Sunday, April 22, 2001

Indian immigrants keeping traditions alive

Songs, dance mark birth of Sikhism

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        INDIAN HILL — Keeping alive traditions that are foreign to many Cincinnatians, as many as 500 Indian immigrants gathered Saturday evening at Indian Hill High School to celebrate Vaisakhi, a cultural and religious holiday in India.

        “This is the first Vaisakhi celebrated in the new millennium,” said Anita Bhatia, a member of the organizing committee. “This is the first time families in Cincinnati have come together and celebrated together. There is so much more fun, involvement and participation this year.”

        Mrs. Bhatia estimated that 80 percent of the about 150 Indian families in the Tristate participated in the event. She came to the United States five years ago, eventually settling with her family in Mason.

[photo] Ribli Singh plays the harmonium at the Vaisakhi celebration at Indian Hill High School Saturday.
(Mike Simons photo)
| ZOOM |
        “This is very important to us,” Ravi Raj said. “We miss the community activities of our native country. We only have gatherings to celebrate our culture like this maybe six times a year. It is important to expose out 2-year-old daughter, Pari, to our people's culture.”

        Mr. Raj came from Bangalore, India's Silicon Valley, to Cincinnati two years ago.

        Vaisakhi is the most important celebration for people from the Indian state of Punjab, north of New Delhi. Sikhism, their religion, is considered born on this holiday. It was created in 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh.

        Typically, North Indian farmers celebrate the day with song and dance. Local families celebrated by eating Indian food, dressing in their native clothing, and singing and dancing.

        “We miss India a lot,” said Gitika Ahuja, 26, of West Chester. “This is something special to us. In our neighborhood, we don't see a lot of Indians. This is the first time we realized there were so many in Cincinnati.”


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