Eden Prairie’s Indian Independence Day Celebration

Indian immigrants celebrate Indian Independence Day in Eden Prairie.
Children wearing traditional attire demonstrate classical Indian dance forms at the 2012 India Fest in St. Paul.

It’s often said that distance brings people closer. And it is this thought that imbues a feeling of fraternity within the immigrants who gather annually to celebrate Indian Independence Day, which is August 15. This occasion is a harbinger of the colorful heritage and traditions that tag along with all Indian festivals. Every August, Indian Independence Day is celebrated with events in Eden Prairie and St. Paul, providing an opportunity to bond and a reminder of their roots for some people. In a city like Eden Prairie, where diversity has been welcomed with open arms, this immigrant community feels at home to share their joy with the residents. That is one of the reasons, for several years now, several local groups have organized events associated with the Indian Independence Day in and around Eden Prairie. One such group that has been around for almost 6 years is the Fountain Place Desi Group—the term ‘Desi’ is a vernacular Hindi word for ‘native.’ What started as a group for people to find common ground with others of the same ethnicity has transformed into a venture that celebrates the merging of two cultures. This group has attempted to ‘create a home away from home,’ as its motto says loud and clear, but its members have also absorbed the cultural nuances of this locale, which many have come to call home. There are also other local groups, like TCS-Maitree, that aim to do the same: teach children about their heritage, and give adults an opportunity to reminisce over their common past. As part of the events organized to celebrate Indian Independence Day, there are various activities, something for everybody. Ethnic art competitions, fun quiz contests on the rich history of India, using the national symbols for face painting, are all events designed for children. The events generally last for two weeks, culminating in a cultural extravaganza to mark the day. A scavenger event, with clues found in stores are Eden Prairie, is usually organized for the second Saturday of August. The event changes each year, and one recent addition is an opportunity to volunteer at Feed My Starving Children in Chanhassen. Sporting tournaments for volleyball, soccer, chess, ping pong and badminton mark each day of the two-week celebration. It is a perfect mix of innate sports, like Cricket and Carrom, and the more acquired ones of Pool and Foosball. What makes this event so interesting is the fact that there is this ‘best of both worlds’ feeling behind it. Traditionally barbecues are not very common in India and neither is bowling, but observing Americans celebrate their day of pride with jubilating things like barbeques, fairs and musical performances has prompted the Indians to borrow a page in celebration from the Americans. Given this intermingling of cultures, it is heartwarming to see a lot of Americans participate in the festivities and enjoy the cultural events. The “India Fest” celebrations at the Capitol every year have been host to a number of people who simply want to get a taste of the Indian culture or to know a little something about their spouse’s heritage. This year India Fest, organized by the India Association of Minnesota, is scheduled for August 10. There are fashion shows, dance and song performances to keep the crowds entertained. In the past, there have been kite flying contests too. “This day-long event has vendors from Minnesota and Chicago, with jewelry, traditional attires in bright fabrics and indigenous foods: everything that is Indian is here,” says Babu Chimata, an Eden Prairie resident and the secretary of the association. It is not often that people get to feel at home in a foreign country, but the citizens of Eden Prairie have unknowingly contributed a lot for ethnic groups to be able to enjoy their traditions. “We feel blessed to be living in Eden Prairie,” says Rashmi Sinha, an Eden Prairie resident. “Not only do we have a huge group from our native country, but we have citizens who are so appreciative of other cultures.”