NEW YORK: A sea of humanity converged on the streets of Manhattan as Indian Americans celebrated in unison the 37th annual India Day parade hosted by the Federation of Indian Associations on Madison Avenue in New York.
A warm, sunny day set the mood for the Aug 20 parade, celebrating India’s 71st Independence Day in the company of celebrities, politicians and top citizens. India.com was the parade’s title sponsor.
Rana Daggubati, star of the recent massive Bollywood hit “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion,” was the grand marshal at the parade, while General Dalbir Singh Suhag, retired chief of Indian Armed Forces and the beautiful Tamannaah Bhatia, who starred with Rana Daggubati in “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion,” were the parade’s chief guests.
Guests of Honor included, Prof. Anand Kumar, a noted Indian mathematician; Capts. Kshamta Bajpai, Sunita Narula, Indira Singh and Gunjan Agarwal, along with the entire cabin crew of the Air India flight, which went down in aviation history books as the first and longest non-stop flight between Delhi and San Francisco (9,500 miles) piloted, serviced, managed and guided by an all-women crew; and Ajit Mody, chairman of NY-based Rajbhog Foods. L V Revanth, winner of Indian Idol Season 9 and Khuda Baksh, top 3 finalist in Indian Idol Season 9, were also honored.
This year’s India Day Parade began around noon on 38th street and Madison Avenue, ending at 26th street. Food court and sponsor booths were set up on 26th street, between Park and Madison Avenues while the cultural programs continued through 6 pm on Madison Avenue, between 24th and 26th streets.
Daggubati, who was dressed in a traditional attire, drew the crowd with his signature dance moves on the viewing stage. After the parade frontline started moving aroundnoon, 25 colorful floats, several of them representing Indian states and culture, and about 26 groups marched between floats.
Waving the Indian tri-color and marching to the chants of Vande Mataram across the streets of Manhattan, the marchers displayed a brand of patriotism that projected strong ties between the United States and India. “God Bless India” and “God Bless America” were the constant refrain of the crowd at the parade.
The parade, showcasing Indian cultural heritage and fast expanding economy, also fascinated dozens of tourists from several nations visiting New York.
Considered the largest parade outside India celebrating Indian independence, the crowd attendance was estimated at 200,000 people. Curious onlookers, many of them Americans, lined up on the streets along the parade route, snapping photographs of colorful floats and the jamboree that followed.
The Indian contingent comprised guests from India, stars from Bollywood, besides hundreds of community leaders led by FIA chairman Ramesh Patel and president Andy Bhatia and other FIA officials.
The Air India all-women crew honored at the parade to showcase the women empowerment theme, included 16 members, who were part of the non-stop flight from Delhi to San Francisco, traveling over the Pacific Ocean and returning via the Atlantic Ocean, completing around trip of the world with 250 passengers on-board the Boeing 777-200LR aircraft.
Several thousand people participated in the food mela and cultural event hosted near Madison Square Park after the parade.
Private groups, ranging from companies to spiritual organizations, sponsored the 25 floats and 26 groups participating in the parade. While disseminating their own messages, they also played patriotic songs as well as popular movie songs.
Among the parade’s sponsors were, India.com, Air India, HAKS Group, Dunkin Donuts, Daily News, State Bank of India, NY, TV Asia, Parikh Media, Royal Albert’s Palace, Fazlani Foods, Dr Raj Bhayani, Empire State Building, Cox and Kings, Times Now, Zee TV and Sony TV.
The FIA of NY-NJ-CT was formed in 1970 and is among the largest umbrella organization representing over 500,000 Indian Americans in the tristate region. The centerpiece of its efforts culminates in the India Day Parade in New York each year.