TORONTO: Indians in thousands descended on the city’s Dundas-Yonge Square at the weekend to celebrate the 66th Independence Day of India.
Under heavy drizzle, they sang the Indian and Canadian national anthems and clapped as Indian high commission S.M. Gavai unfurl the Tricolour.
Today’s celebrations mark not only India’s independence Day but also the growing India-Canada relations, said Gavai as he dwelt upon the strides the two countries have made in recent years in deepening their bilateral ties.
Amid a huge applause by the audience, the high commissioner unveiled a booklet by Panorama India – the umbrella organization of various Indian groups – which organized the celebrations.
Indian consul general Preeti Saran highlighted the progress made by the huge Indo-Canadian community and their contribution to India.
Many Canadian leaders from the Ontario and federal governments joined the Indian community in the celebrations.
Indian-origin Canadian Senator Asha Seth, who was flanked by three MPs – Mark Adler, Patrick Brown and Andrew Cash – and former Senator Vim Kochhar, conveyed the best wishes of Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper.
She said she felt to be a proud Canadian and privileged to celebrate India Day with organizers Panorama India.
Harinder Takhar, Indian-origin minister in the Ontario government, too congratulated the Indian community and lauded India’s impressive growth progress despite the global conditions.
Flanked by fellow minister Kathleen Wynne and Indo-Canadian legislator Dipika Damerla, Takhar read his Premier Dalton McGuinty’s greetings to India and the organizers Panorama India.
“Today, India is a nation with one of the world’s fastest growing economies and a culture that resonates across the globe. People from India and those of Indian descent are making their mark in every field of endevour and in virtually every part of the world,’’ the Premier said.
He added, “Ontario is proud to be home to a dynamic and diverse Indo-Canadian community that speaks a multitude of languages, practices many religions and carries many histories. This diversity has contributed immeasurably to Ontario’s cultural landscape and has enabled us to better understand, better influence and better engage with the rest of the world. May your community continue to thrive and flourish in Ontario.’’
After the opening ceremony, celebrations started with a rickshaw-led parade around the downtown area. Rather than trucks, the organizers hired 17 rickshaws this time as part of the parade to promote environmental consciousness.
During the day-long celebrations, over 25 groups performed various Indian dances. In between, solo singers also sang patriotic songs. Prominent artists who performed included vocalist Amit Arya and kathak dancer and Padma Bhushan honouree Uma Sharma from India.
Panorama India Idol singers and Shweta Subram and her band also regaled the audiences.
As the celebrations wound down, Panorama India chief Ajit Khanna said, “I am delighted with how things went. Despite the on-and-off rain, over 20,000 people attend the event. The parade was the largest ever. The enthusiasm of the crowd was so encouraging for the performers. I have received many compliments about the variety of the programming as well as the quality of the presentations.’’