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Columbus resident Mandar Deo loves sharing elements of his Indian culture and Hindu faith. Come Sunday, he expects to be doing that with maybe 800 other people at The Commons.
The ninth annual Ganesh Festival: Omkar 2013 opens at 10 a.m. and runs through Sept. 15. Except for some of the food, the gathering is free.
Hindus celebrate the presence of Lord Ganesh, the god of wisdom and prudence, during the event, which includes traditional Indian cultural activities such as singing and dancing. Omkar is another name for Ganesh.
“We, of course, would like to see this get bigger and bigger,” said Deo, director of the event, which began as a small gathering at City Hall in 2005. “And we’d certainly like to see more Columbus natives and other residents come.”
The event will include cooking competitions, art contests and other activities. It will conclude with a procession at Mill Race Park.
Deo, who is a manager at Cummins Inc., comes from a family of preachers and attended a traditional Vedic school to learn basic Hindu scripts and rituals. Ganesh festivals began in the 1890s, when India was a British colony. While England squelched political expression, it allowed Hindus to celebrate their religious beliefs openly, and they used those gatherings to unite people from various backgrounds and beliefs.
As Hindus migrated, they brought their celebration with them. The 1,000-member Hindu Society of Southern Indiana is a part of the local gathering.
Deo said that, as the gathering has grown, so has others’ knowledge of his culture and beliefs. He said that translates to understanding and a more welcoming community. That’s important since companies such as Cummins and influential local agencies such as the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, have worked especially in recent years to make the area more welcoming to all groups.
“One thing we eventually would like to be able to measure is the impact,” Deo said.
One of the highlights of Sunday’s kickoff is a children’s cultural program of music and dancing from 5 to 6:30 p.m.
“Even for those who are not religious, I think it’s still interesting to a general audience,” said Mohar Gosavi, the event’s publicity coordinator.
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