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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

10th Annual Taste of India Festival Hosted April 23 at Ted Constant Center

By Brendan O'Hallarn

President John R. Broderick will join thousands of attendees at the 10th annual Taste of India festival on Saturday, April 23 at Old Dominion University's Ted Constant Convocation Center.

The annual festival showcases the diversity and pageantry of Indian culture with food, vendors and a Bhangra dance competition that has grown to include nine college teams from across the Eastern United States. 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. He takes special pride in the growth of the festival every year.

"I have been in this country since 1971," Agarwal said. "My brain says I'm American. My heart says I am Indian. So this event is very meaningful, because it showcases what India is all about."

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 "History of India." The festival will showcase the history of leaders who have fought bravely for India, one of the world's oldest and most diverse cultures. The interactive production "Bravehearts of India" will be held at 2 p.m.

Civilization flourished in what is now India's Indus Valley from 3200-1300 BC. Following this era, rulers such as Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka brought the entire country under one rule. Under the rule of the Gupta dynasty in the 3rd and 4th century, there was a religious and intellectual resurgence known as the Golden Age of India. Muslim rule started in northern India in the 13th century.

The empire suffered a gradual decline in the 18th century when rulers from Maratha, Sikh, and Mughal kingdoms became more powerful. From the late 18th century to the mid-19th century, vast areas of India were annexed by the British East India Company. The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was followed by a nationwide struggle for Independence in the early 20th century that culminated with autonomy from the United Kingdom in 1947.

Cultural programming will run throughout the day at Taste of India, culminating with the Bhangra dance competition, which begins at 3 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 practices 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.

Other sponsors of Taste of India include TowneBank, Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, Sentara, SunTrust and the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce.

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

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