Har Ghar Tiranga, India on the move!

By Randhir Jaiswal 

In New York, ever since we began the inspirational journey of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, launched on Shaheed Diwas on March 23, 2021, we have marked and celebrated each and every color of India. Our freedom struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi was  a mass movement. As a fitting tribute, Prime Minister Narendra Modi envisioned the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav also to be a  people’s movement. Taking this vision forward, the Consulate in New York organized celebrations involving community, friends of India and stakeholders in India-US ties in all ten states under its jurisdiction.

‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ and ‘Meri Maati Mera Desh’ campaigns tied the August 15 celebrations in New York  in an emotional and patriotic bond with the Motherland. A medley of  festivities added vibrancy to the day-long celebrations. The community joined to soak the patriotic fervor at the Flag Hoisting ceremony in the Consulate. The unfurling of the Tricolor at Times square, organized by the Federation of Indian Associations, combined with the unveiling of Konark Chakra or wheel from Odisha made the public celebration of our Azadi  truly special. The art piece in stone will be exhibited at Times Square for a week, from 15th  to 22nd August.

I invite all community members to visit  the exhibition  and join us in spreading the message of India – of togetherness and unity. The Konark wheel is a shining symbol of India’s ancient heritage, its universal ethos, its sublime  spirituality and its timeless respect and reverence for nature.

Hon’ble Mayor of New York joined the community in raising the Indian flag at the historic Bowling Green arena in Manhattan. The function reminded us of the myriad intersections that American thought and history has with Indian Independence. The day ended with spectacular dance performances  – Odissi, Kathak and Kuchipudi- in the backdrop of Hudson River in lower Manhattan, anchored by the Battery Dance Festival. The grace, aesthetics and devotion of the dancers left the audience spellbound, and the hues over the Hudson  more musical, more magical.

Earlier in the week, the Indo-American Arts Council organized a music festival to mark  India’s freedom.  Noted singer Malini Awasthi and a concert in memory of Pandit Vijay Kichlu brought joy to many. But the highlight was the enthralling  “three-generations-on-stage” sarod recital led by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, his sons Amaan  and Ayaan Ali Khan Bangash and  grandsons  Abeer and Zohaan. India’s art traditions have for centuries been nurtured  in the lap of Guru-Shishya parampara, and devotedly nourished by the  family tree.

Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav in  North-East USA 

Over the last two years or so, the Consulate has held over 300 programs to mark Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav in New York, and beyond. Myriad stories of India’s nation-making, from  democracy, art, culture, science, sports, youth, saints to  women leaders  and more were sung, told and retold.

But there were two distinct streams of celebration that caught people’s attention. India’s freedom struggle has defining connections to the United States. Our founding fathers visited the United States on several occasions. Their interactions and engagements in America  shaped the Indian freedom movement in one and many ways.

Events and workshops, honoring Dr. B R Ambedkar, an alumnus of Columbia University;  Swami Vivekananda who founded the first ever Vedanta Society in New York; Rabindranath Tagore who was much impressed by the agriculture development in the United States and modeled rural reconstruction projects in Sriniketan on American lines; Jaiprakash Narayan who studied at UC Berkeley, Ohio State  and Wisconsin-Madison Universities, were held at diverse locations, from community arenas  to university lecture halls.

We also held programs on travelers to India such as the great American humorist Mark Twain. In our historical connections  with the United States, the inspiration that  Mahatma Gandhi drew from Henry David Thoreau’s ideas of passive resistance and civil disobedience, to conceptualize his tool of Satyagraha  was highlighted. The second stream of activities that we carried out was celebrating India’s cultural diversity through languages and regional cultures. Thus, sessions were held to extol the richness of Tamil, Punjabi, Sindhi, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam and other languages.

While celebrating our freedom, bringing a deeper perspective on  our ancient heritage was an important  goal. It was with this objective that we partnered with The Met Museum to organize the “Tree and Serpent”, Early Buddhist Art Exhibition. The four month long exhibition will be on display till the middle of November this year.  Among the several gems on display is the Yakshini in ivory from Pompei in Italy  dated around 79 BCE, showcased alongside the Roman period,  Greek God of the Sea,  Poseidon in bronze, discovered in Maharashtra. These extraordinary  pieces show the flourishing connection India and the Roman Empire had with each other in the ancient times.

Historic State visit of the PM 

Prime Minister’s visit in June was historic on several counts: he was the only Indian leader to have addressed the US Congress on two occasions and only the third world leader in over a century to do so; he was only the third Indian leader to be invited on a State Visit to the US; this was first time that over 8000 Indian community members  were invited to the White House to join the ceremonial reception hosted by US President.

The outcome of the visit that has been cheerfully welcomed by the Indian-American community is the opening of new consulates on both sides. India would be setting up a Consulate in Seattle soon and the United States would be establishing two new  Consulates in India: in Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. The decision of the US government to undertake a pilot project to renew certain categories of visas in the country itself has brought delight to Indian professionals.

India’s leadership in the global arena 

Next month India will be hosting the G-20 Summit Meeting as its President. The theme for India’s G-20 presidency is “One Earth, One Family, One Future”. Over 200 meetings across 60  cities are to  be held, making it the widest geographical spread  of G-20 engagements under any presidency. The agenda of India’s presidency is to shape global discourse and action on inclusive growth, counter terrorism, financial stability, food and energy security, sustainable development, women empowerment, deployment of digital public goods and voicing the concerns of the global south. India looks forward to hosting President Biden and other world leaders at the Summit meeting in New Delhi on September 9-10.

Looking forward to Amrit Kaal  

Our India@75 celebrations were about the success of India’s democracy, development and diversity, and in each of these areas we have enduring  ties with the United States. Our Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav has uplifted us in a patriotic fold. It has prepared us, infused us with a greater sense of purpose and duty, for the Amrit Kaal ahead.

In the next 25 years, as the Indian nation makes a spirited journey to become  a developed country by 2047, we seek stronger international partnerships and  stronger diaspora ties to build a new and prosperous India.

Jai Hind !

Randhir Jaiswal is the Consul General of India, New York.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times 

Images courtesy of X / @IndiaInNY and Provided

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