Festival of India set to spice up Central Saanich

Cultural and Arts Festival set for weekend in August

For one weekend in August, a little slice of India will once again make an appearance in Central Saanich.

Taking place Aug. 22 and 23, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., the annual Cultural and Arts Festival of India began in 2007 and has been growing each year.

Started by three members, Suresh Basrur, Chaman Singla and his wife Chanchal Singla, the idea came about as a way to bring communities together to learn about Indian culture in Greater Victoria.

After the final Victoria Folk Fest was held in 2006, Basrur said discussions began about continuing to showcase different components of Indian culture at an annual event at the Victoria Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre in Central Saanich.

This year, the theme is fairs, festivals and food. Anyone can visit the temple to enjoy various aspects of Indian culture, including the popular henna designs (also known as mehndi), palm reading and short performances every hour, on the hour.

“There are many talented people in our community who can perform dances, can sing, do music, all kinds of things and there are others who can cook and prepare food,” Basrur said.

As you enter the temple, you’ll be greeted by a small welcoming ceremony, (part of the Indian tradition) which involves putting a dot of coloured paste — known as Bindi — on the forehead for women. Greeters also hand out a few flower petals and sprinkle rose water on the guests.

The event is free to visitors, with some activities charging by donation. Money raised will help fund plans to build a new and larger temple that’s closer to the larger population base in Victoria.

The whole idea of the event is “to have (people) see our culture and experience it,”  Basrur said.

Along with the presentations, there will be Indian clothing for sale along with many types of Indian cuisine.

There will also be an opportunity for patrons to take a tour of the temple as part of the festival to see how Hindus worship, what their rituals are and what their altar looks like.

A large part of the event is audience participation, which the performers encourage at the end of each performance. This can involve women coming up on stage to learn how to wear a sari, and men learning how to wear a turban.

“Participation usually makes it so much more interesting for the visitors. We always have some activities where they are actually participating with the help of our volunteers and they’ll remember that,” Basrur said. “They’ll go home and tell their friends ‘oh we had a great time here because we did this.’ ”