Thousands of people from the Indian diaspora converged in the heart of New York, in their traditional finery, to celebrate India’s 71st Independence Day at one of the largest parades outside India attended by ‘Baahubali’ actors Rana Daggubati and Tamannaah Bhatia.
The 37th India Day Parade organised by the Federation of Indian Associations – New York, New Jersey, Connecticut – ran through several streets in Madison Avenue in Manhattan on Sunday and featured tableaux by several Indian-American organisations, marching bands, police contingents and cultural performances by young Indian-American children.
Greeting the crowd, New York city Mayor Bill de Blasio said the Independence Day parade celebrates the “extraordinary contributions” of the Indian-American community to the city.
“This is a day we appreciate what people do for the city regardless of what they look like, regardless of what language they speak, regardless of where they were born. Everyone here contributes to making New York City better and making America stronger. That is what we are celebrating today,” de Blasio said.
The mayor, holding the Indian tricolour, waved to the thousands of people gathered along the parade route.
Daggubati, the Grand Marshal for the parade, said it was a matter of great pride for him to celebrate the Independence Day with a large population of Indian-Americans.
“It gives me a huge sense of pride to be here. The people here are the ambassadors of our country making us proud outside of India,” he said.
Bhatia said, “It is amazing to see Indians celebrating” the country’s culture and heritage.
“India has given me lot of freedom to express myself. It is very humbling to represent India at the parade,” she said.
Padama Shri awardee Sudhir Parikh, a medical doctor and long-time leader of the Indian-American community, said over the years the parade has been a bridge between India and the second and third generation Indian-Americans.
A float by the Indian Consulate in the city focused the rich cultural heritage of India’s northeast states.
Thousands of people from the New York tri-state area came for the day-long celebration, which included special food stalls, cultural extravaganza and about 25 floats by various Indian organisations based in the US such as Air India.
People, including young children and seniors, raised patriotic slogans like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Jai Hind’ and carried banners, placards and Indian and American flags as they witnessed the floats and celebrities from the barricaded pavements along the parade route. Indian music and popular Bollywood songs reverberated through the air as people celebrated with a fervour of patriotism.
Several Americans and people belonging to different communities also stopped to watch the parade and enjoy the festivities. Families had travelled from nearby states such as Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts to witness the parade, an annual fixture in the city’s calendar since 1981.