The Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) paid homage to India on its 77th Independence Day by hoisting the tricolor at the iconic Times Square. The event was made more special by the unveiling of a striking 1,800 kg ‘Chakra’ sculpture, a remarkable replica of Odisha’s Konark wheel. The artefact, weighing approximately 4000 pounds, is a replica of the wheel that adorns the famous Konark Temple in Odisha that is dedicated to Surya or the Sun God.
Celebrity chef Vikas Khanna unveiled the famous Konark Sun Temple wheel. He was joined by Randhir Jaiswal, the Consulate General of India in New York, Indo-American Arts Council and Indian-Americans who turned up in huge numbers to witness the flag hoisting ceremony on Tuesday, August 15th. Several artists from Odisha’s Lalitagitri village have worked for months on the handcrafted replication, which is made of sandstone and weighs approximately 4,000 pounds.
The ceremony was led by the Consul General of India in New York, Randhir Jaiswal, and was accompanied by resounding chants of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai,’ ‘Vande Matram,’ and ‘Jai Hind,’ as participants proudly waved both Indian and American flags. Ustad Maestro Ahmad Ali Khan was the guest of honor at the event and celebrity chef Vikas Khanna was also present.
FIA chairman, Ankur Vaidya, and FIA president, Kenny Desai, along with the Board of Trustees, Srujal Parekh and Alok Kumar, and the FIA team as a whole, played crucial roles in organizing the celebration. The entire team of FIA, led by its legendary member Padma Shri Dr. HR Shah, Chairman of TV Asia, and other Community leaders came together to extend heartfelt wishes to the vibrant community on the occasion of India’s 77th Independence Day.
“This commemoration is not merely an observance of history; it is a celebration of our shared future,” remarked President Desai. “The unveiling of the ‘Chakra’ sculpture serves as a reminder that just as the Konark wheel has endured the test of time, so too shall the enduring friendship between India and the United States.” FIA also commemorated occassion by lighting up the Empire State Building in the Indian Tricolor.
“While I have been dreaming and conceptualising about this moment for almost five years, the brilliant artists at work in India have toiled day and night for many, many months to make this come alive! This will be a magical moment!,” Khanna had tweeted earlier.
The art replica will also be displayed as a symbol of unity between the Indian diaspora and America in Khanna’s upcoming New York City restaurant in 2024. Khanna had said that he was inspired by the sand Konark wheel sculpted by Odisha’s renowned sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik.
Responding to a video of the unveiling, Pattnaik wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “You have created history by unveiling the replica of world heritage monument Konark wheel in Timee Square on the occasion of Indian Independence Day. This is a proud moment for all of us. Thank you again for contributions in promoting Indian art and culture.”
It took 12 years and 12,000 artisans to build the 13th century Konark Sun Temple, a monumental representation of the chariot of the sun god, which is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. The 24 wheels of the chariot are decorated with symbolic designs and led by seven horses symbolising time.
Speaking on the occasion, Randhir Jaiswal said, “The Chakra or wheel stands as a shining symbol of India’s heritage, thought and timeless wisdom. Through the display of Chakra at Times Square, we not only celebrate the rich culture of India but also the enduring friendship that binds our two nations – United States and India. This sculpture, a faithful replica of one of the twenty fours Chakras that adorn the Konark Temple dedicated to Surya or the Sun God, carries with it the essence of India’s history, resilience, and unity.”
The Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), in collaboration with The Consulate General of India in New York and The City of New York, held the Inauguration Ceremony of The Indian Independence Exhibition, featuring the Chakra Sculpture.
Menwhile at Bowling Green Arena NYC Mayor Eric Adams, Indian American Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, NYC Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi, Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan and the Consulate General of India in New York Randhir Jaiswal participated in the Indian flag hoisting ceremony.
Describing NYC as the New Delhi of America, the Mayor praised the Indian American community, stating, “I am so proud to have so many representatives of our Indian community serving in my administration.”
New York State Governor Kathleen Hochul also extended her wishes to India and the Indian community in the state on Indian Independence Day. She acknowledged the Indian community’s contribution in diverse roles from educationist to entrepreneur.
She said, “From Buffalo to Queens, nearly 400,000 Indian Americans call New York home and their countless contributions are woven into the fabric of our state!” In a video message, she praised Indian American contribution “We are so better off because of Indian immigrants, who chose to come here in search of the opportunities.”