LIVINGSTON, NJ - The Sanskriti of New Jersey, a non-profit association serving the Asian-Indian community of Essex County and neighboring towns, hosted its annual India Fest on Sunday on the grounds of the West Essex YMCA in Livingston.

“This was a great event that provided a fun environment for both of my sons (ages 7 and 3) to gain knowledge and to learn about heritage and values in Indian culture,” said Maggie Pan. “Through this event, my sons learned to appreciate the richness and diversity of foreign cultures. They also met their friends from elementary school and preschool at the event, and had a great time.”

“This Sunday, JEI Livingston Learning Center attended India Festival,” said Julia Guo, director of JEI. “Despite the heat, the festival was packed with families and children of all ages excited to learn more about India and Indian culture. With dance performances and food tastings, traditional clothing and language booths, the festival offered everyone a different window into India. Dancers amazed their audience with their incredible choreography and wonderful costumes.”

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Guo said she loved meeting all of the parents at her booth, as well as learning more about Livingston's Indian community. 

The event offered a host of cultural activities including the annual kids' talent and fashion show, which depicted different regions of India, and was primarily and performed by Sanskriti students showcasing the clothing and music of their family’s heritage. There were also many on-stage cultural performances, handcraft vendors and food vendors featuring popular dishes from north and south India. Other vendors sold traditional Indian clothing, Indian jewelry and Indian artifacts. Henna artists and prizes were handed out to participants throughout the day.

The Sanskriti Executive Committee described the annual event as a wonderful opportunity to showcase Indian culture and heritage to Livingston’s youth as well as the broader community.  

“Our goal is to really promote Indian culture not just within the Indian community that’s in the area but also the extended community,” Executive Committee Member and Event Facilitator Sonal Gadhia Batra said. “It’s a fun, free, family event and we just want to expose people to the beauty of Indian culture and bring us all together as a community.”

What the Sanskriti Executive Committee put together for India Fest 2015 is known in India as a “Mela,” translated in Sanskrit as “a fair” or “gathering,” which traditionally features theme- or culture-based eateries, entertainment activities, shops and games. The India Fest, or “Mela,” in Livingston showcased the Indian culture and heritage through cultural song, dance and instrumental performances and a fashion show representing the different types of clothing often worn in India. Participants also won prizes.

“We live in a very diverse community, and so I think it’s wonderful for parents to expose their children to all of the different cultures that encompass the makeup of Livingston and the surrounding areas’ residents,” Batra said. “Learning about Indian culture and heritage, some of the history and what some of the culture actually looks like I think is important for us to be able to really live harmoniously together as a community.”

“The Sanskriti Indian festival is just another example of the great activities of different cultural diversity that defines Livingston,” said Livingston Mayor Michael Silverman. “So many people have an opportunity to come and experience different traditions all while having a good time and enjoying each other. It’s a pleasure to participate and I thank the Sanskriti Organization for putting on this festival every single year. I know that everyone in Livingston enjoys it.”

All photos taken by Maggie Pan.