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12th Annual Taste of India to Bring Indian Culture and Cuisine to Hampton Roads

The 12th annual Taste of India festival, at Old Dominion University's Ted Constant Convocation Center, will bring the culture and cuisine of India to Hampton Roads on April 21.

The annual festival showcases the diversity and pageantry of Indian culture with food, vendors and an Indian fusion and Bhangra dance competition that has grown to include nine college teams from across the eastern U.S. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission and parking is free.

Old Dominion has been a sponsor of Taste of India since its inception. Vinod Agarwal, professor of economics and director of the University's Economic Forecasting Project, is one of the event organizers.

"I have been in this country since 1971," Agarwal said. "I'm American, but my heart says I am Indian. So, this event is very meaningful."

Taste of India is one of the largest Asian Indian Festivals in Virginia attracting a crowd of 7,000 to 10,000 every year. The most popular single-day cultural event organized by a single ethnic group in the region, Taste of India is a collaborative effort among hundreds of Indians living in Hampton Roads.

The theme of this year's event is "'Navarrese' Nine Expressions of Life." The festival will showcase the dance drama featuring music and dances which evoke the nine rasas, or emotions - love, joy, compassion, anger, bravery, fear, disgust, wonder and peace. They are the backbone of Indian aesthetics ever since they were codified in the Natyashastra written sometime between 220 BC and 300CE and formed the foundation from which the traditions of dance, music, theatre, art and literature evolved.

Cultural programming will run throughout the day at Taste of India, culminating with the dance competition, which begins at 2:30 p.m. The annual contest, which awards a $1,000 prize to the winning team, grew from demonstrations of traditional Indian dance.

Bhangra originates from the Indian state of Punjab, begun as a season dance practice in the month leading up to the spring harvest festival of Viasakhi. As its popularity has spread worldwide, it has evolved to include Western rock and hip-hop music, as well as traditional Indian folk songs.

Educational activities will also be conducted throughout the day, and a $5,000 Taste of India scholarship will be awarded to a graduating high school senior from a Hampton Roads school. The scholarship winner will be selected by judges from The Virginian-Pilot.

For more information about the event, see the Taste of India website.

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