Utah’s Indian community celebrates culture with ‘mela’ carnival

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah — After a hiatus during the pandemic, a community has come together far from home to celebrate where they come from. Utah Indians gathered in southern Jordan on Saturday to celebrate their culture with a mela, which means “carnival.”

It was a way of discovering India through food, music, dance, henna, clothes and traditions. Each state in India has a distinct cuisine, so people in these states set up stalls to share their unique types of food. The goal was to bring people together in a particular way.

“We all live far away from our country and we don’t want to miss it,” said Ramiah Natarajan, a volunteer at the event who is on the executive committee of the Indian Cultural Center. “It’s the start of a festival season in India… We’ll have Navaratri coming, we’ll have Diwali coming, they’re all big festivals, big celebrations, and we celebrate them here too, so we want to mark these start of all these great festivals coming up, so we want to give the community that we’re all here together they can all see and meet each other.”

There was a stage set up with performances throughout the day, with Bollywood dancing, classical music performances and traditional folk dancing to entertain the crowd.

Organizers said more than 2,500 people attended, and a common theme of people who came was that such events help immigrant families share their culture and make people feel at home.

“We feel a connection with our home country, we feel the Indian vibe and we are happy,” said Raji, who attended the event.

“And especially for the kids who were born and raised here – for them it’s fun,” added Uma, another India Mela attendee.

James C. Tibbs