be a US cricket team that plays international cricket soon,” Sehwag said.
The parade ended in a colorful Indian fair which featured cuisine from India, and stalls showcasing Indian handicrafts and textiles. The parade has been organized here since 1981 by the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA). The FIA of the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut is one of the largest umbrella organisations in the Indian community and represents over 500,000 Indians.
“This year’s parade saw unprecedented crowds, and was a huge success,” FIA President Ankur Vaidya told the media. More than 40 floats and 25 walking groups and bands participated in the the parade, held between 38th and 23rd streets on Madison Avenue. Waving the Indian tricolor, spectators cheered as floats, marching groups and passed by; as onlookers danced to popular Bollywood songs, while some took photos of the floats and the celebrities that graced it.
A gala ceremony replete with patriotic fervor, marked by cultural events, songs and speeches, tributes to the martyrs and the contribution made by the Indian-American community were major highlights of the parade that started at the 38th Street and Madison Avenue. The parade was a phenomenal exhibition of India’s culture outside India. Indian community members also joined flag hoisting ceremonies at the Indian mission at the U.N. and Indian Consulates in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston and Atlanta.